According to a Bloomberg report, the U.S. has shared intelligence with Ukraine and its European allies about a large build-up of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine that could be used in a Blitzkrieg attack that would leave little time for the U.S. or NATO to respond.
War In the New Year?
Last week, the U.S. warned Ukraine and European allies about the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine early in the next year.
According to Ukrainian military intelligence, there are almost 100,000 Russian troops stagged close to the border with Ukraine, threatening invasion. Moscow has almost the same number of troops and materiel in the border as it did during the April tensions. Kyiv claims that Russia has about 1,200 tanks, 2,900 armored personnel carriers, 1,600 pieces of artillery, 330 fighter, bomber, and attack jets, 240 helicopters, and 81 surface warships and submarines next to Ukraine.
According to the Ukrainian military, Russia is currently supporting separatist forces that are fighting against Kyiv in Eastern Ukraine. Besides sending materiel, Moscow has deployed about 2,100 troops within the rebel-controlled areas—which are nominally part of Ukraine—in direct support of the separatists, going as far as to install Russian officers to command the rebel units.
In 2014, Russia surprised the world by invading and annexing the Crimean Peninsula and then igniting and supporting a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
War of Words
NATO and the European Union have voiced their concerns about the situation, but it remains to be seen if they would intervene in support of Ukraine.
“Any violation of the border, any intrusion would lead to extremely grave consequences,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said during a radio interview, acknowledging that Putin might grasp the opportunity to exert pressure on Ukraine, the European Union, and the U.S.
President Putin has tried to justify the tensions in Ukraine and Belarus, stating that they are an outcome of the West not respecting Russia or heeding it. “Our recent warnings have been noticed and had an effect. A certain tension has appeared there. We need for this condition to remain as long as possible, so nobody gets it into their head to cause a conflict we don’t need on our western borders,” the Russian president said in a speech to diplomats at the Russian Foreign Ministry last week.
Meanwhile, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesperson, has called reports of Russian troop movements on the border with Ukraine “hollow and unfounded” and aimed to create an environment of tensions that singles out and targets Russia.
“Russia doesn’t threaten anyone. The movement of troops on our territory shouldn’t be a cause for anyone’s concern,” Peskov added.
It is worth noting that Ukraine is not a NATO member state and thus isn’t protected by the transatlantic alliance’s Article 5, which ensures a collective defense if a third country or group attacks a NATO member state.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.