NATO: Satellite photos show Russia mobilizing on Ukraine border

posted at 10:01 am on April 11, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, NATO released commercial-satellite images to confirm what they had long claimed and what Russia has repeatedly denied — that Moscow has mobilized tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine. Russia has insisted that they do not plan to invade eastern Ukraine and that the troop movements are part of normal exercises. NATO published the photos to rebut that explanation:

NATO released satellite photographs on Thursday showing Russian military equipment, including fighter jets and tanks, that it described as part of a deployment of as many as 40,000 troops near the border with Ukraine. The release came the same day that President Vladimir V. Putin reiterated a threat to curtail gas sales to Ukraine.

The photographs, taken by a commercial satellite imaging company called DigitalGlobe, offered some of the first documentary evidence of a military buildup that the West says Russia could use to invade Ukraine at any moment. They were released at a news conference in Belgium by Brig. Gary Deakin, the director of NATO’s Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Center.

The Kremlin has accused the West of exaggerating Russia’s military presence along the Ukrainian border and has insisted that it has no plans for a second military incursion after its lightning-quick occupation andannexation of Crimea. Still, Russia has warned that it may take military action to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine if they are threatened. …

At the news conference on Thursday, Brigadier Deakin said the photographs showed a menacing force.

“The Russians have an array of capabilities, including aircraft, helicopters, special forces, tanks, artillery, infantry fighting vehicles,” Brigadier Deakin said, according to a NATO news release. “These could move in a matter of hours.”

Sergei Lavrov had earlier warned NATO not to move its forces into proximity of Russian borders, which the Russian foreign minister claimed would violate the NATO-Russian accords on Western troop movements. He accused the West of being “Russophobic”:

NATO placing military forces near Russian borders will be in violation of NATO’s international obligations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Interfax. “The fact that NATO members [East European NATO members] are now being forced, most likely under pressure, to place troops near Russia, is a violation of the basic act of Vienna declaration principles,” Lavrov said.

Russophobic moods start prevailing in NATO over aspiration to ensure security of Euro-Atlantic region, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Interfax.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov believes Eastern European countries are provoking anti-Russian tendencies in NATO. “It looks like panic, which some Eastern European countries, which did not stop talking about imagined threats from Russia after entering NATO, are trying to artificially fan,” Lavrov told Interfax on Thursday, commenting on the statements made by NATO military officials calling for the reinforcement of military forces in Europe due to “the Russian threat.”

The minister said NATO officials once convinced Russia that the Eastern European countries would “calm down” about the imagined threats from Moscow after they entered NATO.

“However, they have not calmed down, they have begun doing everything – by the way, with evident encouragement from Washington – to not just calm down in NATO, but conduct the music in NATO and use the rules of solidarity and consensus accepted in NATO and the EU to minimize cooperation between NATO and Russia.

“It’s sad,” Lavrov said.

However, Lavrov signaled that Moscow may have had enough of this fight. All Russia wants, Lavrov wants, is a guarantee of Ukrainian neutrality and an end to NATO efforts to woo Kyiv into the alliance:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Friday for legal guarantees of Ukraine’s neutrality, underlining Moscow’s determination to keep the neighboring former Soviet republic out of NATO.

Lavrov said Moscow was ready for four-party talks next week with the United States, the European Union and representatives of Ukraine and suggested Ukraine’s gas debt to Moscow should be on the agenda, Russia news agencies reported.

But he suggested Moscow would try to use such talks to shape Ukraine’s future and keep it from moving too close to Europe and the United States under the pro-Western leadership in power following the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich.

“Firm guarantees of the preservation of Ukraine’s non-aligned status law, are needed,” Lavrov said at a meeting with Russian non-governmental organizations, adding that the guarantees should be “enshrined in law”.

That may disappoint pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, who seized government buildings in hopes of a Russian intervention:

It might disappoint pro-Russian separatists in Transnistria in Moldova, too:

The new government in Kyiv also signaled a willingness to talk about an expanded view of federalism for the provinces in the east:

Ukraine’s prime minister on Friday told leaders in the country’s restive east that he is committed to allowing regions to have more powers, but left it unclear how his ideas differed from the demands of protesters now occupying government buildings or Russia’s advocacy of federalization.

The officials whom Arseniy Yatsenyuk met in Donetsk did not include representatives of the protesters. The officials asked Yatsenyuk to allow referenda on autonomy for their regions, not on secession.

