From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.
Today: If Russia invades Ukraine, it would be the largest and potentially deadliest military action in Europe since World War II. So why are the U.S. and its European allies so divided over just how seriously to take the threat? I spoke with my colleague, Moscow bureau chief Anton Troianovsky.
It’s Tuesday, February 8.
Anton, this is really starting to feel like the scariest moment for Europe, maybe in decades. There’s talk of a historic potential invasion of Ukraine by Russia and casualty counts that could reach into the tens of thousands. Leaders across Europe are shuttling around the continent, desperately trying to find a diplomatic solution so there’s not an invasion. And so we wanted to check in with you on exactly where everything stands for all the major players — Russia, Ukraine, the United States and Europe. Let’s start with Russia and its troop buildup around Ukraine. What exactly is the state of that at this very moment?
Well, it’s very ominous, and it’s gotten worse since we last spoke. Russia now has more than 110,000 — by some estimates as many as 130,000 — troops encircling Ukraine on three sides.
And the important thing here is not just the number of troops we’re talking about, but the fact that they’re on the move. They’re getting closer to the border. A few weeks ago, we saw a lot of equipment positioned in the area near the border, but not enough personnel to operate all those tanks and artillery systems and rocket launchers. We’re now seeing a lot of those soldiers showing up from all across the country, being flown in, coming in on long trains.
And the latest thing is we’re now seeing these forces that were positioned 100 miles or more away from the border getting closer, setting up these tent camps very close to the border within a few dozen miles in these very makeshift conditions — soft-sided tents in the snow, in the mud. It’s the sorts of conditions that take a toll on morale. They take a toll on military readiness.
And that’s another reason why folks are so concerned right now. This intensity of this buildup, it’s not something that Russia you would think will be able to sustain for more than a few weeks. So we’re getting close to a point where Putin will have to decide whether to use these troops in some kind of military operation or start pulling them back.
What you’re describing sounds like the final stages of preparation for the war — not the initial stages, not the middle stages, but the final stages of what it would take to invade Ukraine.
Yeah. The keyword there is “final.” By some estimates, Russia has 70 percent or so of the forces it would need in place to mount a full-scale invasion of…
Read More: Live Updates: Russia and Ukraine Crisis News