Ukraine Update: 20 February, 2022 (Early Evening)

Earlier today, CBS News reported that a US official revealed US has intelligence confirming that Russian commanders have received orders to proceed with an invasion of Ukraine. Subunit commanders on the ground are now making plans for operations in their sectors of the battlefield. The process of orders going down the chain of command is similar to a telescope. The theater commander receives orders from Moscow explaining in detail the political and strategic objectives of the upcoming campaign. The theater commander’s battleplan is broad, encompassing the big picture. Orders then go out to division commanders who formulate ops plans for their respective operating areas. The process continues down the line to regiment, battalion commanders and so forth.

By itself, this report could be disregarded as inaccurate, or the result of intentional Russian disinformation. However, there have been some other developments today that indicate the Russians could very well be on the cusp of moving. Russia’s Aeronautical Information Center issued a NOTAM (a Notice to Airmen) Sunday which will close most of the airspace over the Sea of Azov starting at midnight between Sunday and Monday. There have also been numerous reports of Russian naval vessels entering the Sea of Azov throughout Sunday. Three amphibious assault ships were among the vessels heading north into the sea. Now, Russia has been running naval exercises in the Black Sea for over a week now and the initial NOTAMs and warnings to maritime traffic did indicate the Sea of Azov will be used for part of the exercise. Some restrictions were dropped earlier in the week, yet its  possible that today’s notices are bringing them back into play.

Right now its after midnight in Ukraine. The NOTAM is active and all that can be done for the moment is to adopt a ‘wait and see’ posture between now and dawn. I’ll be posting another update later in the night.

Ukraine Update: 12 February, 2022 (Afternoon)

US President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin spoke for an hour this morning. Although an administration official has said the discussion was “professional and substantive” the conversation has not changed the situation. “The two presidents agreed that our teams will stay engaged in the days ahead,” the official said. “Russia may decide to proceed with military action anyway. Indeed, that is a distinct possibility if it does the damage to Ukraine, European security and yes, Russia will be profound.” It has been accepted in Washington that military action is imminent at this point despite the threats of economic sanctions which have dominated Western responses in recent weeks. The main question remaining is: When will Russia move?

US officials have stated off the record that Wednesday is the most probable time for the commencement of hostilities. Personally, I’m in agreement. The exercises in Belarus and the Black Sea will both be reaching points where the it will be difficult for Western intelligence to determine if movements and actions are a part of the scripted exercises or the lead up to hostilities. Wednesday is not a given, either. An attack could be launched before then or after. In all likelihood, Putin’s original plan was probably not to attack after the Olympic games in Beijing ended. But given recent events, moving sooner will be beneficial. Russia’s strategic objectives have not changed, yet the fact NATO is now moving additional military forces into Eastern Europe gives him the incentive to start operations as soon as possible. Wednesday is most probable; however, it could come earlier in the week.

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Today, the US State Department has ordered an additional reduction of personnel for the US Embassy in Kiev. With the threat of war looming, and US citizens having been warned to leave Ukraine immediately, this move was expected. A core team of diplomats and personnel (what was formerly called a skeleton staff) will remain in place at the embassy but it will not be enough to coordinate evacuation procedures for US citizens there after hostilities begin. The Pentagon has also ordered the withdrawal of 150 Florida National Guardsmen who have been in Ukraine since later 2021 as part of a training mission. Great Britain is also withdrawing its troops who have been training Ukrainian forces.  

Ukraine Update 11 February, 2022

The fact that Russia more than likely intends to initiate military action against Ukraine is finally being accepted. For weeks now NATO, the European Union and the United States have been operating under the premise that diplomacy would break through and alleviate the crisis before it reached the critical stage. Now that it has become apparent Vladimir Putin has always intended for it to reach this point, NATO and the US are becoming serious about the defense of the alliance’s Eastern Flank. There is a significant amount of military activity going on in Eastern Europe.  USAFE (United States Air Force Europe) is moving US warplanes into Romania and Poland to reinforce NATO air forces in the east. F-16s from Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany have arrived in Romania and F-15C Eagles from the 493rd Fighter Squadron/49th Fighter Wing have deployed to  Lask Air Base in Poland.  Great Britain is expected to deploy RAF assets to Romania as well as 1,000 troops and the US announced today that another 3,000 paratroopers will be moved to Poland by early next week.

