White House national security adviser
warned Sunday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent and might entail a high cost for the civilians living there.
“We are in the window,” Mr. Sullivan told Fox News Sunday. “Any day now, Russia could take military action against Ukraine or it could be a couple of weeks from now, or Russia could choose to take the diplomatic path instead.”
Russia currently has 83 battalion tactical groups poised near the country, a substantial increase from the 53 groups it had in December and 60 last month, according to officials familiar with U.S. intelligence assessments.
Should Russia continue adding to its forces and then Mount an all-out attack to try to take over the entire country, 25,000 to 50,000 civilians would be killed or wounded, the intelligence assessments project. The extent of the toll would depend on how much fighting there would be in urban areas.
Between 3,000 and 10,000 Russian troops and between 5,000 and 25,000 Ukrainian troops would be killed or wounded, according to the assessments. One million to five million Ukrainians would be displaced, the assessments said.
Mr. Sullivan didn’t discuss the intelligence projections but said that a Russian attack could lead to a high toll in Ukraine.
“If war breaks out, it will come at an enormous human cost to Ukraine, but we believe that based on our preparations and our response, it will come at a strategic cost to Russia as well,” he said, referring to President
warnings that the U.S. and its allies would impose punishing economic sanctions.
The growing Russian military buildup comes as diplomatic efforts to defuse the dispute over Ukraine have failed to narrow the sharp disagreement between the two sides. In addition, the Kremlin appears to be laying the political foundation for potential military action, according to U.S. analysts.
On Friday, Russian President
cemented during a meeting in Beijing his growing partnership with Chinese leader
to challenge the U.S.
A proposal by some Russian legislators to recognize the independence of the Donbas region in Ukraine could come up for consideration as early as Feb. 14, according to some Russian media. U.S. officials have been closely monitoring that development and worry that the Kremlin could use such a move as political cover for intervening further into Ukraine.
Russia already provides military support to separatists in the Donbas areas and annexed the Crimea peninsula in 2014.
“They are putting into place the military capabilities they would need if they wanted to conduct a large-scale invasion,” said Rob Lee, a former Marine infantry officer who studies the Russian military. “The forces they are putting into Belarus and their naval exercises appear intended to deter NATO involvement.”
While the U.S. and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies have said they don’t plan to fight in Ukraine, the U.S., Britain and other NATO nations have been sending arms to Kyiv and are conducting training missions there.
With tensions rising, the first of 3,000 U.S. troops that are being deployed to strengthen the eastern flank of NATO allies arrived Saturday in Poland. The U.S. Army’s XVIII Corps is setting up a task-force headquarters in Germany, while an Army Stryker unit is being sent to Romania.
Russia has said it doesn’t plan to invade Ukraine and insists that its units have been sent to Belarus for an exercise. Mr. Putin said in December that Moscow is prepared to take “retaliatory military-technical…