Russia is preparing for a military attack. This is what our Western partners say: the US, the UK, and the EU. In this situation, only President Volodymyr Zelenskyy does not see or does not want to see the obvious: a dangerous enemy is at Ukraine’s gates. Will he be able to attack Ukraine?
How many Russian troops are there in Belarus
Since January this year, Moscow has been deploying 200 military trains to Belarus as planned. Even if only a quarter of these forces falls on combined arms units, and everything else are auxiliary resources (rear, administration, communications, and electronic warfare), then potentially this is about 30 battalions. There are only 16 of them in the entire army of the Republic of Belarus, plus special forces units. This number far exceeds the forces required for any ordinary exercises in the winter.
What kind of joint exercises can we talk about if the Kremlin deploys a group twice as large as the host side, and drags it through the entire country? Why so many troops and how to solve the logistical problems related to this deployment is not entirely clear.
It is logical to link the presence of the Kremlin forces in tent camps in the forests of Belarus with the fact that on January 27 the issue of a referendum was considered in the country's parliament at an extraordinary session. And these troops may be needed to hold it. And, of course, they are necessary to create a constant threat to Kyiv until the spring of 2022.
Maritime forces in the Black Sea
Six large RF landing ships of the Northern and Baltic fleets have already passed the North Sea, the English Channel, and Gibraltar. They need more than a week and a half to reach the Black Sea, then there will be rest and loading. In principle, the Russian Federation is repeating the campaign that its forces made last spring. So its duration can be estimated with an accuracy of 48 hours. Based on last year's data, it can be assumed that this year, if an attack from the Black Sea with the participation of these forces is planned, it will not happen before the 20th of February.
Ground forces deployment
This winter, most of the units, the so-called bells, are taking part in the deployment to the west, that is, the units that took part in the invasion of Chechnya or Ukraine in 2014. Their movement indicates the seriousness of intentions. This refers to the Kantemirovskaya Tank Division, the Buryat 5th Separate Tank Brigade (5th STBR), and the marines of the Pacific Fleet. The secret deployment of brigades of short-range ballistic missile systems Iskander and equipment of the South-Eastern and even the Eastern military districts is also recorded.
An extremely alarming signal is also the redeployment of units of ten of the eleven RF land armies to the borders of Ukraine: this is the largest concentration of the Russian army in the last 30 years.
However, there are still no signs of recruiting reservists to the rear units and storage bases, and units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Guard of Russia are not involved.
It should be noted that in all 17 European aviation regiments the number of squadrons was formally increased from two to three. Not everywhere the ranks are filled, but the Voronezh regiment got aircraft after repairs. Although in general there is no movement of aviation from the RF airfields to the Urals towards the Ukrainian border—to the airfields of Belgorod and Rostov-on-Don.
It is not surprising that US and NATO reconnaissance aircraft fly to the Black Sea region and even near the borders of Belarus in the densest mode. The number of flights has reached the level of last spring. Right now, as these lines are being written, an American CL-60 electronic reconnaissance aircraft is circling near the Crimean coast, and an RQ-4 Global Hawk is making ovals between Konotop and Izium.
Why Russia pulls in troops to Ukrainian border
Despite such a large number of troops near the Ukrainian border, it is hardly worth talking about an invasion. Most likely, Moscow is trying to achieve its political goals in this way—to fulfill the requirements to withdraw NATO to the borders of 1997 and to give a guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO without taking into account the Budapest Memorandum. Therefore, military preparations are most likely bluffing and raising the stakes in the long game.
If the Russians wanted to escalate here and now—there was a window of opportunity to do this in January, there was summer after the spring spike in tensions in 2021. Had they started the war at that time, there would have been no need to keep troops in tents in the cold, suffer losses from pneumonia, covid, and intestinal diseases, and once again spend tens of millions of dollars on concentrating forces.
Russia's ultimatum to the West—either you close NATO to new members and give the Russian Federation the right to veto, or we attack our neighboring country that is not part of the Alliance—this is not diplomacy, but pure blackmail.
The West willingly accepts this game and raises the stakes. Embassies are being evacuated. The EU allocates a loan of 1.2 billion euros to Ukraine (a completely non-burdensome amount when compared with the packages for Poland at the time or the rescue of Greece). NATO declares its readiness to deploy additional forces on the eastern flank.
And it works. On this news, the index of the Russian Commodity Exchange fell by 7%, Gazprom shares fell below 300 rubles apiece, and the Russian currency passed the bar at 80 rubles per dollar.
Western aid to the Armed Forces of Ukraine
Russian blackmail forced the West to become more active. Of course, partners could slowly reinforce the Ukrainian armed forces with scarce ammunition and air defense systems from storage depots from the countries of the former Warsaw Pact by sending ships during a week or a week and a half. Or supply Browning machine guns and American TOW anti-tank missile systems, 60mm mortars, and 40mm grenade launchers for the area defense and the Reserve Corps. But they went ahead.
Two thousand of the advanced NLAW anti-tank grenade launchers and dozens of 3rd generation anti-tank systems that easily knock out the cutting-edge Russian tanks from the upper hemisphere, were brought to Ukraine urgently.
Ukraine also received bunker grenade launchers for cleaning buildings and armor-piercing incendiary ammunition to destroy Russian infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers at the platoon level. The partners give the green light to handing over of the MANPADS Stinger and announce their supply. A game-changing weapon for hundreds of upgraded RF tanks.
Air supplies show the enemy that there is an air bridge for delivery from depots that Russia cannot hit. Deliveries by aircraft that will be troublesome and painful to shoot down. Over the past two weeks, 15 of them have landed in Ukraine, and tomorrow there will be 100 of them—the Alliance has enough aircraft and weapons—and blocking ports by the Black Sea Fleet will not help.
How Russian aggression impacted the West
The actions of the Russian GRU (Russia's military intelligence service) backfired Moscow.
They smeared a pen with a toxicant and poisoned a female citizen of Britain—it turned out that London had not forgotten how to take part in the big game. The UK has 20,000 NLAW missile launchers in depots. The United Kingdom is increasingly returning to big politics and strengthening its presence in Ukraine through the supply of weapons, loans for building a fleet and maintaining the economy, and for training missions.
They blew up depots in the Czech Republic—and it turns out that this small country can not only expel diplomats, but also supply extremely scarce 152-mm shells to Ukraine.
The policy of a bull in a china shop will only bring additional coffins to Moscow in case of escalation and consolidation to the West. Poland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, and the Baltic countries are ready to increase their assistance to Kyiv, so that later they do not spend hundreds of billions on containing the Russian Federation already near their cities.
If you spit on the team, they will wipe themselves dry. But if the team spits at you, you will drown.
Regardless of the decision taken in the Kremlin, and the events in the coming weeks, the blackmail and pressure of the Putin regime did not work. And what we are seeing today—a 45-aircraft air bridge in February, dozens of reconnaissance flights, an increase in training missions, and handover of ATGMs and MANPADS—is the largest Alliance involvement in an armed conflict since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.