The Kremlin denounced the United States on Thursday for deploying additional troops to Eastern Europe, saying the move was intended to “stir up tensions,” even as American officials and satellite imagery indicated that Russia had not slowed its large-scale buildup of military forces that threaten an invasion of Ukraine.
Pentagon officials said on Wednesday that Russia had amassed more troops and military hardware over the past 24 hours near the Ukrainian border and in neighboring Belarus, and that 3,000 additional American troops would be sent to help defend NATO allies from the threat of Russian aggression.
The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, accused the United States of “igniting tensions on the European continent,” and described the U.S. deployment to Poland and Romania as a threatening act “in the vicinity of our borders.”
“Clearly, Russian concerns are justified and understandable,” Mr. Peskov told reporters on Thursday. “All measures to ensure Russia’s security and interests are also understandable.”
The Biden administration said the troops would ensure the “robust defense of NATO territory” in light of Russia’s refusal to de-escalate tensions surrounding Ukraine, which have built to a fever pitch since Moscow began gathering forces on three sides of its smaller neighbor late last year.
“These are not permanent moves — they are precisely in response to the current security environment in light of this increasing threatening behavior by the Russian Federation,” said Ned Price, the State Department spokesman. Mr. Price emphasized that the United States would not send troops into Ukraine.
Border with Russian units
Russia invaded and
annexed the Crimean
Ukraine in 2014.
separating Ukrainian and
Russian-backed forces near
two breakaway provinces.
Ukraine in 2014.
The recriminations on Wednesday illustrated that the threat of conflict remained high despite weeks of high-stakes diplomacy, as several European allies made overtures to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in an effort to cool tensions. President Emmanuel Macron of France was scheduled to speak with Mr. Putin later on Thursday, their fourth phone call in a week.
Mr. Putin signaled this week that he was open to a diplomatic resolution, but continued to portray the United States and its Western allies as aggressors and to demand a halt to NATO expansion in former Soviet states.
The United States and NATO have rejected Moscow’s main security demands, but indicated that there could be room for discussion on limited security issues, including arms-control measures and the placement of missiles in some Eastern European states that Moscow views as threatening.
Russian officials have said that Mr. Putin is still studying the American and NATO proposals.
At the same time, Russia has sought to show that it is not alone in its confrontation with the United States and its allies.
On Thursday, Russia’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, arrived in Belarus ahead of joint military exercises planned for this month. Moscow has massed a large amount of troops and hardware in Belarus — which shares a border with Ukraine and lies a little over 100 miles from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv — for what it says are routine drills. But American officials have described the buildup as far larger than what has been seen in previous exercises.
Mr. Putin was scheduled to depart early on Friday for China, where he will meet with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, hours before the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. The trip is a calculated show of the countries’ deepening political and economic ties, which pose an increasing challenge to Western nations’ efforts to pressure Russia.
KYIV, Ukraine — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey agreed on Thursday to expand supplies of one of the Ukrainian army’s most sophisticated weapons, a long-range, Turkish-made armed drone whose use in combat for the first time in Ukraine last fall infuriated Russian officials.
But in a visit to Kyiv that was mostly a show of support for Ukraine, Mr. Erdogan also offered to play a mediating role between Russia and Ukraine in the conflict as he walks a fine line between backing Ukraine and disrupting a complicated relationship with Russia.
“We are ready to fulfill our part to end the crisis between two friendly countries that Turkey neighbors across the Black Sea,” Mr. Erdogan said.
So far, neither government has taken him up on the idea.
Turkey is a member of NATO but also maintains economic and military industry ties with Russia. At the same time, the two countries are on opposing sides in two Middle Eastern wars, in Syria and Libya, and in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the South Caucasus region.
Mr. Erdogan’s decision to arm Ukraine and back it diplomatically is emerging as another complicating factor in this mix of cooperation and conflict with Russia. Mr. Erdogan said Thursday he wanted to “lower the tensions instead of adding fuel to the flames” of the conflict.
