Russian Escalation in Crimea as Biden speaks with Putin on Ukraine

A significant military and diplomatic escalation, months after Putin’s stationing of troops near the border, is currently underway in Ukraine.

A U.S. Army paratrooper assigned to 1st Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment establishes sector security on a drop zone alongside paratroopers from the Lithuanian – Polish – Ukrainian Brigade after conducting a joint airborne operation. This training is part of Exercise Rapid Trident 21 at the International Peacekeeping Security Centre near Yavoriv, Ukraine on Sept. 25, 2021. Rapid Trident is an annual, multinational exercise that supports joint combined interoperability among the partner militaries of Ukraine and the United States, as well as Partnership for Peace nations and NATO allies. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. John Yountz)

U.S. intel, released in the declassified document below, refers to 175,000 Russian forces amassing in and around Ukraine. Worryingly, several pieces of artillery within Crimea have been identified. Russia’s military in the region is organized in battalion tactical groups (BTGs), allegedly manned by contracted soldiers. This allows Russia the opportunity to disavow its soldiers as merely insurgents, hence the common Ukrainian term “little green men”. A formidable force, they have combat experience in Ukraine from 2014, though they have been defeated at times. BTGs rely on inflicting a high amount of casualties and using paramilitary forces. As a result, deployed Russian BTGs are hard-pressed to gather reinforcements, as they often cannot rely on direct military aid.

Despite this, about 50 BTGs are currently deployed, with up to 100 BTGs potentially operating along the Ukrainian border. This does not include the active Russian-backed insurgents on the ground, who are intermittently engaged with Ukrainian forces.

Following these developments, President Biden had a phone call with President Putin. Allegedly, Putin asked that Biden guarantee Ukraine would never be admitted into NATO, which Biden refused. He countered that if Putin were to attack Ukraine, the United States would safeguard its allies in the region. Immediately following the phone call, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced that U.S. defensive material was going to Ukraine and that the U.S. and its NATO allies would coordinate to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity. He characterized the meeting as concise yet effective and claimed that Putin was engaged with the discussion.

President Biden was direct and straightforward with President Putin, as he always is. He reiterated America’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

He told President Putin directly that if Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with strong economic measures. We would provide additional defensive materiel to the Ukrainians above and beyond that which we are already providing. And we would fortify our NATO Allies on the eastern flank with additional capabilities in response to such an escalation. 

I just make it a practice not to characterize the other side’s position. He can speak for himself. I would say that his demeanor, like President Biden’s demeanor, was direct and straightforward. 

And again, as I said in my opening remarks, this was a real discussion. It was give and take. It was not speeches. It was back and forth. President Putin was deeply engaged. And I’m going to leave it at that in terms of trying to characterize where he is. 

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan via December 7th, 2021 Press Briefing

Following the meeting, Biden later spoke with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. During the conversation, each of the leaders confirmed their support and involvement for Ukraine and began talks for greater cooperation in regards to NATO and the EU’s involvement in the situation.

Right before his departure on December 8th, Biden himself was asked about his meeting with Putin. Biden ensured that, though U.S. troops are not on the table regarding deployment to defend Ukraine, they will defend the U.S.’s NATO allies. Though he reiterated that such an obligation does not extend to Ukraine, his statement begins underscoring the significance of Ukraine joining NATO.

President Zelensky had previously been wary of Biden, as, despite his repeated requests for a firm answer regarding Ukraine’s accession to NATO, Biden has instead reiterated his (the U.S.’) support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. Whether this is to minimize the chance of American deployment or to coordinate first with NATO leaders, it is hard to tell. But Zelensky’s recent call with Biden was, according to a Senior Government Official, laden with U.S. assurances that Ukraine would be supported by NATO. He additionally informed Zelensky of Biden’s engaging in Putin regarding a diplomatic solution.

He also explained that he had told President Putin that there is another option in terms of de-escalation and diplomacy. So, as part of that, the President underscored the United States’ continued support for the Normandy Format and ongoing efforts to implement the Minsk Agreements, including U.S. support for that overall process, which, of course, is led by our French and German allies.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL via December 9th, 2021 Background Press Call

From unconfirmed sources in Russia, rumors are supposedly spreading of a significant escalation/attack early in 2022, in either January or February.

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