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16 Feb, 2022 15:51

NATO gives new estimate on Russian troop numbers

Secretary General Stoltenberg says figure is still growing, despite claims of withdrawal
NATO gives new estimate on Russian troop numbers

NATO is unable to produce an exact figure of Russian troops stationed on the border with Ukraine, but it has significantly increased from a previous estimate of 100,000, the bloc’s secretary general said on Wednesday.

Speaking before a meeting with NATO defense ministers, Jens Stoltenberg was asked by a reporter about the discrepancy in his troop estimations, when compared to a higher number floated by US President Joe Biden. The American leader had suggested that the actual number of soldiers was 150,000.

“I have talked about well over 100,000,” Stoltenberg said. “But there has been that steady increase. So we are seeing that it goes up and up and up, and it continues to increase. So I think that the most important thing now is to closely monitor what Russia does.”

His claims come despite an announcement from Moscow that Russian military units had begun returning to their bases as large-scale military training exercises draw to a close. The US has publicly been skeptical about reports of withdrawal, with the White House insisting it needed to “verify” forces were returning home.

As well as claiming that the military presence on the Ukrainian border is growing, the secretary general also said that the bloc would “continue to expose Russia’s plans and actions,” suggesting that publicizing alleged invasion plans would make Russian aggression “harder.”

Stoltenberg did, however, express that NATO’s preferred solution remained a diplomatic one, and acknowledged comments which came from the Kremlin that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “willing to negotiate.”

“We have heard the signs from Moscow about readiness to continue diplomatic efforts,” he declared.