Turkey has sold Ukraine Bayraktar TB2 drones that the Ukrainian military used for the first time in combat in the war with Russian-backed separatists last October, destroying a separatist howitzer from miles away. The missile strike suggested a tipping of the military balance in the eastern Ukraine war using a NATO-provided weapon, angering Russia.
Ukraine’s minister of defense, Aleksei Reznikov, said Thursday that Turkey had agreed to localize production of the drone at a factory outside of Kyiv. The Ukrainian version of the Bayraktar will fly with a domestically made engine. Turkey will also buy some drones of this model for its own armed forces, Mr. Reznikov said.
The site would also become a training center for Ukrainian drone pilots, Mr. Reznikov said. Though the countries had earlier agreed to localize production, an accord formalizing the deal will be signed Thursday, Mr. Reznikov said.
Mr. Zelensky praised the drone deal, which was a clear snub to Russia, which for years has objected to Ukraine obtaining the Turkish drone technology and which last fall issued urgent demands that NATO countries cease arming Ukraine.
“Today an agreement was reached to significantly expand production of lethal drones of the Baykar company in Ukraine,” he said, referring to the Turkish drone manufacturer that makes the Bayraktar TB2. “This is new technology, new job and strengthening the defensive capabilities of Ukraine.”
Mr. Erdogan has military deals with both Ukraine and Russia, including the controversial purchase of a Russian air defense system, despite Turkey’s membership in NATO. The purchase of that system, called the S-400, put Russian technology inside the territory of a key Western ally, deeply angering American officials.
Turkey and Ukraine are also signing a free-trade deal intended to increase trade turnover between the countries to $10 billion from about $7 billion now. The countries also signed agreements to deepen cooperation between their police forces and an agreement on closer coordination between ministries of defense.
Safak Timur and Carlotta Gall contributed reporting from Istanbul, Turkey.
BEIJING — Ahead of his visit to Beijing for the opening of the Winter Olympics, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia pledged on Thursday to deepen his country’s diplomatic and economic ties with China in ways that would counter American power and influence.
In an article as well as a separate interview with Chinese state media, Mr. Putin did not mention the churning confrontation with the United States and its allies over Ukraine. But he said he and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, would coordinate foreign policy “based on close and coinciding approaches to solving global and regional issues.”
As the Ukraine crisis has unfolded, China has become increasingly outspoken in its support of Russia’s positions, complicating President Biden’s strategy of deterring any Russian attack by threatening to impose a punishing economic and diplomatic cost.
Last week, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, after speaking with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, declared that any political resolution should address “Russia’s legitimate security concerns.”
Mr. Putin is scheduled to meet with Mr. Xi on Friday in Beijing, and he suggested that they would discuss a variety of issues, including trade and business deals, cooperation in lunar exploration and plans to create financial mechanisms that would “offset the negative impact of unilateral sanctions.”
Such sanctions have been the pillar of the American and European responses to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, much to the fury of Mr. Putin and other senior Russian officials and businessmen who have been subjected to them.
On Friday evening, Mr. Putin is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Games, joining dozens of foreign dignitaries, including other heads of state.
In the article Mr. Putin wrote for the Chinese state news agency Xinhua, he appeared to chide Mr. Biden and other leaders for declaring that diplomats from their countries would not attend the ceremony, as a protest against China’s human rights abuses.
“Sadly, attempts by a number of countries to politicize sports to the benefit of their ambitions have recently intensified,” Mr. Putin wrote. “This is fundamentally wrong and contrary to the very spirit and principles of the Olympic charter.”
Russia’s defense minister said on Thursday that preparations for joint military exercises with Belarus were going “brilliantly” and that more hardware could be deployed for the large-scale drills, which Western countries have warned could be a pretext for an attack on neighboring Ukraine.
Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu traveled to the Brestsky training ground, the military facility where Russia has stationed some of its troops ahead of the exercises, with President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus. Some of the drills will take place in southern Belarus near the border with Ukraine, which is a little more than 100 miles away from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
For many years since he assumed power in Belarus in 1994, Mr. Lukashenko walked a fine line between Moscow’s increasingly assertive foreign policy interests and Western fears that Belarus would be pushed into the Kremlin’s hands.
