As Russia tightens its grip around Ukraine, Britain has readied 1,000 troops in case they are needed to provide support in any humanitarian crisis caused by Russian aggression, according to Reuters.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with the leaders of NATO and Poland on Thursday to discuss the looming crisis and ways Britain can provide military support as Russia continues to build up its troops along the Ukraine border.
NATO: ‘Warning Time for Attack Going Down’
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Thursday that Russia has now massed “more than 125,000 combat-ready troops” around Ukraine, and that the “readiness and number of Russian forces is going up. The warning time for an attack is going down.”
Stoltenberg thanked Johnson for the UK’s “key contributions” to NATO, “including reinforcement of our Eastern flank.” NATO leaders discussed Russia’s military buildup in and around Ukraine “at this dangerous moment for European security,” Stoltenberg tweeted, saying, “We remain committed to a diplomatic way forward.”
The NATO leader later added a tweet saying he had spoken with Ukraine President Volodya Zelensky about the crisis, and that NATO would “continue the political and practical support for our highly valued partner.” Stoltenberg again called on Russia to de-escalate and “pursue the path of dialogue to find a peaceful solution.”
Failed UK-Russia Diplomacy in Moscow
Talks between UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did not go well, with Lavrov walking to the side of the room, leaving Truss alone at the podium during a joint news briefing in Moscow.
Lavrov told reporters that talking to Truss was like having a “conversation between a mute and a deaf person who is listening but not hearing,” and said what Russia does in its own territory is “not her business,” according to ITV News Editor Emma Burrows.
For her part, Truss promised “toughest sanctions” if Russia invades Ukraine.
Russia Launches Massive Military Drill with Belarus
“Allied Resolve-2022,” the joint military exercise by Russia and Belarus, officially began Thursday and was set to last until February.
Su-25SM attack aircraft of the Eastern Military District were relocated to military airfields of the Republic of Belarus, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said, and its S-400 anti-aircraft missile system was deployed to the training ground of the Brest region. “Echelons of weapons and military equipment continue to redeploy troops of the Eastern Military District to the territory of Belarus,” the ministry said.
The Russian Navy fired shells Thursday in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, all of them around Ukraine, according to Defense One. The Kerch Strait serves as an entry point to the Sea of Azov from Crimea, which Russia invaded in 2014 and then annexed.
In the Black Sea, the Russian Navy sent 13 large landing ships . . . with dozens of landing craft and fast-attack boats, according to a series of tweets by military analyst and former US Marine Corps officer Rob Lee, who said the move gives Russia “the capability to conduct a brigade (or larger-sized) amphibious landing.”
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) February 10, 2022
In terms of ground-based fires, we've now seen every type of Russian artillery, MLRS, or ballistic missile system we'd expect near the border with Ukraine. 2S4 Tyulpan and 2S7M Malka systems are military district-level assets and particularly effective against fortified targets. https://t.co/y9rK3tumKp
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) February 10, 2022
The drill led to a warning on Twitter by Ukraine foreign affairs spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko that the unprecedented large area of exercises “essentially disables international navigation in both seas, leading to economic consequences in the region and for Ukrainian ports in particular.”
Russia also recently deployed “SU-25 and SU-35 jet fighters, electronic jamming systems, nuclear-capable Iskander missile systems and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems to Belarus,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
‘Massive, Forced Displacement’ Possible Along Europe’s Border
“The UK remains unwavering in our commitment to European security,” Johnson said in a statement. “As an alliance we must draw lines in the snow and be clear there are principles upon which we will not compromise.”
The UK has offered to double troops in Estonia, add RAF jets in southern Europe and send the Trent patrol vessel and a Type 45 destroyer to the Eastern Mediterranean, where the Russian navy is also drilling.
Johnson’s office said in a statement Wednesday that any further military incursion of Ukraine by Russia would be likely to create a massive, forced displacement of people along Europe’s border, affecting citizens in Poland and Lithuania.
“This is probably the most dangerous moment, I would say, in the course of the next few days in what is the biggest security crisis that Europe has faced for decades, and we’ve got to get it right,” Johnson told reporters while in Brussels.
He recommended NATO stick to “sanctions and military resolve plus diplomacy.”
US Forces Arrive in Romania, More Head to Poland
Meanwhile, the first 100 troops of a total 1,000 members of the US 2nd Cavalry Regiment arrived Wednesday in Romania to lay the groundwork for the force to follow.
The new force comes in addition to some 900 US soldiers carrying out a range of long-standing missions in Romania.
In addition to those, some 1,700 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne will deploy to Poland from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with another 300 heading to Germany to set up a task force headquarters.
US Assessment: 9 Different Routes to Invade Ukraine
A US military and intelligence assessment said Thursday that the Russian military could take nine different routes into Ukraine in a full-scale invasion, according to a detailed report by NBC News.
Russian tanks could potentially reach the Ukraine capital of Kyiv within 48 hours, according to the assessment.
“Russia has already deployed nearly 100 of the military’s 168 battalion-tactical groups, composed of 800 to 900 troops each, with more flowing in every day. And President Vladimir Putin has dispatched personnel and equipment from six of the seven Russian special operations units, called Spetsnaz, according to the assessment. Each unit is made up of 250 to 300 elite fighters,” NBC News reported.
Russian military helicopters would support an air assault from Crimea and deploy an amphibious assault to seize the Black Sea coast, with air and ground movements from Odessa to Moldova to create a land bridge along the Black Sea, according to the assessment which also laid out other scenarios.
Moscow has already placed submarines and five amphibious ships with marine battalions off the Ukraine coast, with six more close enough to arrive in just a few days, according to the assessment.