White House: Russia Stepping Up Disinformation In Possible Invasion Prelude

U.S. sees rising likelihood of Russian military action against Ukraine, promises strong response.

Moscow has “stepped up efforts” to portray Ukraine and the United States as the instigator of increased tensions that include a massive buildup of Russian forces along the Ukrainian border, a senior White House official told reporters on Thursday.

That came hours after Russian leader Vladimir Putin told reporters that U.S. actions, particularly its financial and military support of Ukraine, were to blame for the rising standoff.

“How would the Americans react if on their frontier with Canada we deployed our missiles,” Putin said. …“It’s a question of security and you know our red lines.”

The White House official said, “To be clear, we see no evidence of that escalation on the Ukrainian side. And we have tried to be very clear to partners and allies that this is a Russian disinformation effort that’s underway. It’s not unexpected; it fits a standard playbook.”

Russia has positioned some 120,000 troops on the border of Ukraine and on the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula. From March until May, Russia staged a major exercise that some saw as a sort of dress rehearsal for a wider invasion, using techniques, such as smoke operations, commonly used to conceal offensive maneuvering. The White House has been meeting with both the Russian government and allies to negotiate a way out of the escalated tensions.

“It’s clear to us that if Russia goes ahead with what may be underway, we and our allies are prepared to impose severe costs that would damage Russia’s economy and bring about exactly what it says it does not want: more NATO capabilities, not less; closer to Russia, not further away,” said the official.

The remarks come on the heels of reports by The Times (of London) and the New York Times that the U.S. government has sent experts to Ukraine to help the country defend itself against a major attack.

Russia used extensive cyber operations in the weeks leading up to the 2014 invasion to destabilize the government response. (There have been numerous Russian attacks on Ukraine from Russian sources since then as well.)

The White House officials said the United States is prepared to take several steps in the event of wider Russian aggression against Ukraine, “including massive sanctions, support for Ukraine’s ability to defend its territory, and force posture adjustments in frontline NATO-Allied states.”

The official declined to say what force posture adjustments those might be.


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