A new month has come, but Russia keeps up the pressure in Ukraine. U.S. intelligence assessments have indicated late January and February as the opportune moments for the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin to action their truculence and invade their smaller neighbor.
Russia Could Invade at Any Moment
Besides the massing of Russian troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, Moscow is sending increasingly more forces to Belarus, which is located in the north of Ukraine. Starting in early February, Russia and Belarus have announced a series of large-scale joint military drills in the Russian satellite state. Russian troops stationed there are within striking distance of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
“We feel it’s important to be open and candid about the threat from Russia. It’s not just words, of course. You are seeing specifics that we’ve been laying out here, including over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders—amassed on the border, with more troops and weaponry on the way,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a press briefing.
If it chooses to invade, Moscow must do it soon before spring arrives and thaws the snow and ice coating everything in mud.
“I would note, though, that our effort is to ensure we’re informing the American public and the global community of the seriousness of this threat, even as we work with the Ukrainians, with the Europeans to ensure we are not only preparing them and providing them supplies that they need, but standing up and making clear to the Russians what the consequences will be,” Psaki added.
Options, Choices, and Questions
U.S. officials don’t believe that Putin has decided what to do yet. What he has done thus far is to create options for him. These options range from a small territorial incursion within Ukraine in support of the pro-Russian separatists to a full-blown invasion that will bring Kyiv under the control of the Kremlin once more.
“As you know, for months now, Russia has been deploying forces to Crimea and along Ukraine’s border, including in Belarus. It has progressed at a consistent and steady pace involving tens of thousands of Russian troops, and it is being supported by increased Russian naval activity in the northern Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a press briefing.
As to how a conflict could start, Moscow is experienced with false flag and covert operations. A few days ago, the British Foreign Office and intelligence services came out with news that pro-Russian former Ukrainian politicians are working with the Russian intelligence services to launch a coup d’etat that would give Moscow an excuse to invade and “restore stability.”
“We’re seeing Russian state media spouting off now about alleged activities in the eastern
Ukraine. Now, this is straight out of the Russian playbook, and they’re not fooling us. We remain focused on Russian disinformation, including the potential creation of pretext for further invasion or strikes on Donbass, and any Russian attack or further incursion into Ukraine would not only ignite conflict, it would also violate the bedrock principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and self-determination,” Secretary Austin added.
But Putin also wasn’t expecting such a unified block from NATO and NATO partners and allies, and that has definitely frustrated his calculations.
1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned 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. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.