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U.S. “is a difficult country for other countries to understand sometimes” – US military chief

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Following the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a warning to the country’s adversaries that they should not think that the country was weak or reluctant to take military action to defend its interests.

After two decades of war, critics have argued that the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan was viewed as a sign of weakness and a lack of will to engage in further fighting by its adversaries.

Amidst this ongoing discussion, Russia has positioned roughly 100,000 troops along its border with Ukraine.

Milley, when asked if Russia’s president Vladimir Putin might be preparing an invasion, refused to call out Russia, but he urged adversaries not to be complacent and make incorrect assumptions about US resolve.

“It would be a mistake for any country to draw a broad strategic conclusion based on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and then take that event and automatically apply it to other situations,” said Milley during a flight from Seoul to Washington.

“The United States is a difficult country for other countries to understand sometimes.”

Milley’s remarks come as tensions between the US and Russia over Ukraine continue to rise.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had heated meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a day after he warned that an invasion would result in “severe” consequences, including “high-impact economic measures.”

Russia denies any intention of invading.

On Ukraine, Milley declined to specify what options the US was considering, but he said, “the full range of diplomatic, economic information and military activities are certainly out there, depending on what and if Russia does something”.

“It remains to be seen whether that military activity that we’re seeing on the Russian side of the border is going to turn into something very aggressive,” he added.

“We don’t know yet. But it is significant, and it’s real.” Concerns about a Russian invasion spiked in April when the Russian military positioned tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s eastern border and in Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

But Milley said the current build-up, coupled with other developments, suggested that Russia was more serious about military action.

“Last time, it turned out to be a series of exercises. One of the most noticeable differences between now and April is the rhetoric,” said Milley.

“The public rhetoric coming out of Russia seems to be a little bit more strident than it was before.”

Milley said the Pentagon prepared for numerous contingencies but did not provide any details related to Ukraine. He also stressed that diplomacy was going to be the most important channel to resolve the crisis.

“The issues that are at stake in Ukraine . . . can and should be resolved diplomatically in a way that doesn’t lead to violence or armed conflict.” Speaking in Seoul on Thursday after he and Milley had met their South Korean counterparts, US defence secretary Lloyd Austin declined to say if Washington would threaten military retaliation to deter Moscow.

“I don’t care to speculate on potential responses. I would just say that we’ll continue to use the best methods to address whatever the situation is that occurs,” Austin said.

Image Credit: Getty

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