But the Belarusian leader has begun to toe the Russian line more diligently since a 2020 presidential election resulted in mass street protests that threatened to topple him, prompting him to turn to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for help. Mr. Lukashenko has supported Russia’s position on Ukraine, which he has promised to “bring back to the bosom of Slavs.”
Adding to the tensions, the Belarus Defense Ministry on Thursday summoned Ukraine’s military attaché to protest a drone that it said was launched from Ukraine and crossed into Belarusian territory before being brought down by the country’s armed forces. The ministry said that the drone was traveling toward the Brestsky training ground, one of the facilities where the drills will take place beginning next week.
Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, rejected the accusation, saying that Ukraine had not used a drone, and called the incident “yet another provocation by Belarus.”
At a meeting with Mr. Lukashenko, Mr. Shoigu said that Russia was close to completing the transfer of “large groupings of troops with equipment” for the exercises.
“This was not just done brilliantly,” said Mr. Shoigu. “There is also a possibility to deploy additional equipment.”
Mr. Lukashenko said that he hoped Belarusian soldiers would have the opportunity to train on the advanced military equipment that Russia has brought in for the drills, adding that Russia and Belarus have established three joint training centers for the purpose.
Mr. Lukashenko also said that threats were emanating from Ukraine, although he did not offer details, and that it was important to “fortify the border with Ukraine.”
“We are being provoked all the time,” said Mr. Lukashenko. “They understand that if we will respond, Russia will get pulled in too.”
Even as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia claims the United States is trying to goad Russia into war with Ukraine, new satellite imagery shows no sign of a slowdown in Moscow’s military buildup.
One image, taken on Feb. 1, shows an entire new housing area next to an existing deployment of military vehicles in Novoozernoye, in Russia-occupied Crimea. The personnel camp was established within the past 10 days, according to a New York Times analysis of additional satellite imagery.
The establishment of tents and shelters for troops may signal an increased “overall readiness level,” according to an analysis by the Colorado-based company that released the images on Wednesday, Maxar Technologies.
Breaking a monthlong silence, Mr. Putin said Wednesday that while he hoped diplomacy would continue, the West had ignored Russia’s demands.
The Russian leader has repeatedly cast his country not as the aggressor but as a victim of NATO expansionism — but the new imagery, along with information from independent military analysts, confirms the enormous scale of Moscow’s military buildup.
Russia has massed about 130,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, by Western estimates. Its troops, tanks and heavy artillery have encircled the border from the north, east and south, according to information obtained by Ukrainian and Western officials, as well as independent military analysts and satellite imagery.
The images released Wednesday also show the deployment of weaponry across Ukraine’s border in Belarus, including Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems, as well as local training exercises at multiple sites.
There were also signs of live-fire exercises. At the Persianovsky training area in western Russia, multiple new craters from recent artillery fire stand out in the snow-covered landscape.
Hours after consulting with President Biden, President Emmanuel Macron of France continued a flurry of diplomatic outreach on Thursday with a series of phone calls to European leaders, in an attempt to defuse tensions over the buildup of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border.
Mr. Macron, who has long advocated a bolder, more autonomous Europe on the world stage, is eager to put himself at the vanguard of the continent’s diplomatic efforts over the crisis, even though his conciliatory tone in dealing with Russia has sometimes put him at odds with some of his European and NATO allies.
“These past few days, I spoke with Vladimir Putin three times over the phone, and twice with President Volodymyr Zelensky,” Mr. Macron told the newspaper La Voix du Nord on Tuesday ahead of a visit to northern France. “I might go to Germany for the second time in 10 days for a summit with the German chancellor and the Polish president. And I will take other initiatives.”
Mr. Macron has used this whirlwind of diplomatic activity and the coronavirus pandemic to justify a delay in announcing his candidacy in France’s upcoming presidential election. He is widely expected to run for a second term but has not said so officially, irking political opponents who accuse him of using the presidential office for campaign purposes.
