US intelligence shows Russian plans for potential invasion of Ukraine: report, Europe News & Top Stories
NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) – The United States has shared intelligence, including maps with European allies, which show a build-up of Russian troops and artillery to prepare for a rapid and large-scale push into Ukraine from from several places if President Vladimir Putin decides to invade, according to people familiar with the conversations.
This intelligence was passed on to some NATO members over the past week to support U.S. concerns over Putin’s possible intentions and an increasingly frenzied diplomatic effort to deter him from any incursion, the leaders. Europeans engaging directly with the Russian president.
Diplomacy is informed by a US assessment that Putin may be considering an invasion early next year as his troops again gather near the border.
The information presents a scenario in which troops would enter Ukraine from Crimea, the Russian border and via Belarus, with around 100 battle groups of battalions – potentially around 100,000 troops – deployed for what people have described as an operation. in rugged terrain and in icy conditions, covering a vast territory and prepared for potentially prolonged occupation.
Two of the people said about half of that number of battle groups were already in position and any invasion would be supported by air support.
Both people said Moscow also called up tens of thousands of reservists on a scale unprecedented in post-Soviet times. They explained that the role of reservists in any conflict would be to secure the territory in a later phase after the tactical battalions lead the way.
Russia has not publicly announced any major call for reservists.
One of the people said that the United States had also shared information about an exponential increase in disinformation targeting Kiev and that Moscow had recruited agents to try to sow destabilization in Ukraine.
Putin last week denied any intention to invade, but hailed the alarm as proof that his actions had attracted the attention of the United States and its allies, whom he accused of not taking them seriously enough. Russia’s “red lines” on Ukraine.
America and the rest are not saying that a war is certain, or even that they know for sure that Putin is serious about it.
People have said it’s likely he hasn’t decided what to do yet.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this month: “I cannot speak about Russia’s intentions. We don’t know what they are.
A senior administration official said the United States has, under Biden, demonstrated that it is ready to use a number of tools to combat Russia’s nefarious actions and will continue to do so. The White House said it had no further comments.
The Russian leader has a history of fraud, and previous accumulations at the border have been unsuccessful.
But officials say he is positioning himself to act if he wishes, and they note that even when troops withdrew from an earlier escalation in April, they left equipment behind, making the new build-up faster. and easier.
For Putin, Ukraine is an unfinished business after his annexation of Crimea in 2014. He sees Ukraine as part of Russia and is bristling with its relations with the West, especially its nascent military engagement with it. ‘NATO.
While he said he didn’t want a war, in a speech last week he said his goal was to keep the United States and its allies on their nerves “for as long as possible, so let no one take it into their heads to provoke a conflict, we do not need on our western borders ”.
He blasted the United States and others for expanding military infrastructure in Ukraine and stepping up naval missions in the Black Sea and flights of warplanes along Russia’s borders.
Russian officials have said they want to see NATO stop its expanding cooperation with Ukraine and what Moscow sees as a build-up along its borders.
There have also been talks of a new summit between Putin and US President Joe Biden to defuse tensions.
At the same time, Russian authorities understand that any attempt to militarily occupy large amounts of Ukrainian territory would face widespread public opposition on the ground and trigger sweeping Western sanctions that could hit the Russian economy, relatives said. leaders.
More diplomatic flurries are likely, as the United States plans to revive and expand a package it put in place this year during the previous troop build-up, which could include sanctions.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov visited Washington last week and asked the Pentagon for further help in defending the country’s airspace and coasts. Ukraine’s foreign minister also visited Brussels last week.
Echoing the concerns of the United States, the head of its defense intelligence agency told the Military Times that he believed Russia could prepare for an attack by the end of January or early February involving airstrikes, amphibious assaults and an incursion through Belarus.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected the remarks on Sunday, saying “this hysteria is being built artificially”.
“Those who accuse us of some sort of unusual military activity in our own territory are sending their armed forces themselves across the ocean. I mean the United States of America. not very logical and not very decent, “he said. television.
For Biden, the actions of the Russian president present multiple challenges. They could once again test the appetite of his administration to intervene militarily offshore. Just a few months ago, America experienced a disorderly troop withdrawal from Afghanistan after two decades of conflict there.
Biden has had to focus his political strength on national priorities such as his economic agenda and deal with rising prices at gas pumps and grocery store registers.
The latest friction occurs in a larger context.
Not only are the troops rallying again, but record gas prices make Europe vulnerable to Russian largesse on supplies. Members of the European Union, including Poland, have also accused Russia of encouraging a refugee crisis as its ally Belarus routes migrants to the bloc.
And a Russian weapons test that blew a satellite out of orbit dispersed a large field of debris, prompting US accusations that it had endangered the crew of the International Space Station. Yet one of those with knowledge of US intelligence said these events would not be part of a larger plan but were being exploited opportunistically by the Russian president.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine exploded in 2014, when Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula and supported a separatist rebellion in the east of the country. This triggered sweeping US and European sanctions, but the conflict continued, killing around 14,000 people in eastern Ukraine. Two of the people said any new attack would be on a much larger scale than seven years ago.
One of the people said that a potential joint response had to be quickly agreed upon among the allies, which would be unequivocal and overwhelming if implemented, adding that there was still a window of opportunity to deter Putin.
It is not clear at this point whether this would include a possible military response. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Sunday that any violation of the Ukrainian border by Russia would lead to “extremely serious consequences”.
Collaboration with Russia could also be cut short, the person said. Officials noted slight improvements in relations since Biden and Putin met in Geneva in June, including working together to tackle issues such as climate change, making Moscow’s latest maneuvers all the more so. striking, added the person.
US warnings of a potential invasion are seen in Moscow as a sign that Washington – at least so far – has no intention of compromise and is rallying transatlantic unity against Russia.
“The United States is laying the groundwork for a unified response to sanctions,” said Dmitry Suslov, expert on Russia’s relations with the United States and Europe at the Moscow Graduate School of Economics.
Although Western countries do not currently know the Kremlin’s intentions, they believe military options are being presented and have little doubt that what they hear and see would allow a full-scale attack if Putin decides to take a step in it. new Year.
People have said that the United States has great confidence in the reliability of the information it has shared with its allies.