The U.S. believes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine offered a preview of potential global tyranny
Nov 19 (Reuters) – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine offered a preview of “a possible world of tyranny and chaos,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a security forum in Canada on Saturday.
Austin’s comments were his strongest to date about the importance of helping Kiev win after nearly nine months of war, and could be a tipping point for the conflict.
After a series of battlefield defeats, Russia plans to launch punishing missile strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure that could expose millions of civilians to winter frost. Moscow hopes to exhaust Ukraine’s anti-missile defenses and buy time to rebuild its forces, Pentagon officials say.
Austin said Russia was violating the laws of war.
“These are not just failures. This is not the exception to the rule. This is brutal,” Austin said.
“Russian missiles left innocent Ukrainians without heat, water and electricity. We saw schools attacked. Children killed. Hospitals bombed. Centers of Ukrainian history and culture turned into ruins.”
Moscow denies that its armed forces have deliberately targeted civilians or civilian infrastructure.
The United States and its allies have helped provide weapons, intelligence and training to Ukrainian forces while ceasing direct involvement in the war against nuclear-armed Russia.
Austin said the United States would not be drawn into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “war of choice” but warned of the risk of global nuclear proliferation if Moscow wins.
“Putin’s autocrats are watching. And they may conclude that having nuclear weapons gives them a license to hunt,” Austin said. “And that could create a dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation.”
On Monday, just days after US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks, Austin said Beijing was seeking a “correcting world” like Moscow.
Austin said Chinese planes were flying near self-ruled Taiwan in near-daily numbers in record numbers, and the number of what he called Chinese “dangerous blockades” by the United States or allied forces at sea or in the air was increasing.
Tensions between Taipei and Beijing escalated after China staged war games near the democratically-ruled island in August following a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Beijing, which views Taiwan as a Chinese province, has long said it will take control of the self-governing island and has not ruled out the possibility of using force to do so.
The Taipei government rejects Beijing’s claims, saying its future can only be decided by the people of Taiwan.
Austin said the United States is learning from Ukraine to “enhance the self-defense capabilities of our partners in the Indo-Pacific.”
“We help them be agile and flexible,” Austin said.
Report by Phil Stewart; Edited by Diane Craft and Daniel Wallis
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