“My first obsession is to put the acute phase of the epidemic and the peak of the current geopolitical crisis behind us,” Mr. Macron told La Voix du Nord.
He has a video call with Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, scheduled for Thursday morning, and he will speak with President Andrzej Duda of Poland, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine later in the day.
The series of calls comes after Mr. Macron spoke with Mr. Biden late Thursday evening. Readouts of their 45-minute phone conversation echoed agreement on the need for close cooperation.
But the White House readout stressed the need to “impose swift and severe economic costs on Russia should it further invade Ukraine,” while the French statement was more positive, making no mention of a potential invasion and saying instead that the two leaders shared the same “logic of de-escalation” and had agreed to “capitalize on the positive progress” made by talks in the Normandy Format over the past weeks.
Mr. Macron’s deep engagement has offered something of a contrast with the approach of Germany’s new leader, Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Mr. Scholz, in an interview with the public broadcaster ZDF, defended his government’s response to the crisis and rejected the suggestion that Germany had been an unreliable partner among European allies in mounting a united front against Russia.
“Our allies know exactly what they have in us,” he said. He pointed to Germany’s contributions to NATO’s deterrence efforts toward Russia and to more than $2 billion in financial aid that Germany has provided to Ukraine over the past few years.
Mr. Scholz also announced that he would also be traveling to Moscow to meet with Mr. Putin “soon.”
WASHINGTON — At key moments since the Ukraine crisis flared into the headlines two months ago, President Biden and his aides have worked to expose President Vladimir V. Putin’s plans, declassifying intelligence about the Russian leader’s next steps and calling him out as an “aggressor.”
The Biden administration has revealed information that could have been obtained only by penetrating, at least to some degree, Russia’s military and intelligence systems. The Pentagon declared publicly that the force that Mr. Putin was assembling on three sides of Ukraine would reach 175,000 or more before an invasion began, a piece of data one cannot discern from looking at a satellite photograph.
A few weeks later, it said Moscow would try to stage a provocation — a “false flag attack” on its own forces or allies — to create a pretext to act. Then Washington encouraged the British to reveal a Russian plan to install a puppet government in Kyiv.
Each one of those revelations was part of a strategy to get ahead of the Russians in an area where Moscow has long excelled: information warfare.
But the disclosures also raised the issue of whether, in trying to disrupt Moscow’s actions by revealing them in advance, the administration was deterring Russian action or spurring it on. The administration’s goal is to cut the Russians off at each turn by exposing their plans and forcing them to think of alternative strategies. But that approach could provoke Mr. Putin at a moment when American intelligence officials believe he has not yet decided whether to invade.
Russia’s government said Thursday that it would shut down the Russian operations of Germany’s state-owned broadcaster Deutsche Welle, an unusually drastic move against a major foreign news outlet.
The Russian foreign ministry said it would force the German outlet to close its Moscow office, withdraw the accreditation of all Deutsche Welle employees in Russia, and terminate satellite broadcasts of its television and radio channels. In a statement on Thursday, the ministry said the decision was retaliation for Germany’s regulator suspending German-language broadcasts by RT, a Russian state-controlled outlet, because of the channel’s failure to apply for a license.
The fight over broadcasters comes amid rising tensions between Russia and NATO, which includes Germany, over Ukraine, with more than 100,000 Russian troops massed near Ukraine’s borders and Western governments warning of a possible invasion.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it would compile a “list of representatives of state and public structures of Germany involved in restricting the broadcasting of RT DE,” the broadcaster’s German-language channel, and ban them from entering Russia. The ministry also noted plans to name Deutsche Welle, or DW, and its employees “foreign agents” under an onerous 2012 law.
The moves announced Thursday, it said, are just the “first stage” of retaliatory measures.
DW’s director general, Peter Limbourg, accused Moscow of an “incomprehensible and a complete overreaction.”
“We have been made into a kind of pawn, which the media must often endure in autocracies,” Mr. Limbourg said, adding that DW would not be fazed.
