Under strict conditions, the officials discussed internal assessments of Russia's buildup and drew up a list of indicators that suggested Putin is planning an invasion within the next few weeks. However, the scale and size of this invasion are not yet known. They said that diplomatic solutions are still possible.
An exercise of Russia's nuclear strategic forces, which is usually held every fall, was rescheduled to take place from mid-February through March. This coincides with the window that U.S. officials consider most likely to allow an invasion. Officials did not suggest that there would be a conflict. However, the Russian exercise, which likely involved the testing of long-range unarmed missiles on Russian territory, could be used to deter the West from intervening.
In recent weeks, U.S. officials stated that a Russian invasion could quickly overwhelm Ukraine's military. However, Moscow may find it difficult to maintain an occupation and deal with a possible insurgency.
As the Biden administration continues to disclose intelligence, it hopes to prevent Russian disinformation from being spread and block Putin's plans to create a pretext for invasion. It has been criticized for failing to provide evidence to support many of its claims.
The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Saturday that officials warned of a possible Russian invasion. This could result in the rapid capture of Kyiv, potentially resulting in up to 50,000 casualties. According to The Associated Press, a U.S. official confirmed this estimate. It's unclear how the U.S. agencies arrived at these numbers. Furthermore, any projections about the course of an invasion and the human costs it will cause are inherently uncertain due to the volatility of war.
Joe Biden, President of the United States, has stated that he won't send troops to Ukraine to wage war. To reassure NATO allies, he has ordered additional forces to Poland and Romania, including combat troops and headquarters personnel, in order to fulfill his treaty obligation to strike back at Russian aggression on NATO territory. Ukraine is not a NATO country, but it receives U.S. military support and training.
Officials from the Army announced Saturday that Major General Christopher Donahue has arrived in Poland as the commanding general for the 82nd Airborne Division. Another 1,700 soldiers of the 82nd Airborne will be deployed to Poland from Fort Bragg in North Carolina. 300 soldiers will also be deploying from Bragg into Germany. Additionally, 1,000 soldiers from Germany are moving to Romania.
There is growing concern in Eastern Europe about Russia's buildup and much of the attention now turns to its deployment of thousands of troops into Belarus. Belarus shares a border with Ukraine, but also with three NATO countries -- Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. A U.S. official stated Saturday that the Biden administration could soon shift more troops to NATO's eastern flank. He did not specify which countries.
Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, said last week that Putin could use any part of the force he's assembled at Ukraine's border to seize Ukrainian cities or "significant territories" and to perform "coercive actions or provocative acts" such as the recognition of separatist territories within Ukraine.
Other U.S. officials have provided more detail about Russia's ongoing force buildup, U.S. assessments on war prospects, and the U.S. view on Putin's response to the crisis.
Officials reiterated what Biden administration officials had been saying for several weeks: that they don’t believe Putin made the final decision to invade Ukraine. It is possible that Putin has already made his plans and is waiting for the right moment to approve an invasion.
Officials have drawn out the Russian forces deployed towards Ukraine's borders in the last few months. This creates what Western officials perceive as the threat to a full-scale invasion, despite repeated statements by senior Russian officials that they don't intend to attack unprovoked.
According to officials, the Russian army had placed near Ukraine a total 83 "battalion tac groups," which are roughly equal in size to an American battalion with between 750-1,000 soldiers. They said that this is an increase on the 60 battalion tac groups they had just placed two weeks ago.
According to officials, 14 additional battalion tactical units are currently on their way from other regions of Russia to the border area. Two officials stated that the U.S. believes Russia needs between 110 and 130 tactical units for a full-scale invasion. However, Putin may opt to make a smaller incursion. Russia could be looking to put 150,000 troops on the ground for a full-scale invasion if it includes support units, one official stated, adding that this level of buildup could increase in the coming weeks.
The ultimate goal of Putin could mean that the Russian forces could move south from their current positions in South Belarus to attack Kyiv. Officials said that Putin could also send troops across the Russian border to Ukraine's eastern and southern borders if he wants to destroy large portions of the Ukrainian army.
Officials have indicated that Putin could order cyberattacks, sabotage and other destabilizing activities inside Ukraine to remove the current government.