U.S. intelligence finds Russia planning Ukraine offensive

A Ukrainian soldier walks in a trench on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels near Debaltsevo, Donetsk region in Ukraine on December 3, 2021.  

Earlier Friday, Joe Biden pledged to make it “very, very difficult” for Russia’s Vladimir Putin to take military action in Ukraine

President Joe Biden pledged on Friday to make it “very, very difficult” for Russia’s Vladimir Putin to take military action in Ukraine as U.S. intelligence officials determined that Russian planning is underway for a possible military offensive that could begin as soon as early 2022.

The new intelligence finding estimates that the Russians are planning to deploy an estimated 175,000 troops and almost half of them are already deployed along various points near Ukraine’s border, according to a Biden administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the finding.

It comes as Russia has picked up its demands on Mr. Biden to guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join the NATO alliance.

The official added that the plans call for the movement of 100 battalion tactical groups along with armor, artillery and equipment.

Intelligence officials also have seen an uptick in Russian propaganda efforts through the use of proxies and media outlets to denigrate Ukraine and NATO ahead of a potential invasion, the official said.

Asked about the intelligence finding as he set out for the presidential retreat at Camp David on Friday evening, Mr. Biden reiterated his concerns about Russian provocations.

“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,” Mr. Biden said.

The risks of such a gambit for Mr. Putin, if he actually went through with an invasion, would be enormous.

U.S. officials and former U.S. diplomats say while Mr. Putin clearly is laying the groundwork for a possible invasion, Ukraine’s military is better armed and prepared today than in past years, and the sanctions threatened by the West would do serious damage to Russia’s economy. It remains unclear if Mr. Putin intends to go through with what would be a risky offensive, they say.

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