Russia Mobilizes Military Forces on Border of Ukraine

Tuesday, 05 Aug 2014 07:21 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Russia has nearly doubled the number of its battalions along the Ukrainian border so that it is battle ready to launch a cross-border offensive should Ukraine attempt to make gains in the region, The New York Times reported.

President Vladimir's Putin's intentions are unclear, but over the past several weeks, Russia has deployed 17 battalions to the area, with estimates of 19,000 to 21,000 troops with infantry, armor, artillery, and air defense, poised for combat within miles of the border, according to Western officials.

He has also increased the number of surface-to-air missile units from eight to 14, and issued a decree for reservists to report for up to two months of training, the Times reported.

There are different views about what may come of the standoff. One possibility is that Russia is trying to pressure Ukraine and the United States to agree to give the eastern provinces autonomy.

"That's a very real option," a senior Defense Department official, according to the Times. "And should Putin decide, he could do that with little or no notice. We just don’t know what he's thinking."

Another senior American official told the Times, "The more success Ukrainian forces have, the more pressure there is on Moscow to escalate."

Should Putin choose to take military action, Russia would likely face tougher round of economic sanctions, retaliation by Ukrainian forces, and Western military intervention, Wesley Clark, the retired general and former NATO commander, told the Times.

"He has set the military and political conditions for what he believes could be a successful intervention," Gen. Clark said. "But he still doesn't seem to have made the political decision to do this, perhaps because he recognizes that the risks after an intervention are incalculable."

Alternatively, Putin may be preparing for a swift peacekeeping intervention if it appears that Russian separatists suffer setbacks. Images that have surfaced on social media indicate that some of the armored vehicles and trucks carry peacekeeping insignia.

The White House appears to consider the idea of a "peacekeeping" intervention a plausible one, the Times said.

"We've seen a significant rebuild up of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peacekeeping intervention in Ukraine," Antony Blinken, deputy national security adviser to Obama, said last week. "So there’s urgency to arresting this."

Obama stressed on a call last week with Putin his preference for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine, the Times reported.

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