Photos Don’t Lie: Russia Is Building Up Its Military Presence Along Ukraine’s Border

And NATO officials are worried.

April 10, 2014, 10:23 a.m.

There has been no evid­ence in re­cent weeks that Rus­sia plans to with­draw its troops from the bor­der of Ukraine. But there is evid­ence—pho­to­graph­ic proof—of its grow­ing pres­ence in the re­gion.

The North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­iz­a­tion is us­ing satel­lite im­agery to keep tabs on Rus­si­an mil­it­ary move­ment in sev­er­al cit­ies near east­ern Ukraine. The Su­preme Headquar­ters Al­lied Powers Europe, the cent­ral com­mand of NATO mil­it­ary forces, re­leased on Thursday a batch of pho­tos cap­tured late last month that sug­gest Rus­sia has slowly amassed 35,000 to 40,000 troops there.

“The Rus­si­ans have an ar­ray of cap­ab­il­it­ies in­clud­ing air­craft, heli­copters, spe­cial forces, tanks, ar­til­lery, in­fantry fight­ing vehicles … and these could move in a mat­ter of hours,” said Brig. Gen. Gary Deakin, the dir­ect­or of the Com­pre­hens­ive Crisis Op­er­a­tions and Man­age­ment Cen­ter at SHAPE. “These forces have a destabil­iz­ing ef­fect and present ser­i­ous im­plic­a­tions for the se­cur­ity and sta­bil­ity of the re­gion.”

Of­fi­cials say that while Rus­si­an units are build­ing up in the re­gion, they’re not con­duct­ing any mil­it­ary ex­er­cises. That lack of activ­ity is what’s troub­ling.

“I would char­ac­ter­ize it as a com­bined-arms army,” said Gen. Philip Breed­love of SHAPE. “It has all of the pro­vi­sion­ing and en­abling that it needs to ac­com­plish mil­it­ary ob­ject­ives if giv­en them.”

The Rus­si­ans, NATO of­fi­cials worry, may be wait­ing. The mil­it­ary al­li­ance, of which Ukraine is not a mem­ber, an­nounced last week it would boost mil­it­ary sup­port in the sur­round­ing re­gion, in­clud­ing the Balt­ics.

Dur­ing its takeover of Crimea, a pen­in­sula of Ukraine, Mo­scow denied send­ing Rus­si­an troops there. When it comes to the Rus­si­an pres­ence along the bor­der of Ukraine, however, pho­tos don’t lie.