US intelligence discovered that Russia was planning an attack on Ukraine

chairperson Joe Biden pledged to make it “very, very hard” for Vladimir Putin military action in Ukraine when US intelligence officials determined that Russian planning was underway for a military strike that could begin as early as 2022.

According to an unnamed Biden administration official to discuss the finding, new intelligence results estimate that the Russians are planning to deploy about 175,000 troops, and nearly half of them are already deployed along the coasts. various points near the Ukrainian border.

It comes as Russia has made a request to Biden to ensure that Ukraine will not be allowed to join the NATO alliance.

The official added that these plans require the movement of 100 Russian tactical battalions along with armor, artillery and equipment.

Intelligence officials have also noticed an increase in Russian propaganda efforts through the use of proxies and media outlets to smear Ukraine and NATO in the face of a potential invasion, the official said. .

Asked about the intelligence discovery as he set off to attend the president’s retreat at Camp David on Friday night, Biden reiterated his concern about Russia’s provocative actions.

“We have long been aware of Russia’s actions, and my expectation is that we will have a long discussion with Putin,” Biden said.

The risks of such a game for Putin, should he actually experience an invasion, would be enormous.

While it is clear that Putin is laying the groundwork for a possible invasion, Ukraine’s military today is better equipped and prepared than in previous years, said US officials and former US diplomats. sanctions imposed by the West threaten to severely damage the Russian economy. They say it remains unclear whether Putin intends to carry out a risky attack.

Earlier, on Friday, Mr. Biden pledged to make it “very, very difficult” for Putin to take military actions in Ukraine and said new initiatives from his administration were aimed at preventing further aggression. Russian strategy.

“What I am doing is putting together what I believe is going to be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very difficult for Mr. Putin to go on and do what everyone is worried about him. can do,” Biden told reporters.

The Kremlin said on Friday that Putin would seek binding guarantees to prevent NATO expansion into Ukraine during a call with Biden. But Biden has sought to deny the demand.

“I don’t accept anyone’s red line,” Biden said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials have also warned that Russia could invade next month. Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told lawmakers on Friday that Russian troops near Ukraine and in Russia-annexed Crimea are estimated at 94,300, warning that there could be a “large-scale escalation” in January. US intelligence officials estimate nearly 70,000 troops are deployed near the border, according to an unclassified intelligence document obtained by the Associated Press on Friday.

The intelligence findings were first reported by The Washington Post.

There are indications that the White House and Kremlin are arranging a conversation next week between Biden and Putin. Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Friday that arrangements had been made for a Putin-Biden phone call in the coming days, adding that the date would be announced after Moscow and Washington perfected the details. The Russians say a date has been agreed, but declined to say when.

Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy were also expected to agree to a phone call next week, according to a person close to the Ukrainian president, who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said administration officials were “involved in the possibility” of a Biden-Putin call. White House officials did not respond to a request for comment on the expected Zelenskyy call.

“It will certainly be an opportunity to discuss our serious concerns about the loud rhetoric, about the military buildup that we are seeing on the Ukrainian border,” Psaki said of the conflict. potential call of Biden-Putin.

Biden did not detail what actions he was considering. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who met Thursday with the Foreign Minister Antony Blinken in Sweden, said the US had threatened new sanctions. He did not detail potential sanctions but said the effort would not be effective.

“If new ‘sanctions from hell’ are introduced, we will respond,” Lavrov said.

Psaki said the administration would seek to coordinate with its European allies if they proceed with sanctions. She noted that bitter memories of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that has been under Ukraine’s control since 1954, are always present in her mind as the White House considers the way forward.

“We know what President Putin has done in the past,” Psaki said. “We see that he is likely to take action in the short term.”

Deep differences were evident during the Blinken-Lavrov meeting, with Russian officials suggesting that the West was “playing with fire” by denying Russia a say in any NATO expansion into the region. country of the former Soviet Union. Zelenskyy pushed Ukraine to join the coalition, which promised membership but did not set a specific timeline.

Blinken this week said the US has “made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond firmly, including a series of high-impact economic measures that we have limited use in the past.” .

He did not detail the sanctions being considered, but one of the possibilities could be to cut Russia off from the SWIFT international payment system. The European Union Parliament passed a non-binding resolution in April that would cut Russia off from SWIFT – the Association for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication – if its troops entered Ukraine.

Such a move would go far towards keeping Russian businesses out of the global financial system. Western allies are said to have seen such a step in 2014 and 2015, during the previous period led by Russia that escalated tensions over Ukraine.

Then-Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said it would be tantamount to “a declaration of war”.

But some US government officials say Putin may also be seeking attention and concessions from Biden and other Western leaders, using military escalation to force Russia back into a central role in the conflict. world problems like the Soviet era.

“They are very jealous of the superpower status and … parity with the United States that existed during the Cold War. John Herbst, former US ambassador to Ukraine, said.

An invasion is possible, but more likely, “they instigate a crisis, they get concessions from us, and then they ease the crisis. The right? And that, I think, is probably their goal,” Herbst said Friday.


Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov and Dasha Litvinova in Moscow contributed reporting. US intelligence discovered that Russia was planning an attack on Ukraine


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