US considers sending additional weapons to Ukraine as fears of possible Russian invasion rise

Discussions over the proposed deadly aid package are taking place as Ukraine begins to publicly warn that an invasion could take place as early as January. The package could include new Javelin anti-tank and anti-armor missiles, as well as mortars, the sources said.

Air defense systems, such as stinger missiles, are also being considered, and the Defense Department has insisted that some equipment that would have gone to Afghanistan — such as Mi-17 helicopters — be sent to Ukraine instead. The Mi-17 is a Russian helicopter that the US originally bought to give to the Afghans. The Pentagon is now considering what to do with it after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.

But others in the government are concerned that Russia’s sending of stingers and helicopters could be seen as a major escalation. And while they are willing to send some military advisers to the region, it is unclear whether any will go to Ukraine itself, the people said.

Retired Lt. Col. Cedric Leighton told CNN that Javelin anti-tank missiles are “quite effective against the T-80 tanks that the Russians are currently using in these efforts against Ukraine.” But he noted that any additional aid to Ukraine undoubtedly carries the risk of “further tensions” with Moscow.

Sanction discussions

Meanwhile, US officials have held talks with European allies about putting together a new sanctions package that would take effect if Russia invaded Ukraine, the sources said. And lawmakers are also making fun of new sanctions to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act.

The discussions show how seriously the Biden administration and Congress are taking the possibility that Russia could invade Ukraine, a strategic ally of the US, for the second time in less than a decade. And US officials are determined not to be taken by surprise by a Russian military operation, as was the case with the Obama administration in 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea and sparked an uprising in parts of eastern Ukraine.

“Our concern is that Russia could be making a serious mistake by trying to repeat what it did in 2014, when it gathered troops along the border, crossed sovereign Ukrainian territory and did so by falsely claiming it was provoked,” the state secretary said. Anthony. Blinken said last week.

Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, the SVR, hit back on US warnings about a possible invasion, calling them “absolutely false” in a statement Monday.

“The US State Department is conveying absolutely false information through diplomatic channels to its allies and partners about the concentration of troops on the territory of our country for a military invasion of Ukraine,” said Sergei Ivanov, head of the SVR news agency.

The US has been sharing intelligence with NATO partners and European allies for weeks about unusual Russian troop movements near the Ukrainian border, which the US military and intelligence officials believe may foreshadow a military operation on the country’s eastern flank. The briefings went much further than in the past in terms of alertness and specificity, US, European and Ukrainian sources familiar with the discussions said.

Ukraine’s tone has also changed significantly since the US briefing. At the beginning of the month, Ukrainian officials downplayed reports that Russia was rallying troops near the border. Now, after extensive meetings between US and Ukrainian officials, Ukrainian defense intelligence chief Brig. Gene. Kyrylo Budanov publicly warns that Russia is building a capacity to strike as early as January — a timeline in line with US assessments.

‘No smoking weapon’

Still, officials say Russia’s ultimate plan remains unclear. “There is no smoking weapon or decisive indication of Putin’s intentions,” said a defense official. And it’s possible the maneuvers are an attempt to confuse or force the West to make concessions, rather than a harbinger of invasion.

But the US still warns of the possibility of the worst-case scenario of Moscow attempting regime change in Kiev, largely spurred on by Putin’s determination to stop Ukraine from growing closer to the West and possibly joining NATO.

Blinken says US is concerned that Russia

“You will not achieve that goal by carving out another piece of the eastern region of Donetsk,” said a person familiar with the intelligence service. “It has to be something more than that. If it is… [Putin’s] goal, then you don’t do that by doing something small.”

US officials have also shared evidence with senior Ukrainian officials that Russia, through the FSB – the Russian successor to the KGB – is involved in destabilizing activities in Ukraine in order to foment dissent against the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. They also pointed to the presence of special forces from Spetsnaz and intelligence services from the GRU and SVR near Ukraine’s borders.

Ukrainian defense officials have projected that Russia could use the dozens of tactical battalion groups currently stationed near Ukraine’s borders to launch an attack from multiple sides, including from the annexed Crimea, according to Ukrainian military assessments told The Military Times are provided.

US officials are closely monitoring Russian activities in Crimea, where Russia sent troops and military units in the spring as part of what they say were exercises. Although Russia’s defense ministry ordered at least some of its troops to withdraw in April, some elements remained, according to Ukrainian assessments and sources familiar with the matter.

Movements in Congress

Democratic and Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have added proposed changes to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that would address Russia’s latest provocations, but they have yet to sign a final draft.

An amendment proposed by Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez, reviewed by CNN, says “substantial new sanctions must be imposed” by President Joe Biden against senior Kremlin officials — including Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the event of a Russian military escalation against Ukraine. The amendment also calls for additional sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which Ukraine has been pushing for.

CIA Director Had Rare Conversation With Putin Last Week While In Moscow

The committee’s Republicans see Nord Stream’s sanctions language as a positive step, sources said, but want the amendment to automatically impose sanctions in the event of a Russian raid rather than leave the decision in the hands of the government.

Germany, which is involved in the pipeline project with Russia, recently announced that it is temporarily suspending the pipeline certification process. But Ukraine also wants the US to do more to thwart the pipeline, which it says Russia is using weapons to weaken Ukraine by cutting off energy supplies and revenues en route to winter, a Zelensky adviser said. to CNN.

“While the Biden administration is warning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, top officials on Capitol Hill are trying to protect Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline by lobbying against the inclusion of sanctions against it in the annual defense bill,” the adviser said.

CNN’s Oren Liebermann contributed to the report.

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