The Biden administration is reportedly considering supplying Javelin anti-tank missiles and Mi-17 helicopters, as well as military advisers, to Ukraine as Russia masses armed forces near its borders.
It comes as the U.S. shared intelligence with European allies suggesting that the buildup could be the first step in a three-pronged invasion.
Ukrainian officials fear an attack could come as soon as January after Russia sent more than 92,000 troops to the border.
As a result, U.S. officials are urgently weighing a package of lethal aid that could include anti-armor missiles, mortars and air defense systems such as stinger missiles, according to CNN.
The Javelin anti-tank missiles could prove essential to stopping Russian T-80 tanks that are among the armaments sent by Moscow to forward positions.
Another option is to send Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters that were bought for Afghanistan but now need a new destination.
However, others in the administration fear sending military aid would be seen as a major provocation in Moscow.
A map shared with Military Times and replicated above shows how Ukrainian intelligence is bracing for a bloody and ferocious invasion that could see swathes of Ukraine captured in an assault which would dwarf the annexation of the Crimea in 2014
A satellite image released by Maxar Technologies and taken on November 1, 2021 shows the presence of a large ground forces deployment on the northern edge of the town of Yelnya, Smolensk Oblast, Russia, near the border with Ukraine
Javelin anti-tank missiles – seen hearing being used by Australian Army soldiers – could prove effective in stopping Russia’s T-80 tanks which have been sent close to the Ukrainian border
Massive Russian-Belarusian joint drill were held in September, further increasing anxieties of an imminent invasion (pictured: Tanks and missile batteries taking part in the exercises last month)
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Washington was in touch with European partners about the buildup.
‘We continue to have serious concerns about Russian military activities and harsh rhetoric toward Ukraine and call on Moscow to deescalate tensions,’ she said.
Warnings intensified on Monday as it emerged that U.S. had shared maps with European allies showing how a buildup of Russian troops and artillery could allow Putin to order a rapid invasion.
According to Bloomberg, which cited people familiar with the conversations, the intelligence lays out a scenario for a three-pronged attack.
Troops would cross into Ukraine from Crimea, the Russian border and Belarus, with about 100 battalion tactical groups – up to 100,000 soldiers in all.
Two sources said half the tactical groups was already in position and that any invasion would be backed by air support.
Such a move would dwarf the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Instead the two sources said Moscow had called up tens of thousands of reservists in the biggest mobilization since Soviet times. Their role would be to secure territory taken by the tactical battalions.
A plane performs a flight during military drills of the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces in Zhytomyr Region, Ukraine November 21, 2021
Tanks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are seen during drills at an unknown location near the border of Russian-annexed Crimea
Moscow dismissed the reports as disinformation designed to cover up Ukraine’s aggressive plans.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said movements of troops inside Russia whoudl worry no one.
Instead he turned the tables, painting Ukraine as the aggressor.
‘The number of provocations has been growing, and those provocations have been conducted using the weapons that NATO countries sent to Ukraine,’ he told reporters on a conference call, according to the Associated Press.
‘We are watching it with a grave concern.’
But U.S. officials say they see a familiar playbook.
‘Our concern is that Russia may make a serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014, when it amassed forces along the border, crossed into sovereign Ukrainian territory and did so claiming falsely that it was provoked,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week.
For its part, Ukraine’s defense ministry announced it had held a military drill of airborne forces close to the capital Kyiv.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia has denied planning to invade Crimea and Kremlin officials insist that Ukraine is the aggressor
‘We continue to have serious concerns about Russian military activities and harsh rhetoric toward Ukraine and call on Moscow to deescalate tensions,’ said Jen Psaki
The drills simulated the landing of airborne troops and armoured personnel carriers for an attack on an enemy target, the ministry said in a statement. It released footage showing the landing of troops, supported by aircraft and helicopters.
Last week, Ukrainian marines conducted drills near the borders of Russian-annexed Crimea.
Ukraine’s new defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said during a trip to Washington last week that Putin was ‘playing chess’ with the West but it remained unclear what his intentions were.
‘We’re not sure exactly what Mr Putin is up to,’ Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, admitted on Wednesday.
Meanwhile Democratic and Republican lawmakers have added amendments to the draft 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that would address Russia’s latest provocations
An amendment proposed by Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, and seen by CNN, called for ‘substantial new sanctions on senior Kremlin officials – including Putin – in the event of a Russian escalation against Ukraine.