Russia has mustered at least 70% of the military firepower it intends to put in place by mid-February to give President Vladimir Putin the chance to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, officials said. American officials.
On Saturday, officials warned that a full invasion of Russia could lead to the rapid capture of Kiev and potentially leave up to 50,000 civilians killed or injured, according to The New York Times and The Washington Post. A U.S. official confirmed that estimate to The Associated Press, but it’s unclear how U.S. agencies determined those numbers.
The grim assessment comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed with French President Emmanuel Macron that the UK and its NATO allies would be united in their fight against Russian aggression “where and how it might occur. “.
European leaders must go to Moscow and Kiev to try to ease tensions.
Macron is expected to visit Moscow on Monday and Kiev on Tuesday, while German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will visit Kiev on February 14 and Moscow the following day.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was due to travel to Ukraine with the Prime Minister on Tuesday but had to abandon the trip after testing positive for coronavirus. Truss will soon be going to Moscow.
U.S. officials said that as of Friday the Russian military fielded a total of 83 “battalion battle groups” near Ukraine on Friday, each of which is roughly equivalent in size to a 750-to-1 U.S. battalion. 000 soldiers. This is an increase from the 60 battalion tactical groups in position just two weeks ago, they said.
Another 14 battalion battlegroups are en route to the border area from other parts of Russia, the officials said. Two officials said the United States estimates Russia would want a total of 110 to 130 battalion battlegroups to use in a full-scale invasion, but Putin may decide on a more limited incursion. Including support units, Russia could aim to have 150,000 troops in place for a full-scale invasion, an official said, adding that the ongoing buildup could reach that level within the next two weeks.
On Thursday, US officials claimed to have evidence of an elaborate plot by the Kremlin to make a “highly graphic” fake video of a Ukrainian attack as a pretext for a military invasion. Downing Street said on Friday it had “great confidence” in Russia’s intention to fabricate a reason to attack Ukraine.
US officials, who discussed internal assessments of the Russian buildup on the condition that they not be identified, sketched out a series of indicators suggesting that Putin intends an invasion in the coming weeks, although that the size and magnitude are unclear. They underlined that a diplomatic solution seems to remain possible.
Among these military indicators: an exercise of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces which is usually held in the fall has been rescheduled from mid-February to March. This coincides with what US officials consider the most likely invasion window. Officials made no suggestion that a potential conflict would involve the use of nuclear weapons, but the Russian exercise – likely involving the launch of unarmed long-range missile tests on Russian territory – could be used as a message to deter the West from intervening in Ukraine.
U.S. officials have said in recent weeks that a Russian invasion could overwhelm Ukraine’s military fairly quickly, though Moscow may struggle to maintain an occupation and deal with a possible insurgency.
The ongoing Russian buildup comes as the Biden administration leaked intelligence in hopes of preemptively countering Russian disinformation and blocking Putin’s plans to create a pretext for an invasion. But he has been criticized for failing to provide evidence to back up many of his claims.
Army officials announced on Saturday that Major General Christopher Donahue, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, had arrived in Poland. About 1,700 more soldiers from the 82nd Airborne are deploying to Poland from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and 300 soldiers are deploying from Bragg in Germany. In addition, 1,000 troops based in Germany are moving to Romania.
Captain Matt Visser, spokesman for the 18th Airborne Corps, which includes the 82nd Division, said, “Our corps’ presence serves to reinforce existing U.S. forces in Europe and demonstrates our commitment to our NATO allies and partners. .
The corps was made up of “combat-capable forces that stand ready to enhance the alliance’s ability to deter and defeat Russian aggression,” the US statement added.
Washington said last week it would send about 3,000 additional troops to Eastern Europe to defend NATO members against “aggression”.
With growing nervousness in Eastern Europe over Russia’s rise, much attention is being focused on its placement of thousands of troops in Belarus, which shares a border not only with Ukraine but also with three countries from NATO: Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. The Biden administration may soon transfer more troops in Europe to allied countries on NATO’s eastern flank, a US official said on Saturday without specifying which countries.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said last week that Putin could use any part of the force he has gathered along Ukraine’s borders to seize Ukrainian cities and “important territories” or to carry out “coercive acts or provocative political acts” such as the recognition of separatist territories. inside Ukraine.
According to Putin’s ultimate goal, Russian forces could directly attack Kiev moving south from current positions in southern Belarus. It could also send forces across the Russian border into eastern and southern Ukraine if its intention is to fracture and destroy much of Ukraine’s military, officials said.
At the low end of military actions, Putin could order sabotage, cyberattacks and other destabilizing actions inside Ukraine with the aim of overthrowing the current government in Kyiv, officials said.
With Associated Press