Russia has certainly caused a great deal of tension among politicians and policy makers in Washington, and it appears that the tension is only increasing. Today, both the US intelligence community and the Pentagon released their prognosis on the Russian troop buildup on the Ukrainian border. Both agree that such a buildup is occurring, but they differ greatly about what exactly that troop movement is set to be used for.
Earlier today, the Pentagon released information saying that an invasion of Ukraine is unlikely and that there is no proof to demonstrate that the buildup of troops at the Ukrainian border is intended to be used as an invasion force. According to the Pentagon, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu told Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel that the troop levels were only for “springtime exercises” and that there was no intention to launch an invasion.
The US intelligence community also released information about their thoughts of the troop buildup, but they draw a far difference conclusion than the Pentagon. According to a senior U.S. Official, “The thinking in the U.S. Government is that the likelihood of a major Russian incursion into Ukraine has increased.” These officials draw this information from Putin’s recent comments, essentially justifying the need for an invasion. According to US officials, Putin’s worry about Russians in Ukraine facing brutality is Putin’s way of letting that world know that he is interested in the region.
The number of troops at the Ukrainian-Russian border is still disputed, but popular estimates put it at around 30,000. However, some have claimed that the number could top 80,000 and Ukrainian officials have claimed that they have estimated troops levels to be at 100,000. Regardless, both US intelligence and Members of Congress have said that 30,000 troops is far more than is needed for a routine military exercise.
It appears Russia will continue being on the minds of many officials throughout the US government. It doesn’t appear the Pentagon takes the threat of invasion seriously, but US intelligence believes it is a present danger and that its likelihood only continues to increase. Regardless, both sides agree Russia has increased its military presence, and it will be interesting to see how exactly they intend to use those forces in the future.