Russia could have been deterred from waging a war on Ukraine with US military forces' presence in the country, a top American general said Tuesday.
Testifying alongside Defense Chief Lloyd Austin at a hearing by the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Russian President Vladimir Putin had long planned for the military operation.
"I think that with respect to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s been a long-standing objective of Putin and candidly short of the commitment of U.S. military forces into Ukraine proper, I’m not sure he was deterrable," Milley said.
"This has been a long-term objective of his that goes back years," said Milley, "so I think the idea of deterring Putin from invading Ukraine, deterring them by the United States, would have required the commitment of US military forces, and I think that would have risked armed conflict with Russia, which I certainly wouldn’t have advised."
The top general also called for the establishment of more military basis in Eastern Ukraine to ward off any future Russian aggression and said the forces to be deployed should rotate instead of making the deployments permanent.
"My advice would be to create permanent bases but don’t permanently station, so you get the effect of permanence by rotational forces cycling through permanent bases," said Milley.
He also said US' allies such as Poland, Romania or those in the Baltics would be willing to establish permanent bases. "They’ll build them, they’ll pay for them," he added.
The Russia-Ukraine war, which started Feb. 24, has drawn international outrage, with the EU, US, and Britain, among others, implementing tough financial sanctions on Moscow.
At least 1,480 civilians have been killed in Ukraine and 2,195 injured, according to UN estimates, with the true figure feared to be far higher.
More than 4.24 million Ukrainians have fled to other countries, with millions more internally displaced, according to the UN refugee agency.