Senior Biden administration officials told lawmakers this week that the Russian military had gathered 70% of the forces needed to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, painting the most ominous picture yet of the options that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has created for himself in recent weeks.
According to the commanders, Mr. Putin has also placed Special Operations units — over 1,500 troops — near and even within the Ukrainian border. These forces, they said, collaborate closely with the Russian navy intelligence agency, the G.R.U., which has previously directed cyber and other attacks against adversaries.
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According to the officials, US intelligence experts have yet to determine if Mr. Putin has made a final decision to invade. However, satellite footage, Russian soldiers’ communications, and photographs of Russian equipment on the move reveal that Putin has gathered everything he needs to launch the greatest military operation on land in Europe since 1945, according to authorities.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, warned reporters that a Russian invasion was a “near inevitability” after hearing from administration officials. “If we now live in an era where someone can walk into a nation and just take it over and claim it as their own, I don’t think it’ll end at Ukraine,” he added, echoing concerns that Mr. Putin is attempting to rewrite the geography of the continent to return to the Soviet Union’s days.
Officials from the United States and Europe have made it plain that a physical attack on ‘s borders of Ukraine would result in massive penalties against Russia’s banks, trade restrictions on semiconductors and other high-tech commodities, and the freezing of Russian oligarchs’ and leaders’ accounts. However, as President Biden has admitted, there is significantly less agreement on how to respond to a “small invasion.” Or even what constitutes a slight intrusion.
Officials in Europe and the United States are concerned that Mr. Putin may attempt to conduct a coup in Kyiv. Another option is a Russian-designed cyberattack aimed at bringing down portions or all of Ukraine’s power and communications infrastructure, similar to the strikes on the country’s electric system in 2015 and 2016.
According to European officers, it is unknown how the Western allies would respond to such an attack. They are mindful that if they feel the cyber operations were a face-saving strategy for Mr. Putin to act and then recede, there may be a desire to de-escalate and never seek to impose major penalties, especially if there have been minimal human losses.
A hack, on the other hand, might be a precursor to a complete invasion, obliterating Ukraine’s ability to communicate and monitor where Russian soldiers are coming from.
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