Russia Doubles Size of Military Force on Ukrainian Border

The size of Russian military forces gathered on Ukraine’s borders has doubled in recent days, increasing the possibility that a Russian military incursion into Ukraine is imminent. The rapid buildup of forces on the Russia-Ukraine border coincides directly with the Ukrainian military’s own siege of Donetsk, known as the last significant rebel stronghold within Ukraine. The siege of Donetsk began after legislation proposed by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk authorizing the allocation of an additional $700m in funds to the Ukrainian military cause passed parliament, and what has been perceived as the last significant Ukrainian military campaign was organized. The Ukrainian military poised to attack Donetsk from all sides eerily mirrors the 17 battalions of Russian troops, seemingly poised to launch a counterattack into Ukrainian territory.

The intentions of the Russian military buildup, however, are still unclear, and could easily be a maneuver designed to provoke a politically favorable solution to the violent conflict. Russia has long claimed the right to protect “ethnic Russians” in Ukraine, and considers a large portion of Eastern Ukraine as historically part of its realm of influence. Given that the Ukrainian military appears to be prepared to deal the coup de grace to the Russia-backed separatist movement, Russia may see no other recourse but to threaten to invade Ukraine unless Kiev gives in to demands made by separatists to either become fully autonomous or become part of Russia, the latter of the two options being the more likely. If a political solution cannot be reached, and it looks more and more like the separatists will fail, the possibility that a Russian incursion, perhaps disguised as a ‘peacekeeping operation,’ will take place.

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