Russian troops have moved closer to the border with Ukraine and continue to build their military capabilities in the region, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.
Russia continues to maintain at least 10,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, Kirby said. “It’s difficult to pin it down to a specific number but they continue to be reinforced.”
Kirby said the Russian troops are in combined arms battalions and constitute “very capable, very ready” forces.
“And as I've said before, they are close to the border -- within 50 kilometers of the border.”
And, “just as critically, the Russian government continues to support the separatists in eastern Ukraine,” the admiral said.
Kirby announced the Obama administration has asked Congress for authority to spend $19 million next year to train and equip Ukrainian National Guard forces to build capacity for internal defense.
Currently, U.S. forces continue to exercise in Central and Eastern Europe to reassure allies of America’s commitment to the region in the face of Russian expansion, Kirby said.
The admiral said allied efforts put in place when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine earlier this year continue. These include bolstering the air policing mission, exercises that are going on in the Baltic region, and aircraft to Poland.
U.S. troops, aircraft and ships have been continually rotating in and out of the region, Kirby said. Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, continues to look for ways to bolster and reinforce the reassurance efforts in the region.
American support to Ukraine will remain non-lethal, Kirby said. “We are not assisting them with issues of targeting,” he said. “We continue to review requests for military assistance from the government of Ukraine through an interagency process.”
Kirby emphasized that there will not be a military solution to the issues in Ukraine.
“We also need to be mindful that we don’t take actions that make it worse or make it … even less secure for the Ukrainian people,” he said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)