A Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to US General Mark Milley, would be “horrific” and result in a large number of casualties.
The build-up of 100,000 Russian troops along Ukraine’s border, according to Gen. Milley, is the highest since the Cold War.
However, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that conflict can still be avoided through diplomacy.
Russia denies that it is planning an invasion and claims that US assistance for Ukraine is a threat.
Gen. Mark Milley, US President Joe Biden’s most senior military official, cautioned during a Pentagon press briefing on Friday that the size of Russia’s forces near its Ukrainian border meant an attack would have serious implications.
“If that was unleashed on Ukraine, it would be significant, very significant, and it would result in a significant amount of casualties,” said the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
Fighting in densely populated places would be “horrific, dreadful,” according to Gen Milley.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that the US was committed to assisting Ukraine in its defense, including through the provision of additional armament.
“Conflict is not inevitable. There is still time and space for diplomacy,” Mr Austin said, calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate the situation.
“There is no reason that this situation has to devolve into conflict… He can order his troops away,” he added.
President Biden also announced on Friday that a limited number of troops would be sent to Eastern Europe in the “short future” to enhance Nato’s presence in the region. He didn’t say where they’d be stationed or when they’d be there.
The Pentagon announced earlier this week that it had 8,500 combat-ready troops on standby, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
The US has rejected a major Moscow demand that Nato rule out Ukraine’s membership, but insists it is providing Russia a “real diplomatic path.”
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has accused the West of disregarding Russia’s security concerns.
According to a Kremlin readout of a call between Mr Putin and his French counterpart, he indicated he would analyse the US response before determining what to do.
According to France, the two leaders agreed on the need to de-escalate, and President Emmanuel Macron urged Putin that Russia must respect the sovereignty of its neighbours.
The Pentagon’s concerns came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned the media not to panic over Russian troops massing around his country’s borders.
At a news conference in Kyiv, Zelensky stated that there is no larger threat now than there was during a similar troop buildup last spring.
“There are signals even from respected leaders of states, they just say that tomorrow there will be war. This is panic – how much does it cost for our state?”
The “destabilization of the situation inside the country” was the biggest threat to Ukraine, he said.
This was a strange encounter, to say the least. Journalists questioned Ukraine’s president about the danger one by one. Volodymyr Zelensky, on the other hand, brushed aside the inquiries, blaming the press for fomenting hysteria.
He wasn’t denying US intelligence, on the other hand: “I can see the 100,000 soldiers,” he eventually clarified. But he went from implying that Russia was simply scaremongering and that seeing Kyiv sweat gave him a “sado-masochistic” pleasure to acknowledging that Ukraine was prepared for all-out war.
Despite the exceptional magnitude of the current deployment, Zelensky looked determined to play down the danger. His country has lived with the prospect of Russian attack for years – it comes in cycles – and he seemed determined to play down the danger.
When it came to the evacuation of some staff by some embassies, Ukraine’s leader has openly peeved: “Diplomats are like captains,” Zelensky said. “They should be the last to leave a sinking ship. And Ukraine is not the Titanic.”
(Adapted from BBC.com)