Hagel: 'Misjudging Putin' not the problem

 

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Thursday that sending another permanent Army brigade to Europe is one possible result of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

In a Bloomberg Television interview, Hagel said the U.S. isn't guilty "of misjudging [Vladimir] Putin," and that there's no evidence Russian troops are pulling away from Ukraine.

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"We do not have any verification that they are pulling troops back," he said. "There have been various reports that they are moving troops back. There are troops that are moving around. We know that. But no indication of any significant movement of those large troop deployments along that border away from the border."

Hagel said sending another permanent Army brigade to Europe could be a possibility. Gen. Philip Breedlove, who leads U.S. European Command, has been tasked by NATO to give recommendations on a number of options. 

"Well, they're all part of the measures that could be considered," Hagel said. "But, well, let's wait to see what General Breedlove comes back with."

The U.S. and European allies have imposed sanctions on Russian officials after its annexation of Crimea. This week President Obama also signed a package that would grant $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine. 

Russia, in public statements, has maintained it is not interested in extending its reach beyond Crimea. 

Hagel said he does not believe the United States misjudged Russian President Vladimir Putin but that his moves are still not fully understood. Hagel reiterated that the president is focused on a diplomatic resolution.

“I don't think it was a matter of misjudging Putin," he said. "What his intentions were, why he did what he did, we still don't understand fully. But the point of responsible governments is to have strong options and capabilities and be prepared for any contingency. It's a dangerous world out there, and it's a very unpredictable world." 

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