Belarusian president vows war if Russia, Belarus attacked

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday vowed that war would result if either his country or Russia were attacked, while noting that Belarus did not want to engage in conflict.

Lukashenko, an ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin, made those comments to officials and lawmakers in a speech amid escalating tensions between Russia and the West, Reuters reported.

Russian troops and equipment have already started to arrive in Belarus, as the two are scheduled to participate in military exercises together between February 10 and February 20.

More than 100,000 Russian troops have already been amassed at the Ukrainian border, and the joint exercises taking place next month in Belarus, a country that borders Ukraine to the north, only amplify the military presence near the former Soviet republic.

The international community remains concerned that Russia is readying itself for an invasion into Ukraine, though Russia denies such intent.

President Biden on Friday said he anticipated moving U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term," adding "not too many."

Meanwhile, U.S. officials on Friday called on Russia to seek diplomacy and "stand down" on Ukraine.

"We strongly encourage Russia to stand down and to pursue a resolution through diplomacy," Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said before reporters. "Armed force should always be the last resort. Success here is through dialogue."

"There's no reason that this situation has to devolve into conflict," Defense Lloyd Austin said. "[Putin] He can choose to deescalate, he can order his troops away. He can choose dialogue and diplomacy."

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