It is not yet certain whether Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a final decision over an invasion of Ukraine, but he continues to add to his combat capability around Ukraine and in Belarus, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday.
"We have been watching this closely for months [and] we have said for many weeks that it could be imminent," Kirby said on CNN's '"New Day." "Every day [Putin] is adding more forces, which means every day he has more options available to him."
Kirby's interveiw was also posted on Twitter.
However, the United States still believes there is room for diplomacy, said Kirby, adding that "here at the Defense Department, we would like to see that succeed."
Putin does have the capability to launch an invasion at this point, as he has "plenty of forces to do that," said Kirby.
"We want to see him de-escalate," he added, "but I won't get into specific predictions here about what the timeline might be. Again, we still think there is a path for diplomacy to de-escalate so there isn't another incursion. That is what we are after."
Kirby wouldn't comment about what scenarios could unfold, as "we don't have perfect visibility" into Putin's plans.
"What we want to make sure we can do here at the Defense Department is bolster our allies, make sure that they have the capabilities they need so that we can meet our Article 5 commitments to NATO if it should come to that. We are looking at ways to bolster capabilities."
He rejected, however, the question that there could be a tolerance on the part of the United States for a limited incursion, pointing out that President Joe Biden and the full administration has been '"very clear" that "another incursion into Ukraine, at whatever level, whatever geography, at whatever size and scale, would exact consequences on Russia, not just from the United States, but from the international community. Nobody wants to see any incursion of any size."
Forces in the United States have been put on an even "shorter tether," said Kirby, with some units that had been placed in a "heightened state of readiness, with a 10-days tether, to go now maybe on five days."
However, he added, "Some are not quite in that state of readiness. We're making sure that they're ready to go on a shorter period of time, in case they're needed. There are no deployment orders that have been issued."
The NATO response force, meanwhile, has not yet been activated, said Kirby, but still, "We have tens of thousands of troops in Europe, all over the continent and we're certainly looking at their posture as well … we're not taking anything on or off the table here … no deployment issues have been issued, but we have been very clear that that is certainly one possibility."
Meanwhile, there is already a brigade of the Florida National Guard in Ukraine for training purposes, and Kirby said that unit includes "less than 200 Florida National Guardsmen on a rotational deployment."
"We have been doing this for several years," he said. 'They're advisers and trainers. Without talking about where they are geographically in Ukraine, we believe if we had to make a decision to move them out of there, we could do that in a fairly expeditious manner. There are not many of them. They're still on the ground in Ukraine, helping the Ukrainian armed forces."
Kirby also insisted that even though there has been concern about Germany and its role in NATO, the country remains a "staunch and strong ally of the United States, certainly inside NATO and bilaterally. We value the contributions that they make to the alliance … every country is going to contribute in their own way, and we value that."
The alliance, he added, "is unified in the concern over this buildup along Ukraine and in Belarus" and is "certainly united in thinking through the options of what we would have to do as an alliance to bolster our self-defense, should Article 5 actually be put in threat."
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