NATO is again warning that Russia has amassed troops on its border and may soon invade Ukraine.
NATO claims Russia has 20,000 troops on the border and added 8,000 this week. Ukrainian officials, who routinely exaggerate the Russian threat, say the number is close to 45,000 troops with 100 fighter jets, helicopters and bombers, further heightening tensions in the region.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said Russia will use “the pretext of a humanitarian or peace-keeping mission as an excuse to send troops into Eastern Ukraine.”
“We’re not going to guess what’s on Russia’s mind, but we can see what Russia is doing on the ground – and that is of great concern. Russia has amassed around 20,000 combat-ready troops on Ukraine’s eastern border,” Lungescu said.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk also warns Russia is poised to invade. “We have reasons to suspect – we have been receiving such information in the last several hours – that the risk of a direct intervention is higher than it was several days ago,” Tusk said on Wednesday.
Radoslaw Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, said on Tuesday Russia has concentrated troops and military hardware along the border in preparation of an intervention. Sikorski’s comments coincided with remarks by Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby who said Russian forces are “very capable and very ready” for an invasion.
The warning of invasion by NATO, Poland and Ukraine arrives as Russia conducts a military exercise near its border with Ukraine. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States is “deeply concerned” about the exercise.
“Exercises of this kind are provocative and only serve to escalate tensions,” she told reporters.
The Russian exercise includes Su-27 and MiG-31 fighter jets, Su-34, Mi-8, Mi-24 bombers and Mi-28N helicopters.
NATO and U.S. Military Exercises in Eastern Europe
Earlier this year, the U.S. and NATO held similar military exercises in Russia-bordering nations “in an attempt to alleviate tensions among Eastern European nations that have grown increasingly alarmed about Russia’s moves to restore a semblance of the hegemony it held during the Soviet era,” MintPress News reported on May 15.
Exercises were conducted in Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia and involved several hundred personnel from U.S. Special Forces, according to the U.S. European Command. The exercises include permanently stationed U.S. elite troops in states bordering Russia.
In addition to exercises, the U.S. announced military-to-military cooperation with eastern European nations, including special operations forces, air forces and additional military exercises and training, as part of their discussion of closer defense ties, according to the Associated Press.
Britain has announced it will conduct a military exercise in eastern Europe dubbed Black Eagle in October.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said on July 28 from Warsaw that it “is right that NATO members and partners demonstrate our commitment to the collective security of our allies in Eastern Europe” and “the commitment of a battle group to Exercise Black Eagle shows our sustained and substantial support to NATO’s eastern border.”
On August 1 British Prime Minister David Cameron said NATO must show Russia it “means business” by carrying out more military exercises and deploying more weapons in eastern Europe.
Demonstrating the depth of brinkmanship and confirming the Cold War is once again underway, both the U.S. Strategic Command and its Russian counterpart have conducted large scale nuclear drills.
The Russian drill included a ground-based missile launch, submarine-based missile launches, air-based missile launches, and the launching of a Topol intercontinental ballistic at the Plesetsk launch facility in northwest Russia.
Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine
On Tuesday the director of humanitarian operations at the United Nations warned the Security Council during an emergency meeting Ukraine faces a mounting humanitarian crisis.
John Ging said “an increase in the numbers killed” will continue if a political solution is not found to the crisis.
The government in the Ukrainian capitol, however, denies its military operation to quell separatists in the eastern part of the country has resulted in a humanitarian crisis.
“The situation is manageable by the government of Ukraine, which remains open to cooperation with international partners,” said Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Ukraine’s deputy ambassador.