Russia does not need to invade Ukraine to take over eastern parts of the country, NATO’s top military commander said Friday.
Instead, Russian President Vladimir Putin may be able to annex pieces of Ukraine simply by encouraging unrest among pro-Russian forces inside the country, said Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, who commands U.S. and European NATO forces.
“As little as a week and a half, two weeks ago, I would have put military incursion as the most likely outcome,” Breedlove told National Journal. “Now, I don’t take that option off the table — [Putin] can still use it, his force is imminently prepared to do that — but he may be able to accomplish his objectives with simply the unrest his forces are causing in eastern Ukraine right now.”
Russia has tens of thousands of troops stationed along the border under the auspices of a military exercise. Ukraine has accused its neighbor of infiltrating with gunmen masquerading as local militants to seize buildings and territory in eastern Ukraine.
While Russia denies this, Breedlove agrees the unrest in Ukraine is “absolutely orchestrated and empowered by Russia.” If Putin continues to succeed in fomenting unrest, and “distrust in the Kiev government,” Breedlove said, “Putin “¦ may never now have to come across the border with the larger land elements.”
What’s happening now in eastern Ukraine looks eerily familiar to what happened in Crimea. National Journal‘s Marina Koren details Russia’s emerging playbook for annexing another country’s territory. Unmarked troops once flooded into Crimea just as they are seizing parts of eastern Ukraine now. At first, there were only suspicions, not official confirmation, that they were backed by Moscow. Only after Crimea was annexed did Putin own up to sending troops to occupy and annex the territory.
What We're Following See More »
Senator John McCain paid a secret visit to Northern Syria over the weekend during his trip abroad. McCain reportedly went "to speak with American officials and Kurdish fighters leading the charge to push ISIS militants out of Raqqa, the jihadist group’s stronghold." The trip was organized with the help of U.S. military.
"The Trump administration will deliver its first budget to Congress in mid-March, and the president confirmed Wednesday it will contain major cuts for federal agencies." The blueprint, expected to be released in mid-March, will not include the kinds of specifics usually seen in White House budgets, but rather will instruct the heads of agencies to "do more with less."
Congress will need to vote on Donald Trump's pick of Lt. General H.R. McMaster to be his next national security adviser, but not for the reason you think. The position of NSA doesn't require Senate approval, but since McMaster currently holds a three-star military position, Congress will need to vote to allow him to keep his position instead of forcing him to drop one star and become a Major General, which could potentially affect his pension.
"The Senate Intelligence Committee is seeking to ensure that records related to Russia’s alleged intervention in the 2016 U.S. elections are preserved as it begins investigating that country’s ties to the Trump team. The panel sent more than a dozen letters to 'organizations, agencies and officials' on Friday, asking them to preserve materials related to the congressional investigation, according to a Senate aide, who was not authorized to comment publicly. The Senate Intelligence Committee is spearheading the most comprehensive probe on Capitol Hill of Russia’s alleged activities in the elections."