How the stiff spring of tension around Ukraine was compressed can be clearly seen in the events of the last month. The statement by the Head of the Defence Intelligence (GUR) of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine that the Russian Federation is preparing a large-scale invasion in winter or articles in Insider, Bloomberg and other first-echelon media accusing the Kremlin of preparing for an expansion of aggression are only the tip of the iceberg.
There were many wake-up and specific calls.
Where do rumors about a new Russian attack come from?
And the sudden visit of the Head of the CIA to Moscow in early November, where Patrushev met him (quite different levels of protocol, the very fact of such communication already means some atypical situation)—negotiations with the Head of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, in principle, are not the work of the intelligence.
And the increased activity of Poseidon special reconnaissance aircraft and US strategic drones near the occupied Crimea and the Black Sea coast of the RF. Not yet WATCHCON 1 like last spring, but flight frequencies have definitely increased.
And the fact that Russia continues to relocate forces to base camps outside the permanent base in the winter—when the school year is over, and the final commissions with checks are in full swing. This is an atypical activity, as well as leaving the sets of equipment in the field camps, returning only the personnel back.
And entirely specific things, like exercising the breakthrough of minefields in the summer by units of the 150th division from the Rostov region or welded handicraft screens for a grouping of troops in the Crimea clearly intended against glide-bombs from drones.
But does this mean that the attacks on Mariupol, landings near Odesa, and battalion-tactical groups of the RF Armed Forces directed at Kyiv, will become our inevitable reality within the stated time frame? That is, the very February 2022. Far from being a fact. For it is necessary to clearly distinguish between political statements and what is available even for the OSINT observation (Open Source Intelligence—) in the real world.
How it impacts economy
First, the United States and its European allies continue to oppose Nord Stream 2. And here the matter is even somewhat in the new package of sanctions against Russian ships and bogus companies, but in general in the tone of the statements. London has publicly announced that it would soon have to choose with whom the EU will be—with Russia because of inexpensive hydrocarbons or democratic Ukraine. Warsaw claims that Gazprom's actions are helping to accelerate inflation in the EU.
And all these postponements of the gas pipeline certification and under-the-carpet fuss against the bypass gas route fit well with the aggressive plans of the Kremlin. That de facto continues the hybrid war in Ukraine.
Second, public statements about preparations for an invasion and the sharing of information by US intelligence with its European allies are economic weapons in themselves. On the news, the ruble weakened below 74 per dollar, and shares hit a three-month low.
That is, simply based on articles published in the media and stories that Britain is preparing to redeploy special units to Ukraine, Moscow has already had tangible damage. That can be a plan in itself. Or elements of pressure on the Kremlin so that they do not take advantage of the energy crisis, the refugee crisis, and the covid epidemic in Eastern Europe.
What troops Russia is concentrating on the border with Ukraine
And the statements about 100,000 people near the borders of Ukraine, in principle, have not changed since spring. Formally, that is right, but these are units of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and rear bases, radar companies and electronic intelligence battalions, warehouses and storage. Plus the rear of the two armies that were deployed along the vast western border of the Russian Federation. That, after the start of the special actions against Kyiv, looked, frankly speaking, like a public thoroughfare—Russia had mirror problems with us.
So, we have a slightly different picture—Moscow has 40-50 battalion tactical groups located 48 hours away. But most of them either have permanent bases 100-250 km from Ukraine, or they are on duty in the format of the "3rd" corps of the DPR so that the Armed Forces of Ukraine do not strangle the "young republics" in the bud.
And the units that must necessarily be involved in the invasion of Ukraine—the marines of the Northern Fleet and the Caspian Flotilla, the 5th Buryat Separate Tank Brigade, and numerous mechanized and airborne forces from the Far East and the Urals—are at their home stations.
In addition, the General Staff of the Russian Federation should leave troops in Abkhazia and Ossetia; in Chechnya and on rotation by "peacekeepers" in Karabakh; in Kaliningrad and Sakhalin; Russians are able to concentrate up to 125 battalion groups against Kyiv. Everything below will be either some kind of gamble, or a local escalation in the JFO zone, stuffed with mines and well-prepared in terms of engineering.
Plus, the Russian Guard units, the combined units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and most of the special units—it is foolish to expect that they were used against Chechnya, which is smaller than the Kharkiv region, but will not be involved in Ukraine.
Why there is no real threat
All this means 6-8 headquarters, the rear deployed by the reservists (recall that RF didn’t carry out the mobilization after the USSR collapse even once), hundreds of trains, shells, missiles, and fuel on the ground—neither in the reports of the GUR, nor from satellite images of the camps in Valuyki or from the Pogonovo station.
As well as there are no deployed 15-17 regiments of military aviation from bases to the Urals to the airfields of Belgorod and Rostov, with a corresponding satellite image. Where there are hundreds of aircraft in caponiers, tankers and ants-cars, and ground services.
There are no helicopters from near Pskov and St. Petersburg that made a rush to the stage fields in the Belgorod and Rostov regions, ready to use electronic warfare against 3 air defense battalions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from Kharkiv.
None of this is close.
There will be no full-scale war with Russia yet
Intelligence may have information supplied by agents or warnings from the allies in the Alliance. And in the future, we will see all this with an eye to the end of February. But keeping 120 battalion groups in field camps and tent cities for even a month in winter (preparing the landing near Mariupol) is not a trivial task. Since the Sea of Azov happens to freeze, and in winter storms and snowfalls may not give a weather window, both for aviation with drones and for ships.
And if this time is delayed, then NATO satellites and scouts will cut open the concentration, and Kyiv will carry out mobilization—it's great that we have a choice of 300,000 combatantы and OR-1. And the United States, Britain, and Canada will provide support to the reservists with ammunition, anti-tank weapons, and MANPADS, and according to CNN sources, lethal assistance is being prepared to be expanded in the coming weeks.
Reconnaissance from satellites, fire adjustment of Tornadoes and Hurricanes from strategic US drones and Bayraktars, ATGMs of the 3rd generation, and modern MANPADS, advisers, and air support controllers of the Alliance are able to sharply increase the price for the invasion of Ukraine.
But in the coming weeks, there are no visible and obvious reconnaissance signs of this.
Three of the most obvious wake-up calls that the preparation has reached the home stretch:
- increase of the enemy's BTGs in readiness for 4-6 days up to 100+,
- Russian aviation redeployment to the western border,
- beginning of the callup for a reserve in Ukraine (at least to the air defense, rear, and equipment storage bases),
have not sounded yet.
Therefore, the sharp statements of the United States about the RF’s preparations for the war, demanding explanations for the troop concentration or Patrushev’s threat that Ukraine will blaze, still remain in the political field. On the example of South Korea, Taiwan, or Kashmir, they may sound on an hourly basis, but do not mean a global war here and now. But the hybrid one hasn't stopped for a minute since the spring of 2014.