“There are no separatists among us,” said Gennady Kernes, mayor of the Kharkiv region where protesters had occupied a government building earlier in the week.

If all sides are willing to compromise, there is room for an exit strategy from the crisis. Russia will drive a hard bargain in these talks to be sure, with its threats to cut off natural-gas supplies from Ukraine and a demand to have them pay what Moscow says is an overdue bill for gas already delivered. But Russia may be seeing — finally — that an aggressive move on eastern Ukraine will carry unpleasant security consequences for them in the Baltics and perhaps in the Black Sea, too. NATO will have to give up making Ukraine part of a Western defense network (and Georgia as well, in all likelihood), but that was unrealistic anyway as long as Russia’s economy allows them weight in this region.

However, even with a relatively cost-free resolution in the offing, the scales should have fallen now from Western eyes about the nature of Vladimir Putin and his ambitions for a new Russian empire. It should be a long, long time before anyone offers Lavrov or Putin another “reset button.”


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Obama is busy drawing red lines around the Bundy Ranch

Roy Rogers on April 11, 2014 at 10:04 AM

I’m so thankful we have a capable commander-in-chief with his finger on the overcharge button.

locomotivebreath1901 on April 11, 2014 at 10:06 AM

that Moscow has mobilized tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine.

And here in America….?

Obama is busy drawing red lines around the Bundy Ranch

Roy Rogers on April 11, 2014 at 10:04 AM

Ooops…I see I was too late..:)

Electrongod on April 11, 2014 at 10:07 AM

And not a word from HA about the mobilization going on in Nevada to drive a rancher off his land.

Jackson on April 11, 2014 at 10:12 AM

There are plans and then there are plans. I believe Putin has no plans as in it’s not a foregone conclusion that he’s sending in troops. But like any smart leader, he has plans for different scenarios. And all of his preferred scenarios involve Ukraine moving further under Moscow’s thumb.

Fenris on April 11, 2014 at 10:13 AM

”It looks like panic, which some Eastern European countries, which did not stop talking about imagined threats from Russia after entering NATO, are trying to artificially fan,” Lavrov told Interfax on Thursday, commenting on the statements made by NATO military officials calling for the reinforcement of military forces in Europe due to “the Russian threat.”

Damn, these guys are good! Playing on the natural resentment that Western Europe has against Eastern (recall the Polish Plumber Problem), it’s a subtle reminder to Brussels, London, Paris and Berlin: “Do you really want all this trouble over a bunch of Easterners? And they were making up all of this stuff in the first place. The bear is your friend, tovarich.”

Hey, can we get an over/under pool going on what date Russian forces enter Kiev? I’ll take June 15. Don’t know what effect the rasputitsa has on today’s Russian military, but I’ll still give the ground a few months to dry out.

dreadnought62 on April 11, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Obama is busy drawing red lines around the Bundy Ranch
Roy Rogers on April 11, 2014 at 10:04 AM

Could get ugly real fast.

And not a word from HA about the mobilization going on in Nevada to drive a rancher off his land. Jackson on April 11, 2014 at 10:12 AM

When Ed says Ukraine, let’s pretend he means Bundy, and when he says Putin, let’s pretend he means 0b00ba.

Akzed on April 11, 2014 at 10:26 AM

It worked for Hitler

Roy Rogers on April 11, 2014 at 10:27 AM

Obama is busy drawing red lines around the Bundy Ranch

Roy Rogers on April 11, 2014 at 10:04 AM

How true…

PatriotRider on April 11, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Let Russia waste its money.

mankai on April 11, 2014 at 10:31 AM

Good thing NATO is using that commercial satellite stuff, now Putin knows exactly where his troops are on the border. NATO itself is preparing it’s surrender documents, just in case Putin decides to invade Ukraine territory.

dockywocky on April 11, 2014 at 10:37 AM

You know, if I were Eastern Europe, I’d think hard about sacrificing Ukraine; diplomatically speaking–try and draw it out as long as possible, of course.

All the while jacking my military budget through the ceiling. I’ve seen reports of Finland and Sweden trying to increase their budgets and military readiness–of course, maybe Russia doesn’t want to tangle with Finland again. It’s not like the Russians have rolled over Finland before; very easily I mean.

As for Poland: I’d have strong ambitions about becoming the most powerful military in Europe right about now. After all, with Obama in charge, everyone knows Putin only would be worrying about Polish troops.

