The Biden Administration is pressing the idea that Russia will invade Ukraine within the next two months, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan asserting that an attack could now come “any day.” The statement came shortly after the State Department announced that US intelligence believes Russia is preparing a video of a fake attack to create a pretext for war.
The Washington Post amplified the White House’s warning, citing several unnamed sources who said the US military and intelligence community believes Russia has 70% of its troops in place for President Vladimir Putin to exercise his maximum option. Should Moscow opt for a full-scale invasion, the assessment says, it will result in 50,000 civilian casualties, up to 25,000 military casualties, and 5 million refugees.
The assault is expected to come “after the ground freezes” sometime in mid-February and the window will remain open until late-March, sources told the Post.
Despite the anticipated humanitarian toll, Sullivan indicated that the Biden administration believes arming and training Ukrainians is working and could present an opportunity to land a blow on Russia. “If war breaks out, it will come at an enormous human cost to Ukraine, but we believe that based on our preparations and our response, it will come at a strategic cost to Russia as well,” he said.
However, the Europeans do not seem to match the Americans’ more bellicose attitude, with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba dismissing US forecasts of imminent war as “apocalyptic predictions.” That followed similar remarks from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who said Washington’s breathless rhetoric was creating a crisis and that he doesn’t believe the threat of a Russian invasion has increased since last April.
As Kyiv continues to downplay Biden’s warnings, French President Emmanuel Macron recently announced that he will travel to Moscow for talks with Putin. In an interview with Journal du Dimanche, Macron also rejected the US narrative, arguing “The geopolitical objective of Russia today is clearly not Ukraine, but to clarify the rules of cohabitation with NATO and the EU.”
German leaders have also been reluctant to go along with the US bluster. Though Chancellor Olaf Scholz – who’s also set to visit Moscow later this month – has warned that Russia would pay a “high price” for any attack on Ukraine, Berlin has refused to follow Washington’s suit and supply lethal aid to the country and even blocked fellow NATO member Estonia from doing the same.
Politicians aren’t the only ones voicing skepticism in the threat, however, with Russian markets beginning to rebound after months of decline as the Financial Times reports that hedge funds are increasing investment in both Ukraine and Russia.
“People are just going about their business. If there was going to be a war, people would be acting in a different way. Everybody is quite calm,” David Amaryan, founder of Balchug Capital, a global fund run out of Moscow, told the Times.
Will Porter contributed to this article.
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