Weeks of sustained U.S. diplomatic engagement with European governments, backed by intelligence sharing normally reserved for its closest allies, have helped convince some previously skeptical capitals, including Berlin, that the Kremlin may soon send its troops in Ukraine. The effort galvanized support for the need for strong sanctions threats to deter the Kremlin.
US President Joe Biden to warn Russian Vladimir Putin against any invasion at a video summit scheduled for Tuesday, with full NATO and EU support for retaliatory measures, EU officials told FT defense and security.
Russia may consider invading Ukraine “as early as 2022,” a Biden administration official said on Friday, adding that half of the military units believed to be involved in such an offensive had arrived near the Ukrainian border. over the past month.
The United States’ decision to share intelligence so widely among European states and issue public warnings stems from Washington’s hope that by cementing Western support for sanctions it would stress Moscow the costs of any aggression. Details of threats of sanctions and other countermeasures are still under discussion.
The Kremlin has always denied its intention to invade Ukraine and blamed the growing tension on US and NATO support in Kiev.
U.S. intelligence reports describing Russian military deployments along the Ukrainian border, evidence of possible attack preparations, and analysis of the Kremlin’s perceived intentions have been shared bilaterally and collectively with NATO members and by EU diplomatic channels, officials briefed on the documents told the FT.
The amount of material and details shared among the other 29 NATO allies was described by one official as “extremely comprehensive”.
The unusual level of intelligence-sharing was prompted by the initial reluctance of some European allies to treat US claims that an invasion was being prepared as credible, four of the officials said.
Disclosure of previously secret details began in early November ahead of a NATO ministers meeting last week, which was subsequently dominated by talks over Ukraine. Intelligence helped shift the conversation from whether the warning was correct to how best to deter him.
“Many allies were not convinced that serious things were happening,” said a second official. “We were surprised at this [intelligence] gap – how and why the United States saw things we didn’t see. “
“If I have to compare sound clips from before this information and then [at the Nato meeting] in Riga, there has been a big shift towards the American version of things, ”added the official.
Biden said on Friday he was preparing a “comprehensive and meaningful package of initiatives” to deter any Russian aggression.
“We have known about Russia’s actions for a long time and I expect us to have a long discussion,” he said of the call to come with Putin.
The United States says Russia has prepared to deploy 100 battle groups of battalions totaling approximately 175,000 troops to various strategic locations along the Ukrainian border, supported by 100,000 reserve troops.
Russian troops invaded Georgia in 2008, and invaded and annexed the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula in 2014. Since then, the Kremlin has supported pro-Moscow separatists who have waged a seven-year war against Ukrainian government forces in the Donbass, a Ukrainian region on the border with Russia.
In April, Russia quickly and without warning moved 100,000 troops from other parts of the country to its border region with Ukraine, alongside tanks, planes, naval forces, field hospitals and military personnel. electronic warfare equipment, frightening Kiev and the Western countries. Some of these troops were eventually returned to their bases.
Some EU states and NATO members who called for dialogue with Moscow rather than confrontation cited this de-escalation as proof that Russia would not embark on a full invasion unless provoked. But US intelligence on recent troop deployments has changed that analysis.
The US and the EU have “the same consistent message. . . show the price Putin will pay ”for any action against Ukraine, said a third European official. “Some European states that did not read Putin’s movements [in the same way that the US was] in terms of intentions now.