Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke out against the United States setting red lines that could pull them further into the conflicts in Ukraine and Taiwan.
Austin, in an interview with Defense One released on Tuesday, said that the Pentagon’s goal in both situations “is to lead with diplomacy” and to do it “in a way that we don’t get into a conflict.”
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The secretary’s comments came the same morning President Joe Biden spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about his military buildup along the Ukrainian border. Biden's goal is to communicate diplomatically that Russia should withdraw roughly 100,000 military personnel and equipment from its border with Ukraine, according to White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week pointed to “evidence that Russia made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine.” Also, last week, Biden said he is compiling a “meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do.”
The diplomatic-focused approach will rely on “integrated deterrence,” the secretary of defense said.
“I think in situations like this, I think conveying red lines only exacerbates the problem. I think we need to focus on finding ways to de-escalate and reduce tensions,” Austin said. “I don't think it's helpful for us to draw a line in the sand at this point.”
In addition to the rising tension between Russia and Ukraine, the U.S. is facing increasing hostilities with China over their improved military and Taiwan.
Taiwan receives American defense support, but it has not been recognized by the U.S. government since diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, the communist government on the mainland, were normalized.
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Over the weekend, Austin said China’s practice of frequent flights around Taiwan “looks a lot like them exploring their true capabilities and sure, it looks a lot like rehearsing.”
He told Defense One that “we don't want to see change in the status quo, especially, certainly a unilateral change in the status quo. We think that all tensions in that area should be resolved diplomatically first.”