A German journalist on Thursday became the most recent journalist to ask the Biden Administration for evidence to back up its claims on Russia.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin claimed at a press conference at NATO headquarters that there were more Russian troops now at the border with Ukraine — not fewer, as Russia has claimed.
Austin said, “The Russians say that they are withdrawing some of these forces now that exercises are complete, but we don’t see that. Quite the contrary — we see them add to the more than 150,000 troops that they have already arrayed on that border, even in the last couple of days.”
He added: “We see some of those troops inch closer to that border. We see them fly in more combat and support aircraft. We see them sharpen their readiness in the Black Sea. We even see them stocking up their blood supplies.”
Bettina Klein from German National Public Radio asked Austin for evidence:
I understand you have the evidence that there’s more troop building, rather than troop withdrawal in Russia. At the same time, I hear some skepticism, certainly of the German public debate. How can we trust this? How can we trust American intelligence? What do you suggest to build more public trust? And would you consider at one point to make more evidence you have publicly available?
Austin responded that the U.S. has been “very transparent” and would continue to be transparent. He said:
I don’t see this as a competition of narratives. I think, you know, we’ve been very transparent about — about everything that — that we’ve seen thus far, and we’ve shared what we — what we know with our allies and partners and we — we really have done a very, very extensive job of making sure that our allies knew what we knew as soon as possible.
But I think in order to address the issues that — the issue that you — that you raised, the solution is to continue to be transparent, to continue to, you know, talk to — to the American people and — and people around the world, quite frankly, and — and explain what we’re seeing. And — and I think, you know, that — that has been very helpful thus far. We will continue to do that, and we certainly endeavor to do that while we’re in this conference this week.
Klein’s question follows several similar questions from the American press on what evidence the Biden Administration has to back up its claims of a Russian buildup.
The most prominent recent example was the Associated Press’s Matt Lee pressing State Department Press Secretary Ned Price for evidence for his claims that Russia was trying to stage a false-flag attack to justify a military invasion into Ukraine.
Reporter: “It’s an action that you say they have taken, but you have shown no evidence to confirm that. […] This is like – crisis actors? Really? This is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting into now.”
— The Hill (@thehill) February 3, 2022
Price suggested that Lee was finding “solace” in Russian propaganda before later tweeting out that he did not mean to suggest that Lee was a dupe.
The renowned @APDiploWriter and I have had our fair share of sparring sessions, and I have the scars to prove it. Clearly, he’s no one’s dupe, and I’d never want to suggest otherwise. Nothing but respect for him, which I underscored in a call to him after the briefing.
— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) February 3, 2022
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki got similarly prickly when asked about civilian casualties during a recent U.S. strike in Syria to take out the leader of ISIS, and suggested that journalists believed ISIS over the U.S. military.
After a reporter asked Psaki, “Will the U.S. provide any evidence because there may be people that are skeptical of the events that took place and what happened to the civilians?”
Psaki fired back: “Skeptical of the U.S. military’s assessment when they went and took out the leader of ISIS? That they are not providing accurate information, and ISIS is providing accurate information?”
Psaki to reporter asking about those “skeptical” about civilians killed in raid: “Skeptical of the U.S. military’s assessment when they went and took out… the leader of ISIS, that they are not providing accurate information, and ISIS is providing accurate information?” pic.twitter.com/7g90mc1x1U
— Tommy moderna-vaX-Topher (@tommyxtopher) February 3, 2022