Reported Russian Troop Buildup Raises Invasion Fears

NATO says Russia has moved 20,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. What's Vladimir Putin trying to do?

Reported Russian Troop Buildup Raises Invasion Fears
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Russia has increased the number of troops on its side of the Ukrainian border by the thousands in a bid to ... well, nobody seems too sure — but there's one thing many are afraid of.

"I think that within the next two months we could possibly see a Russian invasion of Ukraine." (Via CNN)

The New York Times reports, in the past few weeks, "Russia has built up 17 battalions — totaling 19,000 to 21,000 troops, according to one Western estimate — into a battle-ready force of infantry, armor, artillery and air defense within a few miles of the border."

And that has prompted a statement from Ukrainian neighbor Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who warned of a possible invasion. (Via Kancelaria Premiera

Quoted in The Guardian, Tusk said, "We have reasons to suspect ... that the risk of a direct intervention is higher than it was several days ago." 

That has yet again raised the question of what Putin's endgame in Ukraine is. What is he trying to get out of it? 

​Well, The New Republic's Julia Ioffe posited that — through sanctions from the West — Putin has been cornered. "He may very well lash out if the West demands he come out of that corner with his tail between his legs. This causes him to dig in his heels and resist at all costs, or to lash out." 

Ioffe also argued that because Putin has whipped the Russian people into a frenzy, he doesn't really have room to back down without hurting his popularity. 

"His ratings haven't been so high since he went to war with another former pro-Western nation: Georgia in 2008."

That war started when Russian-backed separatists in South Ossetia came into conflict with Georgian military forces, which prompted Russian military involvement. Sound familiar? (Via CBS)

The war ended with an agreement between the two countries to cease hostilities, but it also ended with Russian military bases in previously unoccupied territories — a move Secretary of State John Kerry has officially condemned. (Via C-SPAN / RT)

And it's worth noting Russia has had military operatives in Ukraine as recently as this past spring, when Putin admitted Russian forces had helped separatists in Crimea as part of the region's annexation. (Via NBC)  

Russia's bolstering of its troop numbers along the borders coincides with the Ukrainian military making inroads in its fight against separatist rebels in the east. 

As The Washington Post reports, Ukrainian forces appear to be preparing a large-scale assault on the rebel-held cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. "The military has almost encircled the two large cities, where rebels have declared 'people's republics.'”

According to multiple outlets, NATO warned Wednesday Russia might try to move troops into the country under the pretense of a peace-keeping mission.