Senior officials from the U.S. State Department and the British Ministry of Defense claim that Russia may be planning an invasion of all of Ukraine and not just the troubled Donbas region as initially believed.
Speaking anonymously to the media, a senior State Department official said that Putin might be planning a full-scale invasion of Ukraine based on new intelligence.
According to Axios, Russia is planning new deployments to the Belarus–Ukraine border in the coming weeks—adding to the 100,000 Russian troops surrounding Ukraine to the north, east, and south.
This could allow Russia to open a new front of attack within 100 miles of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
“I think what we should be concerned about is not whether it increases the intent [to attack Kyiv], but whether or not it increases the capability and their ability to launch that invasion of Ukraine with an intent to topple the government,” the senior State Department official told reporters.
In parallel, and anonymously as well, British defense ministry chiefs told the Daily Mail that given that invading Donbas or invading Ukraine in its entirety has the same “punishment” (call it economic sanctions) and considering that the Donbas region already has the presence of pro-Russian militias, therefore, there would be no significant resistance to a possible invasion, Putin will go all in.
“We strongly believe [Putin’s] preference is for a full invasion rather than a limited offensive. In a sense he might as well go for as much of Ukraine as he can get hold of because the penalties are just the same,” said a senior British defense source.
“Also, if he just occupies the eastern regions he will never be able to take back the whole of Ukraine because of the inevitable strengthening of Ukrainian forces in the remainder of the country in the aftermath,” he added.
The Russian government has denied such accusations.
According to a Russian state media, RT, the Russian military may be lining up its troops on the Belarusian border in response to a growing presence of NATO troops in Poland.
Last year, a caravan of migrants, mainly from Afghanistan, massed at the Belarusian-Polish border, seeking to enter Europe.
The European Union accused Belarusian leader Lukashenko of having transported the migrants from Afghanistan, promising them passage to Europe, in an attempted offensive in response to sanctions imposed on Belarus for attacks on the independent press.
As Poland resisted the migrant caravan entering, European leaders sent help to the border.
U.S. seeks diplomatic path, but vows to defend Ukraine
This Tuesday, January 18, Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a telephone call with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Lavrov. While he assured him that diplomacy was the answer to de-escalate tensions, he reiterated the commitment to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Blinken will travel to Moscow on Friday to avert what appears to be an imminent armed conflict.
Unexpected silence from Germany to Russia
While the United Kingdom sent arms to Ukraine yesterday in a gesture of support, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz refused to take the same path, raising criticism from the United States and Ukraine, which had hoped for support from the strongest member of the European Union.
Scholz also said that excluding Russia from the international banking system as a sanction was not within the realm of possibility. However, he later backtracked, saying the option could be revisited if the Russians invaded Ukraine.
The German chancellor’s intention to maintain good relations with Russia is in response to the recent completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. As a result, Russia will send gas directly to Berlin, bypassing Ukraine.
Scholz, who replaced Merkel last month, belongs to Germany’s Social Democratic Party, which has historically maintained good relations with Russia.