Hagel: No evidence of Russian withdrawal

 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says Russian troops are still amassed along the Ukrainian border, despite Moscow’s assertions to the contrary.

“Well, they’re not leaving, as far as we can tell,” Hagel said Sunday during an interview on ABC’s "This Week." “You have to ask President Putin as to why he says they’re leaving when, in fact, they’re not leaving.”

ADVERTISEMENT
The Kremlin last week announced that it would pull back its roughly 40,000 troops from the border, a proclamation that was met with open skepticism by U.S. and NATO officials.

Despite the lingering troop presence, Hagel stopped short of categorizing Russia as an enemy.

“We’re not at war with Russia,” he said, before adding that the country is “an adversary in Ukraine.”

“Russia continues to isolate itself for a short-term gain,” according to Hagel. “The Russians may feel that somehow they’re winning. But the world is not about just short term.”

Meanwhile, Putin visited Crimea this weekend for the first time since Moscow annexed the territory from Ukraine in March. His visit coincided with Russia’s Victory Day celebrations, which marks the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday said that Russian control of Crimea is a “done deal.”
 
“There is nothing we can do to change that situation,” Hagel’s predecessor said in an interview with CBS’ "Face the Nation."