The Pentagon has announced it's sending 3,000 U.S. troops to Eastern Europe amid the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. 8,500 more are on heightened alert.
The troops are headed to Germany, Poland and Romania on Ukraine's western side. Russia, to the east, is staging more than 100,000 troops near the border. Eight years ago, Russia invaded and annexed the Ukrainian state of Crimea, and some think the whole of Ukraine, which used to be part of the Soviet Union, is next.
Russia President Putin has said it's Russia under threat from Ukraine's growing closeness with the west and its military alliance NATO. The U.S. has refused Putin's demands to promise Ukraine would not be allowed to join NATO. Full Measure reported from Ukraine in 2017 during previous tensions. To find out what's really happening on the ground today, we reached out to Nolan Peterson, a former U.S. Special Operations pilot living in and reporting from Ukraine's capital of Kiev.
The following is a transcript of a report from "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson." Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
As you walk around town, it's hard to take seriously the notion that a major Russian attack or siege is really possible in this European capital, home to some 3-4 million people. By outward appearances, it seems like life is basically going on as normal, but when you ask people how they really feel, they'll generally tell you they're concerned about what may happen, and many people, in fact, have plans to possibly evacuate the city to head to the western part of the country or maybe even abroad should the worst come to pass.
Russia has been massing military hardware and troops on Ukraine's borders for months, and in recent weeks the pace of that build-up has escalated. Recent transfers include multiple launch rocket systems, ballistic missiles, heavy artillery, tanks, communications equipment, combat helicopters, and fighter jets.
The United States government now says Russia has the pieces in place to launch a major attack on short notice.
Gen. Mark Milley: Given the type of forces that are arrayed, the ground maneuver forces, the artillery, the ballistic missiles, the air forces, all of it packaged together, if that was unleashed on Ukraine, it would be significant, very significant.
Although most Ukrainians were initially skeptical about the likelihood of a major Russian offensive this winter, the mood has shifted, and many people believe that a wider war is truly possible.
Here on Ukraine's border with Russia and Belarus, you see the entire frontier is marked by barbed wire, machine-gun pillboxes, and bunkers. It's very calm today, and the mood is basically tranquil, but it's hard not to imagine what may occur here in the coming weeks should all that Russian military hardware and all those troops poised just over the border decide to attack. This place could be the scene, the location, of the opening battle of Europe's largest war since WWII.
Ukraine's military remains locked in a static trench war in the country's eastern Donbas region.
The conflict, which is nearly eight years old, has claimed more than 14-thousand lives but the kind of war we're looking at now could kill that many people in a matter of days. In a worst-case scenario, Russian forces may attack Ukraine from multiple vectors, including a potential encirclement here in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital city.
Today, many civilians are faced with a tough choice; do they leave their homes and possibly become refugees in the dead of winter, or do they stay put and risk being trapped by a Russian siege?
But the mood is far from panic. In fact, the Ukrainian nation is giving the world a masterclass of how a democratic society should act in a moment of crisis. Here in Kyiv, civilian volunteer groups are teaching people combat first aid, how to find the nearest bomb shelter, and what to do during an air raid. Also, civilians are flocking to territorial defense units across the country to defend their hometowns.
Soldier: We show to our neighbors how each citizen of free will must defend his social and national rights.
In short, Ukrainians are not waiting for the government to step in and save them at this difficult time.
Sharyl (on-camera): This week, Russian President Putin said he hopes diplomacy continues, while satellite imagery shows new tents and shelters for Russian troops on Ukraine's border, a sign of an increase level of readiness.
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