With discussions over Russia’s security proposals set to start in early January with the United States and NATO, the Kremlin is moving 10,000 troops away from the Ukrainian border. The action is intended to make the Russian position appear less belligerent and signal a willingness to compromise. How much difference the withdrawal of 10,000 Russian troops will make to the military balance in the region remains to be seen. When it comes to a ground force primed to invade Ukraine, either 90k or 100k will be a sufficient enough number. On Saturday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the end of a series of military drills in the Southern Military District, as well as the subsequent withdrawal of 10,000 troops to their permanent bases. What was not explained in sufficient detail was whether or not the weapons and equipment of those troops was also being withdrawn.
Yesterday, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said he will consider a host of options if the West refuses to meet his concerns over NATO expansion to Ukraine. He was not specific, but the intent behind the words was apparent. Putin said Russia’s response would be diverse and and dependent on the proposals Russia’s military leaders submit to him. Putin also repeated the Russian position that NATO membership for Ukraine is a red line he will not allow to be crossed.