Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.
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Affirming the NATO Treaty’s obligation, Defense Secretary Hagel said “an attack on any individual [NATO member] is an attack on all of us.”
Hagel sought to reassure allies that military assets are moving toward the region to deter and respond, if necessary, any Russian aggressive actions.
The purpose of the additional forces in the region, according to Hagel, is preparedness. “We have to be prepared, as a collective security group, for any eventuality,” Hagel said.
Hagel insisted, “But we shouldn't either forget that it's Russia who instigated this. They brought on - they've been the provocative ones. They've brought on the tensions.”
Hagel was not persuaded that recent Russian troop pullback from the Ukraine would do enough to de-escalate the situation, saying “Now, there's evidence that some of those troops are moving out. But still, tens of thousands there. That's provocative. That adds tension. That adds trouble.”
Hagel reiterated the US’s position is to guarantee Ukraine self-determination. “The people of Ukraine deserve the freedom and their own options to build their own country, make their own decisions without - without pressure from either side,” Hagel stated.