Situation update
  • On 20 December 2021, the U.S. Department of State declared a “Level 4: Do Not Travel Advisory” for Ukraine, citing “increased threats from Russia.” This warning comes amid a major Russian military buildup along Ukraine’s borders that began in late March. Starting in November, Russia began to mobilize its logistics and other military support units in a deliberate and highly overt manner, giving Moscow the ability to initiate offensive operations in Ukraine with little notice or warning.
  • There are currently 70,000–100,000 Russian troops staged in four locations near Ukraine’s borders (and in Crimea). U.S. intelligence assesses that this number could rapidly swell to 175,000 should President Putin make the political decision to invade Ukraine. U.S. defense and intelligence officials warn that this could happen as early as late January.
  • Domestically, Russia has ramped up an information campaign to help prepare its public and build a case for military action using similar tropes that were used in 2014 prior to the invasion of Crimea.
  • U.S. President Biden held one-on-one talks with Russian President Putin on 07 December 2021. Bilateral U.S.-Russia talks, as well as NATO-Russia Council talks, and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) meetings are set to kick off after the holidays.
CONTEXT 
  • Russian-aligned separatists and Ukrainian forces have been engaged in low-intensity conflict in eastern Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Over 14,000 people have been killed so far and the conflict continues in a political and military stalemate.
  • Since the onset of 2021, there has been a radical change in Ukraine’s policy towards Russia. While at first, President Zelensky began his term open to a rapprochement with Russia, his tone has shifted and relations have since soured.
  • Ukraine, home to a sizeable Russian-speaking minority, is the most integral part of Russia’s “near abroad,” a strategic buffer with the West. 
ANALYSIS - GUNBOAT DIPLOMACY

Capabilities are much easier to interpret than intentions. In fact, it may even be possible that the Kremlin has yet to make final decisions regarding potential military action. What is clear is that the slow and visible mass-mobilization of Russian forces near Ukraine means that Russia is serious about changing the current rules of the game. Moscow is seeking to amend its relationships with NATO, the U.S., the EU, and Ukraine. To this end, Russia published draft pacts last week—a Russia-US security treaty and a Russia-NATO security treaty—demanding the following:

  • A blanket denial of Ukrainian admittance to NATO
  • Halting NATO’s eastward expansion to include other ex-Soviet republics
  • Compulsory Russian consent for NATO to deploy troops in former communist countries in Europe
  • No NATO military exercises near Russia’s borders
  • A pledge not to station intermediate-range missiles within range of other party’s territory

What makes the situation precarious is that President Putin has backed Russia into a corner. Should he not be able to gain any commitments from NATO, then he may be compelled to order some type of military action to have something tangible to show for this gambit. 

Global Guardian sees the following possible scenarios, in order of most to least likely:

  1. Uniformed Russian forces entering Belarus and/or the Donbas region of Ukraine.
  2. A limited military operation in Ukraine for Russia to gain access to the Dnepr-Crimea canal, securing freshwater resources for Russian-occupied Crimea.
  3. A two-front assault from the Donbas and Crimea, creating a land bridge that connects the Donbas to Crimea.  
  4. A mechanized drive to seize the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine.
  5. A full invasion on three fronts with a quick drive to capture Kyiv. 
Advice
  • Global Guardian recommends against non-essential travel to Ukraine.
  • Those who remain in-country should prepare emergency supplies. 
Support

Our team can respond immediately with the following capabilities:  

  • Bespoke intelligence reports and briefings 
  • Armed or unarmed security personnel 
  • Satellite communications (phone and wireless internet)
  • Emergency medical and tele-medical support
  • Logistical support (food, water, generators, fuel)
  • Evacuation by ground, air, or sea

Click below to contact Global Guardian's 24/7 Operations Center or call us directly at +1 (703) 566-9463.


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