Harris meets with allies in Munich; Russia buildup could be as high as 190K troops

Friday - 18/02/2022 08:58
Blinken will meet with foreign ministers from Germany, France and the UK.
Vice President Kamala Harris meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during the Munich Security Conference in Munich on Feb. 18, 2022. ANDREW HARNIK, POOL/AFP Via Getty Images
Vice President Kamala Harris meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during the Munich Security Conference in Munich on Feb. 18, 2022. ANDREW HARNIK, POOL/AFP Via Getty Images


  • Russia's troop buildup grows, says US envoy to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
  • Harris and Blinken are meeting with NATO and European allies at Munich Security Conference.
  • Blinken will meet with his Russian counterpart next week, if Russia hasn't invaded Ukraine.

While diplomacy continued over tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine, Moscow announced Friday that its military would conduct massive drills of its strategic nuclear forces this weekend. And a new report says Russia's military buildup could involve as many as 190,000 troops.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will personally oversee Saturday's exercise, which will involve multiple practice launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, the Defense Ministry said, adding the exercises had been planned in advance. 

Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are in Munich for a three-day security conference, at which efforts to diffuse the crisis in eastern Europe were concurrent with the program. On Friday, the vice president met with the leader of NATO and is scheduled to talk with Baltic state leadership.

“Our alliance and commitment to NATO is enduring,” Harris said.

On Russia, she said, “We remain open to and desirous of diplomacy,” she continued, noting there will be “severe consequences” for Moscow should it go forward with an invasion.

Blinken will meet with foreign ministers from Germany, France and the UK.

More:Cyber attacks and disinformation are everyday tactics for Putin's Russia. Is that the future of war?

Russian may have built up as many as 190K troops 

Russian troops in and near Ukraine have grown from about 100,000 at the end of January to between 169,000 and 190,000, the U.S. envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Friday.

“This is the most significant military mobilization in Europe since the Second World War,” Ambassador Michel Carpenter said at a meeting of the regional security organization in Vienna.

Carpenter charged Russia, which did not participate in the meeting, with refusing to answer questions about its “unprecedented military buildup.”

“Rather than provide transparency and engage in risk reduction, Russia has chosen to provide disinformation and engage in denial and deception,” Carpenter said.  “It cynically tries to portray Ukraine, NATO, and the United States as aggressors at the same time as it positions a massive strike force, threatening to invade its neighbor.”

Carpenter repeated frequent warnings from U.S. officials that Russia is intent on creating a pretext to justify an invasion into Ukraine and could invade “at any moment.”

– Maureen Groppe

Expla:Missiles, military drills and NATO: How diplomacy could defuse a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine
 

Vice President Kamala Harris meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during the Munich Security Conference in Munich on Feb. 18, 2022. Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven most developed nations will hold talks on the Ukraine crisis on Feb. 19, 2022, in Munich, a spokesman for the German foreign ministry said.
Vice President Kamala Harris meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during the Munich Security Conference in Munich on Feb. 18, 2022. ANDREW HARNIK, POOL/AFP Via Getty Images


Harris at Munich Security Conference

Harris takes a visible role on the world stage this weekend as the top American official at the Munich Security Conference.

Harris met Friday with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Later in the day, she is scheduled to meet with the leaders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

“We remain of course supportive of diplomacy as it relates to the dialogue and discussions we've had with Russia, but we are also committed to taking corrective actions to ensure there will be severe consequences in terms of the sanctions we have discussed," she said ahead of a meeting with Stoltenberg.

On Saturday, she is to deliver a major address on the administration’s efforts to stop Russian aggression. After the speech, she’s expected to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Blinken to meet Lavrov

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet his Russian counterpart in Europelate next week, said State Department spokesperson Ned Price in a statement.

"The Secretary noted in his remarks at the UN Security Council today that, because we believe the only responsible way to resolve this crisis is through diplomacy and dialogue, he had proposed to meet Foreign Minister Lavrov in Europe next week," Price said.

"The Russians have responded with proposed dates for late next week, which we are accepting, provided there is no further Russian invasion of Ukraine. If they do invade in the coming days, it will make clear they were never serious about diplomacy. We will continue to coordinate with our Allies and partners and push for further engagements with Russia through the NATO-Russia Council and OSCE," the statement concluded.

Contributing: Associated Press

Author: Editors Desk

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