US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Friday (local time) said that the conflict with Russia over Ukraine "is not inevitable."
"There is still time and space for diplomacy. The United States, in lockstep with our allies and partners, has offered Russia a path away from crisis and toward greater security. The Department of Defense will continue to support those diplomatic efforts," Austin said in a briefing.
Austin also reiterated US support for Ukraine through security assistance material and for "standing shoulder to shoulder" with NATO allies, CNN reported.
While tensions between Russia and Ukraine are at their highest in years, the Kremlin has also said it does not want conflict.
Austin said the United States is taking the buildup of tens of thousands of Russian forces at the Ukrainian border "very seriously," adding that his department stands "unified in opposition" with North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies to Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions, CNN reported.
"We don't believe that President Putin has made a final decision to use these forces against Ukraine. He clearly now has that capability. And there are multiple options available to him, including the seizure of cities and significant territories, but also provocative political acts like the recognition of breakaway territories. Indeed, we're seeing Russian state media spouting off now about alleged activities in eastern Ukraine. This is straight out of the Russian playbook. And they're not fooling us," he said.
Austin also said the department is on the lookout for Russian misinformation, CNN reported.
"Any Russian attack or further incursion into Ukraine would not only ignite conflict, it would also violate the bedrock principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and self-determination," Austin stated.
"This is something that we're taking very seriously, both as a strong partner of Ukraine and as one of 30 members of NATO. We're unified in opposition to Russia's attempts to undermine those core values and threaten peace and security in Europe," he added. (ANI)