Maj. Gen. Roman Polko, a former commander of a Polish special forces unit, issued a warning following the high-stakes Tuesday meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Joe Biden: “We truly are on the edge of war,” he said.
The meeting between Putin and Biden came amid a buildup of 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border and the release of a U.S. intelligence document on Friday which says that Russian officials have crafted plans for a military offensive that would involve 175,000 troops and occur as soon as January.
Polko said that Putin has held the advantage in the region since 2008, when the Russo-Georgian War occurred.
“Let us hope that this time President Biden will turn out to be tough,” Polko said, “because since 2008 the initiative has belonged to Putin almost the entire time. He is the one dictating terms and is carrying out new annexations — from the attack on Georgia to Crimea and through the Kerch Strait.”
The U.S. intelligence report does not show whether Putin has decided to carry out the war plan, only that it exists. In addition to the troop buildup, Russia is quickly working to build up a force of contract reservists, an anonymous source in the White House told the New York Times.
The Polish general, who was a commander of the Polish military contingent in Kosovo in 1999 and commander of the GROM special forces unit during Operation Iraqi Freedom, said that the West should take the initiative against Russia.
“It cannot end with mere words once again because that emboldened Putin and allowed him to move the red line further and further away. He currently does not have anywhere to move the line again,” Polko said.
Biden said Wednesday that he warned Putin during their meeting that there would be “severe consequences — severe consequences — and economic consequences like none’s he’s ever seen or ever have been seen” if Putin invades Ukraine. The president kept the focus on economic penalties, and entirely ruled out sending U.S. troops to Ukraine, saying: “That is not on the table.”
Polko argued that NATO should open membership to Ukraine, saying, “Ukraine deserves to have the NATO accession program opened to it and guarantee its security. The United States and United Kingdom were the guarantors of Ukraine’s security during the annexation of Crimea.”
NATO told Ukraine in 2008 that it would eventually be given full membership. Putin finds that promise threatening, as it would place NATO right on his border.
“Putin must be stopped now,” Polko concluded.
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