What are Russia’s intentions with its recent buildup of forces and increase in training along its border with Ukraine?
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is not quite sure. Austin expressed great concern about the threat posed to Ukraine, and told reporters he speaks regularly European Commander Gen. Walters.
“We are not sure exactly what Mr. Putin is up to,” Austin said in November. “But these movements certainly have our attention. And I would urge Russia to be more transparent about what they are up to and take steps to live up to the Minsk agreements.”
Austin did make it clear that the United States stands by Ukraine.
“Our support for Ukraine sovereignty territorial integrity remains unwavering,” Austin said.
Should Russia actually invade Ukraine, what would unwavering American support for Ukraine look like? There are several factors to consider. Unlike the Pacific, where vast ocean areas make it difficult to deploy troops and heavy armor, the United States and NATO could transit through Eastern Europe to Russia’s border with Ukraine. Railways could deliver armored vehicles, troops, and artillery.
Would the United States before an attack as a deterrent? Perhaps, because Russia would likely have little trouble invading or occupying Ukraine. If Russian forces captured territory before American or NATO troops arrived, removing them might prove difficult given the sheer size the Russian Army.
It would not be difficult for NATO forces to mass along the Ukrainian-Russian border. NATO member states Poland and Romania both border Ukraine. Perhaps if a sizable contingent of U.S. and NATO forces began training in Ukraine along the Russian border, Russia might pause to prevent a larger-scale great power war.
At very least, training and preparations for a potential engagement are likely to be increasing. Concerns about Russia likely informed a recent joint U.S.-Ukrainian training exercise in Germany. Several nations forces practiced maneuverability and coordination in land operations. An Army report on the training exercises said “Combined Resolve included approximately 4,600 soldiers from Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States.”
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a master’s degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
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