A top Ukrainian official has indicated that US support to Ukraine may be in the process of ramping up dramatically, suggesting that Kiev has invited a permanent American troop presence and stationing of anti-air defense rocket systems on its soil.
Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Reznikov made the revealing statements recently while hosted by the hawkish D.C.-based Jamestown Foundation. "It is important to expand the security package for Ukraine," Reznikov said. "First of all, with the stationing of air defense forces, and even by deploying American units."
Reznikov forther argued this would serve a secondary purpose of eroding Moscow's "influence in the Balkans" - also at a moment the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline is nearing completion, and amid rival military drills of late occurring on the Black Sea.
The statements certainly raised eyebrows in the Kremlin, being picked up widely in Russian media, which described such a scenario of US air defenses on Russia's border a severe "red line". TASS cited chairman of the State Duma's committee for international affairs, Leonid Slutsky, who lashed out at the "crude provocation" on Tuesday.
"Reznikov's statement is crude provocation. The deployment of the US missile defense systems in Ukraine may change the balance of force in the region and outside it," Slutsky was quoted as saying. TASS reported his words further:
He stressed that the anti-missile system Aegis included the launcher Mk41, which could be used for launching not only interceptors, but also cruise missiles.
"Their emergence (of such air defense systems - TASS) close to Russia's borders will undoubtedly evoke Moscow's response. Tensions will merely soar," Slutsky warned.
Meanwhile the past year has witnessed a mutual ramping up of military drills on the Black Sea between Russia on the one hand and the Western allies on the other.
And D.C. think tanks have renewed efforts at stoking tensions over Ukraine...
It’s time to stop referring to the area extending from central Europe to Central Asia as a “post-Soviet space.” The reductive term warps U.S. and European policy and serves Russia’s imperialistic aims, argues Ukrainian Foreign Minister @DmytroKuleba. https://t.co/jQYnl16KNj— Foreign Affairs (@ForeignAffairs) August 5, 2021
Just last month, NATO and Ukraine held two weeks of joint naval drills - Sea Breeze 2021 - as a show of force aimed squarely at Moscow. It involved some 30 warships and 40 aircraft from NATO members and Ukraine, according to IUS state-funded VOA News.