Russia has what it needs for horrific invasion of Ukraine DoD leaders say
By Valerie Insinna on January 28, 2022 at 3:05 PM
“While we don't believe that President Putin has made a final decision to use these forces against Ukraine, he clearly now has that capability," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.
A Ukrainian sea border security force soldier mans the machine-gun of a vessel on the AzovSea. (Martyn Aim/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON: Although Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions remain opaque, Russia has amassed enough troops, advanced weapon systems and materiel to mount a credible invasion of Ukraine, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said today.
“While we don’t believe that President Putin has made a final decision to use these forces against Ukraine, he clearly now has that capability,” Austin said during a press briefing at the Pentagon. “There are multiple options available to him, including the seizure of cities and significant territories, also coercive acts or provocative political acts like the recognition of breakaway territories.”
And while Austin demurred when asked whether Russia has gathered enough forces for a “full-scale invasion” that could cover major portions of Ukraine, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, acknowledged the possibility.
Currently, Russia has gathered more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border — including ground, naval and air forces, special operators and personnel trained in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, command and control, and logistics, said Milley said.
“Given the type of forces that are arrayed, the ground maneuver forces, the artillery, the ballistic missiles, the air forces, all of it packaged together, if that was unleashed on Ukraine, it would be significant… and it would result in a significant amount of casualties,” Milley said. “And you can imagine what that might look like in dense urban areas, all along roads, and so on and so forth. It would be horrific.”
During the press conference, Austin and Milley repeatedly articulated that conflict is not inevitable if Russia commits to pursuing a diplomatic solution.
And while President Joe Biden has maintained that he will not deploy US combat troops to Ukraine — which is not a member of NATO — Austin said that if Putin does decide to invade Russia, the US military stands ready to reinforce its NATO allies.
“A move on Ukraine will accomplish the very thing Russia says it does not want: A NATO alliance strengthened and resolved on its western flank,” Austin said.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that 8,500 troops stateside have been placed on “heightened alert” and could deploy to Eastern Europe as part of the NATO Response Force.
“If NATO activates its response forces, these troops will be ready to go,” Austin said.
In addition, a “small contingent” of US military advisers and trainers are currently working in Ukraine, playing a “limited role” in the country assisting Ukrainian forces with tactics, training and procedures, Milley said.
During an appearance at the Atlantic Council this morning, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO members will periodically assess whether to deploy the response force, but refused to answer a question about what specific actions Russia would need to take in order to trigger its deployment.
Stoltenberg said that NATO is ready to impose “severe consequences” if Russia chooses to engage in military action against Ukraine, with options including “heavy economic sanctions” and further military aid.
But at multiple times during the discussion, Stoltenberg noted that Ukraine’s status as a partner to NATO is different than being a member of the alliance, and that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would not invoke Article 5 — the idea that an attack on one NATO member is treated as an attack against all.