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US warns allies of possible Russian incursion as troops rush near Ukraine

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US warns allies of possible Russian incursion as troops rush near Ukraine

WASHINGTON — US intelligence officials are warning allies that there is a short window of time to prevent Russia from taking military action in Ukraine, prompting European countries to work with the United States on economic and military measures to prevent Moscow. Inspired to develop a package of American and European officials.

US officials said Russia has yet to decide what it wants to do with its troops near Ukraine, but the buildup is being taken seriously and the United States does not believe it was a hoax. Is.

Director of National Intelligence Avril D. Haines traveled to Brussels this week to brief NATO ambassadors about US intelligence on the situation and possible Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Ms Haines’ visit was long-planned and covered a variety of issues, but growing concerns about Russia were one of the short-term threats discussed, officials told her.

The United States has also been sharing intelligence with Ukraine. And on Friday, General Mark A Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with Lieutenant General Valery Zaluzny, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s military, to discuss Russia’s “regarding activity in the region.” staff said in a statement.

American and British intelligence is becoming increasingly convinced that Russian President Vladimir V. Putin is considering military action to take control of a large swath of Ukraine, or to destabilize the country enough to launch a more pro-Moscow government.

American and allied officials sounded the alarm in April, as Moscow built up troops near its border with Ukraine. But the current buildup, which has added more troops and sophisticated weapons, has raised more concerns – especially as Russia has moved to jam Ukrainian surveillance drones. Hostilities have also escalated since Ukraine used one of its drones to strike a separatist howitzer, prompting Russia to scramble the jets.

“It is not inevitable that kinetic conflict is going to escalate, but all the pieces are in place,” said Frederick B. Hodges, a former top US military commander in Europe now with the European Policy Analysis Center. “If we, the West, feel like we are not united and ready to work together, then the Kremlin runs the risk of making a terrible miscalculation.”

US intelligence officials have told aides that Mr Putin has become frustrated with the peace process established by France and Germany in 2014 after Russia occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and created a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

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Some former officials say Mr Putin may come with the intention of securing a land route between eastern Ukraine and Crimea. And US analysts believe Mr Putin sees the next few months as a unique moment to act.

With the departure of German Chancellor Angela Merkel from the world stage, there is less pressure on Ukraine to make concessions. Without a coalition in Germany, there is little leadership in Berlin.

Rising energy prices have made Europe more dependent on cheap Russian gas supplies, especially as winter deepens and Europe’s gas reserves fall further. Fears of losing access to Russian energy could limit Europe’s support for tougher sanctions.

Russia has already begun manipulating energy supplies in Europe, said a Western official based in Brussels. When energy prices rise, the official said, Mr. Putin feels he has more latitude to act.

And with rising prices and limited supplies, Russia has more money to pay for military operations, according to current and former officials.

US officials want to create a “general recipe” of actions to be taken by the United States and Europe if Russia moves militarily against Ukraine. While there are parts of Russia’s economy that are not subject to sanctions, the United States will need to build support in Europe for the new measures to take effect.

On Thursday, as Ms Haynes was leaving Brussels, the Senate confirmed Julian Smith to be the next US ambassador to NATO. His nomination was withheld for months by Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, complicating US efforts to create a joint response to the growing threat to Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned about Russia. Speaking in Berlin on Friday, Mr Stoltenberg described a “large and unusual” concentration of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine. “It is imperative that Russia shows transparency about its military build-up, de-escalate and de-escalate tensions,” he said.

Russia sent troops to a site called Cape Opuk in Crimea and moved a large number to a former warehouse complex near the Russian city of Pavlovsk. According to a recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the deployment put Russian tanks, howitzers and Iskander short-range ballistic missiles within striking distance of Ukraine’s border.

Earlier in the week, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III also said that the mobilization of Russian troops was a matter of concern. “We are not sure what Mr. Putin is doing, but these movements certainly have our attention,” he said.

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CIA Director William J. Burns traveled to Moscow this month at the behest of President Biden to warn against any action against Ukraine after growing concerns about Russian intentions.

US officials warned Russia that using its forces to intimidate Ukraine or capture more territory was unacceptable and would prompt a strong reaction from the West.

While some cautioned that it was too early to judge Moscow’s responses, others told the meeting that Russia was not taking the threat of a harsh response seriously.

Intelligence officials are still wrestling with possible links between the migrant crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border and Russia’s military build-up on the border with Ukraine.

Intelligence officials have not found a direct involvement of Russia in the Belarusian border crisis, and some believe that Belarusian President Alexander G. Lukashenko crafted it with little or no input from Russia.

On Friday, the Polish government announced that Ms Haines had met with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and other officials in Warsaw to discuss security on the “eastern side” of NATO. The government said the meetings were held at the request of the United States.

Mr. Putin has a long history of using drama in neighboring countries to advance his own interests. The Western official said NATO countries need to be aware that the Belarusian crisis and military build-up along the Ukrainian border are happening at the same time.

“Putin is too fleeting,” said Jim Townsend, a former senior Pentagon official. “I think he likes diversionary things. It plays into his hand. All eyes are on the Belarus border. In the meantime, he’s putting together what he thinks might need to go to Ukraine.”

US and European officials said any response to Russia’s deployment should be carefully calibrated to avoid escalating the situation and putting Ukraine in further danger.

“We have to be prepared to be tough,” said Mr Townsend. “We don’t have to go a few bombs. But we have to be smart in showing our military capability.”

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