US President Joe Biden. Picture: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS
US President Joe Biden. Picture: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS

US President Joe Biden’s administration is considering whether to send American military advisers to Ukraine as Russian forces on that country’s border pose the threat of invasion, CNN reported. 

The network, citing unnamed sources, said the US was also looking into providing more weapons to Ukraine’s armed forces, including anti-aircraft stinger missiles. CNN added that some of the equipment, including helicopters, was originally intended to be deployed in Afghanistan. 

According to the CNN report, however, some US officials fear that Russia, which has been amassing troops and artillery near the border, would view the military aid as an escalation of the conflict. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment late on Monday night.    

Last week, Ukraine’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said he had asked the Pentagon for more help defending the country’s airspace and coast. 

“We need to cover our sky and our sea,” Reznikov told reporters at Ukraine’s embassy in Washington, after meeting defence secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon. 

The CNN report came a day after Bloomberg News reported that the US had shared intelligence with European allies that shows a build-up of Russian forces to prepare for a rapid, large-scale incursion into Ukraine from multiple locations if President Vladimir Putin opted to invade its East European neighbour.

The US intelligence, which has been conveyed to some members of Nato, presents a scenario in which forces would cross into Ukraine from Crimea, the Russian border and via Belarus, with about 100 battalion tactical groups deployed for what the people described as an operation in rough terrain and freezing weather, covering extensive territory and prepared for a potentially prolonged occupation. 

Two people familiar with the matter said about half that number of tactical groups was already in position and that any invasion would be backed up by air support.

Earlier on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration had “serious concerns” over Russia’s threatening military presence on Ukraine’s border and called on “Moscow to de-escalate tensions”.

The US has “also held discussions with Russian officials about Ukraine and U.S.-Russian relations generally,” she told reporters travelling with Biden to a gathering for American troops at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.  

Psaki added that American officials have also had “extensive interactions with our European allies and partners in recent weeks, including with Ukraine. We’ve discussed our concerns about Russian military activities and harsh rhetoric towards Ukraine”.

Putin last week denied any intention to invade but welcomed the alarm as evidence his actions had got the attention of the US and its allies, which he accused of failing to take Russia’s “red lines” over Ukraine seriously enough.

Asked about Russia dismissing these reports about a possible invasion as inflammatory, Psaki on Monday said: “I would just note the long history of Russian propaganda.”

The rouble fell about 1% against the dollar Monday to the lowest level since August on fears the tensions could trigger new sanctions.

The latest fears of a possible invasion coincide with the approach of the eighth anniversary of the Maidan Revolution, in which widespread protests by pro-European Ukrainians toppled President Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally. 

In the wake of that successful rebellion, Putin seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in March 2014.   

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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