Ukraine is once again facing a serious threat of a large-scale Russian invasion. Its high probability is reasonably described by journalists, anxiously stated by politicians, and assessed by military experts. In recent months, everyone has been observing the proactive actions of Russian special services and special forces, which are working out scenarios for providing offensive operations of regular military units with a new quality.
Moscow has expanded its strike force along the perimeter of Ukraine’s southeastern border and in the occupied Crimea. According to the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, Russian paratroopers, reinforced by groups of ships of the Black Sea, Northern and Baltic Fleets and the Caspian Flotilla, are ready to operate from the south. The ground component in eastern and northern Ukraine is made up of almost 40 battalion tactical groups. In total, almost 100,000 personnel, 1,200 tanks, 1,600 guns and missile systems, 330 aircraft, and 240 helicopters are concentrated near the borders.
Recently, there has been active reconnaissance of the territory of Ukraine with the use of aircraft and technical intelligence. In particular, Russian reconnaissance planes, mobile groups of electronic intelligence, reconnaissance satellites and ships are widely used. During the exercises, of which about 90 took place in the occupied Crimea alone, powerful military command systems were deployed. The issue of deploying additional divisions of territorial troops was worked out, and an operational reserve was involved. All military events had a single offensive scenario.
This year, Russia is actively developing the territory and military infrastructure of neighbouring Belarus. Bilateral exercises of ground, air and airborne troops in the neighbouring territory have become commonplace. Operational and tactical air defence missiles have been moved to the Belarusian forests, and Russian Air Force planes are on combat duty at airfields. Russia has resumed strategic aviation flights in the airspace of Belarus. Moscow has artificially created and aggravated the emigration crisis by directing flows of migrants to the EU’s eastern border. In fact, the Kremlin controls the territory of Belarus.
Provocations against Ukrainian troops in the area of hostilities in the east are carried out daily. The goal is obvious – to accuse Kyiv of violating the ceasefire. In violation of the Minsk agreements, the occupiers are amassing heavy weapons near the contact line in Donbas; constantly flying drones over Ukrainian positions; waging a sniper war; providing the front lines with ammunition, fuel, weapons and equipment; and blocking the work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. Moscow forcibly issued passports to citizens of the occupied territories of Ukraine. Almost 650,000 Russian-speaking people received Russian passports. The presence of Russian citizens in the Ukrainian territory will be used to destabilise the situation in the east as a pretext for a large-scale invasion to protect the “Russians.”
The current situation shows that the Kremlin has chosen a strategy of escalation, with a periodic decrease in tensions. Initially, Moscow significantly increased the number of troops near Ukraine and over time partially reduced it. At the same time, the total number of troops is constantly growing. The Kremlin does not consider the intention to stop the armed aggression against Ukraine, but seeks to destroy its sovereignty, deprive it of the prospects for integration into European security structures and NATO.
According to experts, Putin is preparing large-scale provocations and will resort to them in two months. To destroy stability within Ukraine, the Kremlin will actively use the internal political and energy crisis, launch sabotage mechanisms, intensify propaganda, and systematically disseminate fake news.
All this is eloquently described in the KGB [Committee for State Security] textbooks published in the last century. The Five D’s are Disinformation, Discredit, Disorientation, Destabilisation, and Disintegration.
Ukraine is seriously preparing for a possible attack. The Ukrainian army and its security services have strong capabilities and are ready to act against the aggressor. However, consolidated actions of the West should help Kyiv enhance its effectiveness and efficiency in resisting Moscow’s aggressive plans. Such interaction will significantly increase the cost of the Russian attack.
Western aid should focus on the following four tracks:
First, the decision to provide Ukraine with a NATO Membership Action Plan. The plan is not yet a full membership. This is a roadmap for reforms that Kyiv will implement, given the real threat from the east.
Second, new sanctions. Public disclosure of the list of sanctions awaiting Russia in case of a military escalation or attack.
Third, strengthening energy security, including effective sanctions against Nord Stream 2.
And finally, the supply of defensive weapons, which will critically alter the balance of power on the battlefield in favour of Ukraine. Starting from counter-battery stations to increase the effectiveness of Ukrainian guns, electronic warfare stations, ammunition, equipment, and to air and missile defence systems, and the deployment of allied units and military bases in Ukraine, for example, near Kyiv, Odesa, or Sumy.
As a signal for coordinated actions by Ukraine and the Western coalition, diplomats from NATO, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the EU should start visiting Kyiv in January.