Amid news that U.S. intelligence believes the Kremlin is plotting a possible invasion of Ukraine that could take place early next year, President Joe Biden and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to speak on Tuesday. According to The Associated Press, the Kremlin broke the news of the call to Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti. The last time the two presidents spoke was this past July.
The Washington Post first reported late Friday that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has plans for a multi-front Ukraine offensive that could involve as many as 175,000 troops. An anonymous administration official told the paper, “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. The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery and equipment.”
According to an unclassified intelligence document obtained by the Post, 70,000 of the possible 175,000 troops have already been deployed along the Ukraine-Russia border. If Russia activates some 100,000 “contract reservists,” the official said, that would bring the total close to the planned 175,000. Russia has also moved a number of troops to and from the border “to obfuscate intentions and to create uncertainty,” the document said.
An unnamed U.S. official told the Associated Press that the plans would also bring 100 Russian battalion tactical groups equipped with armor, artillery and equipment to the border. They added that Russia has deployed propaganda efforts against Ukraine and NATO in anticipation of the invasion while advocating that President Joe Biden preclude Ukraine from joining NATO.
“Additionally, in the past month, our information indicates Russian influence proxies and media outlets have started to increase content denigrating Ukraine and NATO, in part to pin the blame for a potential Russian military escalation on Ukraine,” the administration official told the Post.
Responding to the Kremlin’s Friday statement that Putin wants a guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO, the AP reported that Biden told the media on Friday evening, “I don’t accept anyone’s red line. 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, adding that he has a plan to deter Putin with economic sanctions. “What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do.”
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. “made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high-impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from using in the past.” Ukrainian officials, however, are very concerned and have cautioned that Russia could launch an invasion as soon as January, the AP reported. In 2014, Russian troops invaded Ukraine’s Crimean region and formally annexed it after mass protests in the country drove its Russia-friendly president out of office. Although a peace agreement was reached in 2015, tensions in the region have continued.
This breaking news story has been updated.