Earlier this afternoon, CBS News reported that according to an unnamed US official, Russian self-propelled artillery and mobile rocket launchers have been moved into firing positions near the Ukrainian border. Other Russian mechanized and motorized units have departed from their assembly areas and moved closer to the border, presumably to forward assembly areas where units stage and prepare for future operations. If true, these movements provide a concrete indication that hostilities are imminent. US intelligence has predicted a Russian attack will come on 16 February. Given recent events such as the upcoming visit by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Moscow on Tuesday, the timetable might’ve been revised.
With Wednesday anticipated to be the day a potential Russian attack might fall, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy declared 16 February will be a national ‘Day of Unity.’ The move is an attempt to rally Ukrainians. The declaration’s aim is to “to strengthen the consolidation of Ukrainian society, strengthen its resilience in the face of growing hybrid threats, information and propaganda, moral and psychological pressure on the public consciousness.” Blue and yellow national flags will be raised above government buildings and the Ukrainian national anthem will be played on televisions nationwide at 10 AM. Zelenskiy’s move is being widely viewed as an official confirmation that an attack is expected on Wednesday, despite the Ukrainian leader’s skepticism about the day’s significance. Government officials were quick to point out the president was being ‘ironic’ when he mentioned being informed of a Russian attack planned for 16 February.
According to multiple reports, two Russian cargo aircraft have landed at Maiquetia Airport in Venezuela earlier in the weekend and disembarked 100 troops, along with senior military official General Vasily Tonkoshkurov. A limited amount of equipment was offloaded as well. At least one of the aircraft has departed the country already.
This move comes as the United States has raised pressure on Nicolas Maduro and Venezuela’s government in recent weeks. Economic sanctions unleashed by the Trump administration continue to bite the Venezuelan economy and will only get worse as time goes on. In late April a US ban on crude imports from Venezuela will go into effect. This could very well be a death blow to the Maduro government’s finances.
The arrival of Russian troops in Venezuela is a direct jab at the United States. Even though 100 troops hardly constitutes an invasion, the United States will have to respond to their presence in some way. Given that the Trump administration has repeatedly said all options remain “on the table” for dealing with Venezuela, the prospect of US military action against Maduro’s government is low for the time being. Still, the presence of Russian troops in Venezuela will alarm the US military.
This is how Russia’s intervention in Syria began. A small number of troops arriving in country, followed by a gradual, but increasing flow of additional aircraft, men, and material. A large Russian military presence in the Western Hemisphere will not be tolerated by the United States. I’ll discuss this more in the coming days. Apologies for keeping this short and not posting since Wednesday. March Madness is underway and I’ve been watching every game. Four days of round-the-clock basketball. 😊