Western governments are also advising their citizens to leave Ukraine as quickly as possible. The US, British and Israeli governments are just three of the many now issuing warnings as it becomes clear the amount of time for them to leave Ukraine could be running out.

Author’s Note: Very short update tonight and I apologize. Work interfered this afternoon. I had intended on a longer, more detailed update but unfortunately, that will have to wait until tomorrow. –Mike

Ukraine Update 9 February, 2022: NATO and Russian Military Activity On The Rise

In the last 24-36 hours there has been increased military activity in Russia as well as a number of NATO member-states. The failure of Monday’s talks between the French and Russian presidents to deescalate the crisis has prompted Denmark and the United Kingdom to begin preparing forces for movement east. The alliance is also preparing to hold military exercises in close proximity to the frontiers of Belarus and Russia to demonstrate NATO resolve in the face of growing Russian troop numbers. Simultaneously, Russia continues its military buildup, moving more assets and troops into Crimea, Belarus and along the Ukrainian border. Military exercises in Belarus and on the Black Sea will also begin to get underway later this week.

Denmark is moving decisively even as her larger fellow NATO member-state to the south Germany dithers. The Danish military will increase the readiness of a combat battalion that is earmarked for NATO operations. Preparations are underway for the battalion of 800 troops to be ready for a deployment east within five days instead of the thirty days generally needed. Additionally, the Royal Danish Air Force will be moving a flight of F-16 fighters to Bornholm in the Baltic, should the situation call for it.

Great Britain will be moving more troops and equipment to Poland. 350 Royal Marines from 45 Commando have been diverted from exercises in Norway and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he’s prepared to go further. Deployments of RAF Typhoons to Romania and Bulgaria, as well as moving warships to the Black Sea are all being considered by London right now.

For Russia, the final pieces of its pre-hostilities military deployment puzzle could be coming into place. Considerable attention is being paid to the Black Sea where a trio of Russian Navy amphibious assault ships and a Kilo class conventionally-powered submarine were expected to pass through the Bosphorus this morning. They will join three other amphibs that entered the Black Sea for naval exercises according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. Their arrival is raising concerns from Ankara to NATO headquarters in Belgium as leaders, diplomats and military leaders attempt to decipher whether their presence is a sign that Russian military operations will begin soon.  

Ukraine Update 28 January, 2022: US Troops To Eastern Europe

President Biden confirmed in remarks to the media this afternoon that US troops will be deploying to Eastern Europe in the ‘near term.’ The purpose of the deployment is to deter Russia from launching an invasion of Ukraine or any NATO nations in Eastern Europe. Biden was light on details of the pending deployments such as confirming what units will be moving or when. Nor was the status of US forces presently stationed in Europe mentioned, even in today’s pentagon press briefing, which isn’t surprising. Operational matters are rarely discussed openly when a crisis is happening. The units going on higher states of alert for possible deployment are the usual lineup of rapid deployment suspects; 82nd Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Divisions and other elements of the XVIII Airborne Corps and the 4th Infantry Division (Mech) at Fort Carson, Colorado. The 4th’s parent command is III Corps, made up of heavy maneuver divisions.

3rd Brigade/82nd Airborne Division is likely to be the first unit to move. The 72 hour threshold the brigade required to pack up and be ready has passed. If it weren’t for the major nor’easter tracking up the east coast, the brigade might’ve been moving already. As it stand right now, Mother Nature has some say in the matter.

Author’s Note: Apologies for the very short update this evening. Spare time was at a premium today but I will make up for it tomorrow. For those readers in the Eastern US like myself, be safe this weekend with the storm approaching.—Mike