The Biden administration is sounding the alarm, warning of a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine at a time when tensions have been increasing between Washington and Moscow. U.S. officials had already been warning that Russia was amassing a large number of troops along its border with Ukraine. Now the Biden administration is releasing more details of intelligence findings that estimate the offensive could begin as soon as early next year and involve an estimated 175,000 troops.
“The Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as early 2022 with a scale of forces twice what we saw this past spring during Russia’s snap exercise near Ukraine’s borders,” an administration official told the Washington Post, which was first to report on the intelligence findings. “The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery and equipment.”
U.S. officials warn it still remains far from clear what President Vladimir Putin will do and it’s far from certain he wants to go to war. But U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said Saturday that “somewhere around 95,000 to 100,000 Russian soldiers” were currently on the border of Ukraine. “I don’t know what they’re going to do. But I am very, very concerned about their posture,” McConville said. President Joe Biden also made the concern explicit Friday night. “We’ve been aware of Russia’s actions for a long time and my expectation is we’re gonna have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden said. Officials say that in addition to the troops, Moscow is also launching a propaganda campaign against Ukraine and NATO so they can be blamed for any kind of military escalation.
Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said Friday that Moscow could be planning a large-scale military offensive for the end of January. Experts say Ukraine’s military wouldn’t stand a chance to hold off such a massive invasion. The amassing of troops at the border comes amid Moscow’s repeated insistence to Washington that it guarantee Ukraine won’t join NATO. But Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, pushed back on the idea that Moscow could have a say in the matter. “NATO member countries decide who is a member of NATO, not Russia,” Psaki told reporters Friday. “That is how the process has always worked and how it will proceed.” NATO’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, also said recently Russia doesn’t get a say in the expansion of the alliance.
As tensions increase between Washington and Moscow, Biden and Putin are scheduled to hold a video call Tuesday. It will mark the first time the two presidents hold a call since July, when Biden called on Putin to do more to stop criminal hacker gangs from launching ransomware attacks.