Further to this post (note at end Canadian Forces in western Ukraine), the latest at Foreign Policy–how far will Bad Vlad actually go?
Russian summer. Moscow is dispatching thousands of soldiers to its border with Ukraine, along with more armored vehicles, more aircraft, and more missile defense systems in moves that have Kiev on edge, and U.S. military officials watching closely. And Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Crimea Friday [Aug. 19] for meetings with security officials.
What does it all mean? Most U.S. officials are highly skeptical that Moscow is planning a move into Ukraine, saying that the maneuvers could be just another round of exercises and planned troop rotations, or an effort to stir up nationalistic passions before upcoming parliamentary elections next month. Still, tensions between Russia and Ukraine have flared in recent weeks after Russia accused Ukraine’s military of killing two Russian soldiers during alleged cross-border raids into Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Over the past two weeks, the Institute for the Study of War’s Kathleen Weinberger says, Russia has deployed new naval, ground, and air units, along with the S-400 air defense system on near Ukraine’s borders. “These new deployments constitute a significant expansion of Russia’s force projection capabilities and may signal preparations for a large-scale military conflict. Russia’s current force posture allows it to threaten or conduct military operations into Ukraine from multiple directions.” Speaking on Ukrainian television Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that “we don’t rule out full-scale Russian invasion.”
The Donbass. Things are heating up in eastern Ukraine as well, where government officials say they’ve been on the receiving end of the biggest artillery barrage in a year. August has been a typically violent month since the conflict broke out in 2014, with fighting peaking around the late summer. That pattern seems to be holding once again, with a Ukrainian military spokesman saying troops have seen 500 mortar and 300 artillery rounds fired at them, raising fears that an even more direct Russian intervention could be forthcoming…