Details of a classified intelligence assessment viewed by CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr show a “more probable” likelihood that Russia could move into eastern Ukraine.
With Russian military forces currently staging training exercises in Transdniestria, a breakaway sliver of Moldova, the House Armed Services Committee notes that Moscow may “invade eastern and southern Ukraine, pressing west to Transdinestria and also seek land grabs in the Baltics.”
“There is absolutely sufficient (Russian) force postured on the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Transdniestria if the decision was made to do that, and that is very worrisome,” NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. Philip Breedlove told Reuters on Saturday.
Among new details about Russia’s possible intentions in the report:
- Russian troops on the border of eastern Ukraine — now more than 30,000 — number “significantly more” than what is needed for what Russia is calling a training exercise.
- These troops include a large number of motorised units, which have the ability to deploy quickly. There also appears to be a higher level of activity among special forces, airborne, and air transport troops inside Russia.
- Additional intelligence shows more Russian forces “reinforcing” the border region.
Despite receiving assurances from Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu that Russia would not invade, U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that “they [the Russians] continue to build up their forces” — noting that troops had moved closer to the border in recent days, Radio Free Europe reports.
Writing in Politico on Tuesday, John Schindler, a former NSA counterintelligence officer, sees moves from Russia as the beginning of “Cold War 2.0.”
“Since the annexation of Crimea, Russian intelligence has reportedly been employing its playbook in eastern and southern Ukraine, using spies and operatives to stir up trouble among ethnic Russians and lay the groundwork for a future invasion by ‘self-defence militias’ backed by Russian troops,” he wrote. “It’s not yet clear that these techniques will get Putin what he wants, but there is always the option of overt invasion by the Russian military, which must be judged a serious possibility.”
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