Washington, January 29: Signalling that there exists a room for diplomacy, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Friday said that the conflict with Russia over Ukraine “is not inevitable”.
“There is still time and space for diplomacy. The United States, in lockstep with our allies and partners, has offered Russia a path away from crisis and toward greater security. The Department of Defense will continue to support those diplomatic efforts,” Austin said in a briefing.
Reiterating US support for Ukraine through security assistance material and for “standing shoulder to shoulder” with NATO allies, Austin said the United States is taking the buildup of tens of thousands of Russian forces at the Ukrainian border “very seriously,” adding that his department stands “unified in opposition” with North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions.
“We don’t believe that President Putin has made a final decision to use these forces against Ukraine. He clearly now has that capability. And there are multiple options available to him, including the seizure of cities and significant territories, but also provocative political acts like the recognition of breakaway territories ,” he said.
Austin that the US is on a lookout for Russian misinformation.
“Any Russian attack or further incursion into Ukraine would not only ignite conflict, it would also violate the bedrock principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and self-determination,” Austin stated.
“This is something that we’re taking very seriously, both as a strong partner of Ukraine and as one of 30 members of NATO. We’re unified in opposition to Russia’s attempts to undermine those core values and threaten peace and security in Europe,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky regretted United States and United Kingdom’s decision of withdrawing some staff from their embassies in Kyiv and termed it as a “mistake.”
“The signals that we were getting from the diplomats, these nonessential staff, I don’t think so. Under these circumstances, everyone is essential. Everyone should stay, to be honest,” Zelensky added.