The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, assured this Wednesday that Russia has everything ready to launch an invasion of Ukraine and I could do it tonight. Likewise, a senior defense official has anticipated that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, “has assembled almost 100% of the forces that the US believed it would make available”, of which 80% would be on combat alert.
During an off-camera briefing at the Pentagon, this official has indicated that his country will do “everything it can while it can” to monitor Russian troop activity from airspace. The US Defense assessment is that “Putin is fully prepared for a full-scale invasion And that’s the likely option.”
For his part, Blinken pointed out that “everything seems to be ready for Russia to carry out a major aggression against Ukraine” and, asked if he thinks that this invasion can take place tonight, he insisted that it be.
However, an interview with the channel NBC, the head of US diplomacy has said that “cannot put an exact date or time” to that move, but that “everything is in place for Russia to proceed.
The remarks add to the sense of imminence of a possible Russian military onslaught, defying any chance Washington had hoped that Putin would stop after recognizing the independence of the two Moscow-backed rebel regions this week.
“They have advanced their preparation to a point where they are literally ready to go – now – if they get the order,” the official had said, without providing evidence to support the claim.
A few hours later, the Kremlin confirmed that the separatists in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions have asked Russia for help to “repel the aggression” of the Kiev military forces.
The United States has assessed that more than 150,000 Russian forces are gathered around Ukraine. The senior US official has said Russian troops had taken up prepared positions, some just five kilometers from the Ukraine border.
The US sends 800 more soldiers to the Baltic countries
Faced with Russia’s latest steps, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday the deployment of 800 more US soldiers to the Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank. These troops are part of an infantry battalion currently in Italy
What’s more, The US will transfer twenty AH-64 combat helicopters from Germany (known as Apache) to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In parallel, the Pentagon will send eight F-35 fighter-bombers to “several locations” on NATO’s eastern flank, which are in Germany; and has given the green light for the transfer of twelve AH-64 helicopters from Greece to Poland, where they have already landed.
The Pentagon assures that these movements of troops and equipment are “temporary” and are added to the more than 90,000 soldiers that the US has deployed in Europe under rotating and permanent mandates.
Beginning of military maneuvers with allies in Europe
The US Department of Defense also announced this Wednesday that the country’s forces in Europe and Africa (USAREUR-AF) military maneuvers will begin at the end of this month with their allies, who will have 13,000 participants from 13 countries.
The Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, has said in a press conference that these exercises, called ‘Saber Strike 22’ (sablazo 22), will last during March and that they had been scheduled for a long time. “They are held in winter to demonstrate the ability to operate in austere conditions,” said Kirby, who did not specify the location of the exercises.
Putin is “improvising” and “adapting”
The White House has considered this Wednesday that Vladimir Putin is “improvising” and “adapting” because a unified response from the West to his actions in eastern Ukraine was not expected. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news conference that Putin is still preparing to invade Ukraine, but is adapting his strategy.
In Psaki’s opinion, the Russian leader did not expect the “global community to be so unified” and did not believe that US intelligence agencies were to make public their plans in Ukrainejust as they have done with the intention of boycotting those same plans.
Tensions between Kiev and Moscow have increased since last November, after Russia stationed tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border, triggering alarms in Ukraine and the West, which denounced the preparations for an invasion. The situation has worsened after the Kremlin on Monday proclaimed Ukraine’s independence from the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Donbas region.
In response, US President Joe Biden announced sanctions on Wednesday against the company in charge of the construction and operation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, registered in Switzerland and owned by the Russian energy giant Gazprom. On Tuesday, Biden already announced a first tranche of sanctions against Russia, targeting two financial institutions, Moscow’s sovereign debt, and Russian elites and their relatives.