Hopefully Romanian troops would be more motivated than they were around Stalingrad.

Vanceone on April 11, 2014 at 10:41 AM

dockywocky on April 11, 2014 at 10:37 AM

The French are lending NATO all their “Battle Flags”

The Chargé d’Affaires at the Hotel Le Meurice in Paris is not a happy camper.

Roy Rogers on April 11, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Mankai has a point. It is not on the cheap that Russia has mobilized vast forces on the Ukrainian border. At some point there must a sense of diminishing returns, unless Pootin decides to go in sooner, rather than later. NATO must keep up the pressure while The One shoots them golfs and plays ‘tough’ with Nevada, the more obvious enemy of the State.

vnvet on April 11, 2014 at 10:47 AM

However, even with a relatively cost-free resolution in the offing, the scales should have fallen now from Western eyes about the nature of Vladimir Putin and his ambitions for a new Russian empire. It should be a long, long time before anyone offers Lavrov or Putin another “reset button.”

Ed you analysis is nearly always insightful and spot on however it is also equaled by the level of nativity you demonstrate about liberals in general and liberal governments specifically when it comes to international politics.

This admin and Europe has learned nothing and will repeat these mistakes over again.

Skwor on April 11, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Hey, can we get an over/under pool going on what date Russian forces enter Kiev? I’ll take June 15. Don’t know what effect the rasputitsa has on today’s Russian military, but I’ll still give the ground a few months to dry out.

dreadnought62 on April 11, 2014 at 10:21 AM

After the crops are planted. Why should the Russians pass on the opportunity to harvest someone elses investment? Alternatively, they could wait until it is harvested and then seize it like Stalin did in the 30′s and then allowed millions of Ukrainians to starve. Food is very sellable to China and if Ukrainians starve, what does Putin care? But I doubt he will want to leave troops idle on the border for too long; so I am guessing he moves in June and stops at the major river that divides the country to see what the reaction is before deciding whether to move further.

KW64 on April 11, 2014 at 10:59 AM

I wonder if dingy dirty lying hairy reid wants more of that land for his donors? They already moved the protected area over so his buddies could take some of the protected land. Is anyone investigating how much money he got for that little deal?

Bambi on April 11, 2014 at 10:59 AM

I guess I was still thinking bout the stand off in Nevada. Sorry.

Bambi on April 11, 2014 at 11:00 AM

The French are lending NATO all their “Battle Flags”

The Chargé d’Affaires at the Hotel Le Meurice in Paris is not a happy camper.

Roy Rogers on April 11, 2014 at 10:44 AM

I see what you did there.

dreadnought62 on April 11, 2014 at 11:04 AM

John Kerry readying another speech on climate change.

Marxism is for dummies on April 11, 2014 at 11:04 AM

dreadnought62 on April 11, 2014 at 11:04 AM

Chargez!

Roy Rogers on April 11, 2014 at 11:07 AM

Wouldn’t a plan, put into effect, be an operation, rather than a plan?

Words.

OldEnglish on April 11, 2014 at 11:20 AM

But I doubt he will want to leave troops idle on the border for too long; so I am guessing he moves in June and stops at the major river that divides the country to see what the reaction is before deciding whether to move further.

KW64 on April 11, 2014 at 10:59 AM

That’s why I chose mid-June as well, the traditional invasion month in that part of the world. And I am not the sort to go monkeying with tradition! The other interesting thing about advancing to the Dnieper is that all the industry and mineral resources are apparently east of the river; west is agriculture. The Dnieper is a good defensive line, and, as you pointed out, a natural point to pause and take stock of US/NATO reaction.

In situations like these, I always like the quote from Braveheart: “Well, we didn’t dressed up for nothin’.”

dreadnought62 on April 11, 2014 at 11:43 AM

My solution is very simple

Change to an older camera, take the same exact camera shots, stream as you take the shots to CNN, Fox News, ABC, BBC, and others, and have a live commentator talking about what is being seeing as the shots go.

Sometimes split screen to cover important spots, use a table to go over the imagery and allow an analyst to circle, dot, or otherwise note the satellite shot.

This would end any propaganda value from Russia in an instant. It would lay bare to the world the truth.

OregonPolitician on April 11, 2014 at 12:43 PM

The problem is Putin.
If Putin was not in office everything would stop.

albill on April 11, 2014 at 3:23 PM