US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed alarm about Moscow’s military buildup along its border with Ukraine, but he made the mistake of referring to Russia as the Soviet Union, which was once a Cold War adversary of the United States but was decommissioned three decades ago.
Austin was addressing at a news conference in Seoul when he was asked about Russia’s massing of soldiers along its border with Ukraine, which has sparked worries of an impending invasion by the country.
According to Pentagon commander Lloyd Austin, “Russia has a significant quantity of forces in the border region, and we remain concerned about that.”
“The best case scenario, however, is that we will not see an incursion by the Soviet Union into Ukraine,” he continued, inadvertently using the name of the country that collapsed in 1991 into republics that included Russia and Ukraine at the time.
“We would therefore expect that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin would be much more transparent, and that we would work together to resolve difficulties and concerns, as well as to bring the temperature in the region down,” he added.
For nearly half a century following World War II, the Cold War pitted the United States against the Soviet Union — until the latter’s disintegration brought it to an end.
It resulted in a massive buildup of armaments — including atomic weapons — on both sides, as well as proxy warfare, with the threat of nuclear war looming over the region for years.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union heralded the beginning of a new era in relations between Washington and Moscow, but the emergence of Vladimir Putin this century has coincided with tensions unprecedented since the conclusion of the Cold War.
The top American and Russian diplomats are scheduled to meet in Sweden on Thursday, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing “grave worry” over Russia’s military buildup ahead of the meeting.
Accused of supporting the separatists battling in Kiev, Moscow has denied plotting an invasion and accused NATO of inflaming tensions in the region.