“We will continue to report from our office in Moscow until the measures are officially served on us, and even if we eventually have to close it, our coverage of Russia would not be affected,” he said. “Rather, we would significantly increase reporting.”
DW has had broadcasting licenses in Russia for its TV channels DW English and DW Deutsch — which airs some programs in Russian in addition to those in German — since 2005, the company said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Germany’s media regulator Medienanstalten banned the distribution of RT DE in Germany via satellite, online and mobile platforms, saying that the channel had not sought permission to broadcast.
RT’s German language outlet has faced controversy before. Two of its YouTube channels were removed in September for violating content rules by posting what was deemed to be disinformation about Covid-19 vaccines. In response, Russia’s regulator Roskomnadzor threatened to block YouTube.
Many Western governments have long mistrusted RT as a vector for Russian disinformation, and even intelligence-gathering. A German journalist who used to work for RT Deutsch said he had been asked to spy on the Kremlin critic Aleksei A. Navalny while he was convalescing in a Berlin hospital after being poisoned by agents from Russia’s security services.
The Russian announcement about DW came after two Western journalists were forced out of Russia: Sarah Rainsford, a longtime correspondent for the BBC, was told to leave in August, and Tom Vennink, a Dutch reporter, was expelled in November.
President Biden has approved the deployment of about 3,000 additional American troops to Eastern Europe, administration officials said on Wednesday.
The troops, including 1,000 already in Germany, will head to Poland and Romania, said the Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby. Their purpose will be to reassure NATO allies that while the United States has no intention of sending troops into Ukraine, where President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has been threatening an invasion, Mr. Biden would protect America’s NATO allies from any Russian aggression.
“Its important that we send a strong signal to Mr. Putin and the world that NATO matters,” Mr. Kirby told reporters at a news conference. “We are making it clear that we are going to be prepared to defend our NATO allies if it comes to that.”
At the moment, Russia is threatening Ukraine, not Romania or Poland. But Mr. Putin has made clear his distaste for both NATO and the post-Cold War redrawing of the map of Europe, which put former Soviet republics and satellite countries in the West’s foremost military alliance at his doorstep.
The president’s decision comes days after Pentagon leaders said that Mr. Putin had deployed the necessary troops and military hardware to conduct an invasion of Ukraine. Senior Defense Department officials also said that the tense standoff was leading the United States, its NATO allies and Russia into uncharted territory.
The number of Russian troops assembled at Ukraine’s borders has reached well north of 100,000, the officials said, publicly confirming for the first time what intelligence analysts have described for weeks.
Close to 2,000 of the troops — most of them coming from the 82nd Airborne in Fort Bragg, N.C. — will be going to Poland, Mr. Kirby said. While many of those troops are paratroopers, Mr. Kirby said he did not expect the Airborne troops to deploy to Poland in a “tactical operation,” which would raise the ire of Russia even more.
The troops being moved to Romania will complement French troops being deployed there, Mr. Kirby said.
The Biden administration has not ruled out sending additional troops to Europe, and still has 8,500 American troops on “high alert” for possible deployment to a NATO rapid response force.
Asked why Mr. Biden decided to move troops unilaterally, Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said the move had been under discussion “for some time” with NATO partners and there was no specific event in recent days that pushed Mr. Biden to deploy the troops.
“There’s no question that Russia and President Putin has continued to take escalatory, not de-escalatory steps,” Ms. Psaki said. “So it is not that it is one moment, it is we are looking at events over the course of time.”
Mr. Kirby also said there would be no change in the status of the small number of American troops in Ukraine. More than 150 U.S. military advisers are in Ukraine, trainers who have for years worked near Lviv, in the country’s west, far from the front lines. The current group includes Special Operations forces, mostly Army Green Berets, as well as National Guard trainers from Florida’s 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“It’s a big, unambiguous signal,” said Jim Townsend, a former top Pentagon official for Europe and NATO policy. “It’s also significant that they are going to the Black Sea. Finally, the Black Sea region is being recognized as a major theater. It’s not just the Baltics.”
Zolan Kanno-Youngs contributed reporting.