President Donald Trump pledged to work with both Russia and Ukraine to restore peace on the border, in a Saturday interview with Fox News.
Trump’s comments come amid intense fighting in eastern Ukraine between the military and Russian-backed separatists. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, and is under international sanction by the U.S. and European Union. Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Crimea in August to reportedly “mull anti-terror measures.” The uptick in violence may be Putin’s first test of Trump.
Trump told Fox News, “we will work with Ukraine, Russia and all other parties involved to help them restore peace along the border.”
Putin views Ukraine as a client state of the U.S. and the NATO alliance. Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu told Russian State media in June, “The political situation along the western border of the country remains unstable.” Shoigu referred to NATO’s decision to deploy four additional battalions to the Baltic states to protect from Russian aggression.
Russia insists its military build up on the Ukrainian border is simply a routine military exercise. U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal they believe Russia may be trying to bait the Ukrainian government into a military confrontation. If Ukraine initiated a military confrontation, it would counter the Western narrative of Russian aggression and justify another Russian military incursion into Ukraine.
The ongoing war in Ukraine is in violation of the Minsk 2 agreement, which Russia is bound by. Russia originally invaded Ukraine by dispatching troops in 2014 in un-flagged uniforms. These troops have come to be known as “little green men” and are portrayed by the Russian government as “volunteers.”
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