A senior US administration official said the surge makes Russia’s claim of withdrawal ‘false’ and warned that President Vladimir Putin’s public overture to diplomacy was a disguise.
The official said all the leads we have now are publicly offering to speak and make de-escalation claims while privately mobilizing for war.
Western leaders had already met Russia’s claims to withdraw with skepticism. The new estimates would put the number of Russia’s forces north of the 150,000 figure that President Joe Biden cited in a televised address earlier this week. Biden said that a Russia troops withdrawal at Ukraine would be ‘good during a speech in the East Room.’ Still, he had yet to see any evidence that such a withdrawal was underway.
Biden said their analysts indicate that they continue to be in a very threatening position. And the fact is that right now, Russia has more than 150,000 troops surrounding Ukraine and Belarus and along the Ukraine border.
The senior official again warned that Russia could use a false pretext for an attack, including claims about NATO activity or an incursion into Russian territory.
The official said they should expect more false reports from Russian state media in the coming days. They don’t know what form the pretense will take. But they hope the world is ready.
On Tuesday, Putin claimed that Russia was sending some troops back to base after completing drills in Crimea, the Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia in 2014.
But American and European leaders uniformly cast doubt on the claim.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had seen yet any signs of de-escalation on the ground. Also added that signals from Moscow that diplomacy should continue were cause for cautious optimism.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told a news conference in Kyiv that he was following a rule regarding Russian claims. He said that don’t listen and then believe. But look, and then you believe.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that there is a difference between what Russia says and does. Also, Blinken told the media that what they are seeing is not a significant pullback.