FRIDAY PDB (RUSSIA THREAT EDITION) – Putin Plans Nuke Drills Saturday, Ukraine Nearly Surrounded, Russia’s Military ‘Pullback’ Ruse, New UK-Poland-Ukraine Pact, Watching for Russian Pretext to Invade

US State Department

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Russia Threat

Putin to oversee huge nuclear drills amid Ukraine tension. Russia says President Vladimir Putin will personally oversee military drills involving “strategic forces” on Saturday, at a time of soaring tensions at the country’s border with Ukraine.

Russia looks in on Marine carrier deployment in UK. There were more intercept and escort missions against Russian jets operating near the carrier strike group than one Marine brigadier general had seen in his entire career.

Air Force moves F-35s from Utah to Germany as Ukraine faces possible invasion. A dozen F-35A Lightning II fighter jets and 350 airmen from Hill Air Force Base in Utah have arrived in Germany, marking the latest deployment of American aircraft to Europe as tensions mount between Russia and Ukraine.

US announces Abrams tanks for Poland as Russia threat mounts. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Friday the planned sale of 250 Abrams tanks to Poland, as Washington moves to strengthen the defenses of a key eastern European ally amid a mounting threat of war between neighboring Ukraine and Russia.

Ukraine, UK, Poland announce security pact amid heightened tensions. The Ukrainian government announced a new security pact with the U.K. and Poland Feb. 17, as the day’s developments upped the ante yet again in the standoff with Russia.

Moscow presses demands to block Ukraine from NATO. Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists traded accusations of violating a cease-fire as Western officials amplified claims that Russian forces were preparing for a possible attack on Ukraine.

Russia Threat – Ukraine

US, allies watch for Russian attempt to justify Ukraine invasion. Russia announced massive drills of its nuclear forces Friday amid soaring East-West tensions as the U.S. issued some of its starkest, most detailed warnings yet about how a Russian invasion of Ukraine might unfold. Western allies went on high alert for any attempts by the Kremlin to create a false pretext for a new war in Europe.

US intelligence shows Russia’s military pullback was a ruse, officials say. Russian forces have continued to increase near Ukraine’s frontier, officials said, and shelling escalated in eastern Ukraine, adding to increasingly gloomy attitudes in Washington and European capitals that had hoped to forestall war.

Ukraine shelling renews invasion fears as Russia expels U.S. diplomat. Shelling in Ukraine on Thursday renewed Western fears of an imminent Russian invasion as U.S. President Joe Biden said Moscow is preparing a pretext to justify a possible attack and the Kremlin expelled an American diplomat.

PREPPING FOR WAR? East Ukraine shelling escalates, government and pro-Russian rebels say. Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels reported increased shelling in eastern Ukraine for a second straight day on Friday, an escalation that Washington and other Western allies say could form part of a Russian pretext to invade.

US 2nd Cavalry troops deploying to Bulgaria as NATO reinforces Russia’s neighbors. More U.S.-based troops in Germany will head to southeastern Europe in the coming days, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday at the conclusion of two days of talks at NATO headquarters that focused on Russia’s military buildup around Ukraine.

Map of Russian troops positions shows Ukraine nearly surrounded. Russian forces had virtually surrounded Ukraine, with an estimate of more than 130,000 troops, concentrated to the country’s south, east and north.

US gathers Western allies for crisis talks amid spike in cease-fire violations. President Biden will hold talks with other Western leaders Friday about the Ukraine crisis, as 11th-hour efforts to prevent a Russian attack continue against the grim backdrop of widespread shelling in eastern Ukraine and Moscow’s continued troop buildup at the border.

END of PDB

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank. - paulcrespo.substack.com - PAULCRESPO.COM

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