Russian President Vladimir Putin has now assembled 70% of the military personnel and weapons on Ukraine’s borders he would need for a full-scale invasion of the country.
The figure is an estimate based on the latest intelligence assessments by two unnamed U.S officials, several media networks reported.
The assessment represents the continuing significant buildup of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders, but it’s unclear how long it would take Putin to ramp up further, or whether the Russian president would need full capabilities in order to invade.
Some assessments calculate civilian casualties in Ukraine could run into the tens of thousands with up to five million refugees.
In closed-door, classified briefings to Congress as well as in public press conferences, US officials are trying to draw a picture of potentially dire outcomes and the risk Putin poses.
There is a strong desire among US officials to explain to the American public why the fate of Ukraine could usher in an era of security and economic destabilization which could ripple across the globe.
Russia continues to add forces to the region almost daily, according to US estimates, and could soon have enough to begin an operation. Given all Putin has moved, plus his public rhetoric on Ukraine and NATO, US officials widely believe he could soon make a decision, and it may be more likely than not he will move ahead.
Officials stress constantly the intelligence they have is leading them to make these estimates, but they are just estimates. But some are chilling.
For example, if Putin were to unleash his full land and air military might on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, the city might fall in 48 hours. They also calculate Putin could decide for a multipronged operation, sending in forces from several directions across Ukraine to quickly fracture the ability of Ukraine’s military to fight as a cohesive force; a Russian strategy that is a classic military move.
The Pentagon has openly hinted at the status of potential Russian invasion forces. “Mr. Putin continues to add forces, combined arms, offensive capabilities,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said earlier this week.
“He has shown no signs of being interested or willing to deescalate the tensions.” Putin has not just infantry and missile forces, but hundreds of fighter and bomber aircraft as well as attack helicopters at his disposal.
Based on publicly available weather calculations, the optimal time for a Russian invasion would be while there is a hard ground freeze, so heavy equipment can readily move. US officials have said Putin would understand he needs to move by the end of March.