The Washington Post is now reporting that Russia has mustered even more forces near Ukraine than previously thought. Over the past two weeks Western reports - based largely on the claims of US and Kiev officials - have circulated the figure of 90,000 or up to 100,000 Russian troops massed in the Crimea region and near Donbass.
But on Friday the Washington Post claimed Russia is preparing an "multi-front offensive" with an invasion force of 175,000 troops, and that a military incursion into Ukraine could come as early as January. This is a huge revision up from the already hyped initial assessments floated in US media reports.
A mere days ago Pentagon spokesman John Kirby obviously downplayed the 'invasion threat' from Russia. "We're watching it very closely," he said in a Tuesday press briefing, adding: "We don't envision any US military intervention in this conflict." As we described previously, variations of "we're monitoring the situation" from the Pentagon does not at all suggest US defense leaders are really convinced a military assault on Ukraine is actually coming.
But WaPo, based on the newly revealed US intelligence document as well as anonymously sourced officials, has this to say:
"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," said an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.
"The plans involve extensive movement of 100 battalion tactical groups with an estimated 175,000 personnel, along with armor, artillery and equipment," the report continues.
Though the repeat accusations against Moscow over the past weeks have been done without concrete evidence - something the Kremlin has pointed out (amid continuing reports noting Russian forces have been "growing"... in Russia) - the new Washington Post reporting is at least attempting to point to some level of "evidence", in the form of satellite photos:
The unclassified U.S. intelligence document obtained by the Post, which includes satellite photos, shows Russian forces massing in four locations. Currently, 50 battlefield tactical groups are deployed, along with newly arrived tanks and artillery, according to the document.
But again, there's unanimous agreement that the 'invasion forces' in question are all stationed and positioned well within Russian territory, in some cases deep inside the country's sovereign borders.
FALSE ALARM! “Russia planning massive, 175,000-troop offensive vs Ukraine” https://t.co/QoCmxsErmV?— Ray McGovern (@raymcgovern) December 4, 2021
Post highlights scary “unclassified” satellite intel (aka official leak). Not to worry: here’s the script:
Biden will warn Putin at virtual mtg next week and THWART Putin war plan.
Meanwhile, President Biden on Friday addressed the reports, saying his administration is preparing hard-hitting measures to respond to any possible Russian military offensive scenario.
"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," Biden said of the Russian president and the emerging new Ukraine crisis.
Senior US defense official tells @foxnews US intelligence sees signs that #Putin plans to invade #Ukraine on multi fronts using 175,000 troops in early 2022. The US govt is taking Putin’s signaling seriously. They are not treating it as a bluff.— Benjamin Hall (@BenjaminHallFNC) December 4, 2021
Within days prior, while in Europe Secretary of State Antony Blinken described "evidence that Russia has made plans for significant aggressive moves against Ukraine" while threatening new sanctions and other "options" on the table. Currently there's talk of an urgent Biden-Putin virtual summit in the works, in order to address the crisis, and where it's expected Putin will press the White House on gaining guarantees of no further eastward NATO expansion.