Satellite imagery collected by Maxar Technologies over the past month and provided to Fox News shows a Russian military buildup on the border with Ukraine ahead of a Tuesday telephone call between President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Tuesday call, which has now been completed, occurred amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia over its threatening posture toward Ukraine. Biden told Putin during the call that there would be harsh economic sanctions and other unspecified consequences if Russia invades Ukraine.
U.S. officials have told Fox News that they think Russia will invade Ukraine in early 2022, using at least 175,000 troops in an attempt to re-annex the former Soviet republic. The satellite images show around 100,000 troops at the border so far.
“Prepare for all contingencies”
Prior to the phone call, Biden vowed to make it “very very difficult” for the planned Russian invasion to go forward.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was aware of Russia’s plans and said he didn’t know if the nation would ultimately go forward with the invasion.
“We must prepare for all contingencies,” Blinken said.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed out that U.S. military equipment was getting closer to the Russia-Ukraine border.
“The nightmare scenario of military confrontation is returning,” Lavrov said.
Putin has demanded that NATO stop expanding eastward and agree not to deploy “weapons systems posing a threat to us in close proximity to Russia’s territory.” But Biden scoffed at the demand on Friday and indicated that the U.S. and NATO would do what they felt was necessary to counter the Russian threat.
If Ukraine is invaded, it will need help from allies to defend against a superior Russian army. Politico reported last week that Ukraine’s army has strengthened since its last conflict with Russia in 2014, but is still not a real match for Russia’s massive military force.
Ukraine spent about $5 billion on defense in 2019, while Russia spent $65 billion. Allies, including the U.S., have also provided Ukraine advanced weapons and other resources, but not enough to counter a full Russian invasion.
Will Russia seize on perceived U.S. weakness to take what it wants under President Biden’s ineffective leadership? It seems we will soon find out.