Pentagon analysts see ‘cracks’ in Russia’s threat to invade Ukraine a year from now

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U.S. analysts see “cracks” in the long-believed threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine a year from now—and are urging Europe to make a better and faster response to prepare for any Russian invasion.

Pentagon and State Department analysts have examined and confirmed private signals from Russian military planners to see if they are planning a sneak invasion into Ukraine in the first half of 2022. Their analysis was presented last month at a conference in San Diego, according to a report Monday from Admiral Scott Swift, chief of the U.S. Strategic Command.

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Swift didn’t say how the analysts came to their conclusion that Russia plans an invasion so soon, but they described it to Reuters, and the AP offered a summary of their findings. Senior American officers have seen the internal Army and Air Force intelligence reports that established the anticipated timeframe, which could have implications for Poland, the Baltics, and other Central and Eastern European countries.

A number of other nations, including the U.S., will have to respond to this threat, Swift said, because the U.S. would be in a position to attack. He urged the Europeans to draw up their own military plans for the region ahead of schedule to prevent a Russian military buildup at the border.

Western intelligence says the long-suspected Russian invasion is a year away, almost surely coming about at the beginning of the year in 2022, the same year the U.S. plans to unveil a $750 billion build-up of its own, which would include an amphibious brigade with the capacity to head for Europe quickly.

Russia’s neighbors are troubled because many have no basic military prep for a sudden Russian invasion, in which they might come under artillery and missile fire, as well as border capture by forces loyal to President Vladimir Putin. Estimates of the potential total population casualties range from 50,000 to 80,000 in the first few days, and quickly increasing numbers as they are killed or captured, some experts say.

In a classified Defense Intelligence Agency report obtained last year by Reuters, Russia’s potential attack also raises the fear that this type of attacks could involve sleeper units of Chechen separatists armed with machine guns and suicide vests. They could infiltrate Eastern European border areas before launching surprise assaults, the analysts’ report says.

The Russians are highly focused on their invasion plan. They concluded in a 2015 Foreign Intelligence Assessment that a European invasion of their former Soviet satellite states will require about 10,000 commandos as well as hundreds of tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, anti-aircraft guns, and helicopter gunships, Putin adviser Andrei Kortunov said last year.

This report presents the case for increased NATO preparedness for eventual Russian aggression. It details the Russian invasion preparations and offers the planners’ own framework for an achievable scenario.

If NATO were to respond to this threat, it might involve an initial attack using some conventional equipment such as tanks, helicopters, and artillery, possibly adding strategic missiles, Swift told Reuters.

However, Swift emphasized to Reuters he didn’t expect this scenario to come to pass. “That is just not going to happen,” he said. “That’s not how this works. At some point, or some strategic moment, that [Moscow] movement and action itself must stand out for you.”

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