By Ryan Saavedra
The U.S. military in Europe is on high-alert following a buildup of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, a situation that has reportedly “escalated sharply in recent days” after four Ukrainian soldiers were killed during a battle against Russian-backed forces.
“The soldiers’ deaths, along with a buildup of Russian forces on the border, has seized the attention of senior American officials in Europe and Washington,” The New York Times reported. “In the past week, the U.S. military’s European Command raised its watch level from possible crisis to potential imminent crisis — the highest level — in response to the deployment of the additional Russian troops.”
The battle, which included machine-gun and artillery fire, has lasted for seven years since breaking out during the Obama administration in 2014. The report said that officials have discovered “new weaponry” on the Russian-backed side and Russian negotiators have warned that peace talks might be breaking down. The report said that both the Russian and Ukrainian side acknowledged that tensions had rapidly escalated.
The escalation comes after Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin a killer during an interview with ABC News last month, angering Putin. The report noted that Biden emphasized Ukrainian sovereignty during his January phone call with Putin, but has failed to schedule a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The report added:
This week, Gen. Tod D. Wolters, the head of U.S. European Command, raised the American military’s watch level for the second time in several days after Russian troops failed to leave Ukraine’s border region. American strategists had expected the troops to depart the area, about 30 miles from Ukraine’s border, after the conclusion of a military exercise on March 23. …
The latest violence in eastern Ukraine and the troop buildup could well be a way for Moscow to measure the Biden administration’s commitment to Ukraine, according to current and former officials.
“This could be posturing, but the Kremlin is testing the new administration,” said Frederick B. Hodges, a retired lieutenant general and a former top U.S. Army commander in Europe.
Russia isn’t the only adversary that is testing the Biden administration; in fact, many of America’s enemies have appeared more aggressive in recent weeks, something that critics have said is a result of America’s adversaries viewing Biden as weak.
Just last week, Taiwan reported the largest-ever incursion of Chinese military aircraft entering Taiwanese airspace. Sources told Reuters that “the Chinese military was conducting exercises that would simulate an operation against U.S. warships that sail through the Bashi Channel.” China again invaded Taiwanese airspace this week and also flew into Japanese airspace. The Financial Times reported this week that the U.S. officials are preparing for China to invade Taiwan, which could drag the United States into a war.
Iran just signed a new cooperation agreement with China, and Biden is reportedly losing leverage over Iran, “struggling just to get the Iranians to the table” in his attempts to relaunch the Iran nuclear deal, according to Politico.