Top US Diplomat Lays Out Play-by-Play on How Russia Will Invade Ukraine

  • Blinken explained in an address to the UNSC how the US believes a Russian invasion of Ukraine will unfold.
  • Russia will create a pretext for an attack before convening theatrical meetings on how to address the “so-called crisis,” the senior diplomat said.
  • “Next, the attack is planned to begin,” Blinken said. “Russian missiles and bombs will drop across Ukraine.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a stark warning on Thursday on the potential for a Russian invasion of Ukraine and outlined how the US believes Russia may execute an attack.

In an address to the United Nations Security Council, Blinken threw cold water on Russia’s claim this week that it was withdrawing some forces from Ukraine’s border.

“We do not see that happening on the ground,” he said. “Our information clearly indicates that these forces – including ground troops, aircraft, ships – are preparing to launch an attack against Ukraine in the coming days.”

The top US diplomat said he couldn’t say “precisely” how a Russian attack would unfold but suggested it would be rolled out in several phases.

Russian servicemen from the units of the 150th Motor Rifle Division of the Southern Military District take part in exercises on the training grounds in the Rostov Region, Russia, on January 28, 2022

Russian servicemen from the units of the 150th Motor Rifle Division of the Southern Military District take part in exercises on the training grounds in the Rostov Region, Russia, on January 28, 2022.

Russian Defense Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


Moving from a ‘manufactured provocation’ to ‘missiles and bombs’

  • “First, Russia plans to manufacture a pretext for its attack,” the secretary of state said.
    • He said this could be a “violent event” Russia blames on Ukraine or an “outrageous accusation” Russia levels against Kyiv.
    • “We don’t know exactly the form it will take,” Blinken added.
    • “It could be a fabricated so-called ‘terrorist’ bombing inside Russia, the invented discovery of a mass grave, a staged drone strike against civilians, or a fake – even a real – attack using chemical weapons,” he said. “Russia may describe this event as ethnic cleansing or a genocide, making a mockery of a concept that we in this chamber do not take lightly, nor do I do take lightly based on my family history.”
    • Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin baselessly suggested “genocide” was occurring against ethnic Russians in the Donbas region, where Russia has been fueling a war against Ukrainian forces since 2014.
    • “In the past few days, Russian media has already begun to spread some of these false alarms and claims, to maximize public outrage, to lay the groundwork for an invented justification for war. Today, that drumbeat has only intensified in Russia’s state-controlled media,” Blinken said.
    • Pro-Russian rebels in the Donbas shelled Ukrainian territory on Thursday, hitting a school and injuring several people. The rebels accused Ukrainian forces of firing on the territory held by the Moscow-backed separatists. Kyiv has denied these allegations.
    • Russian officials have also alleged that mass graves have been found in the Donbas, which the US has dismissed as a fabrication.
  • Blinken said that after a “manufactured provocation, the second step would likely involve “the highest levels” of Russia’s government “theatrically” convening “emergency meetings to address the so-called crisis.”
    • Moscow “will issue proclamations declaring that Russia must respond to defend Russian citizens or ethnic Russians in Ukraine,” Blinken said.
    • In 2014, Putin justified Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine — including the annexation of Crimea — by claiming that ethnic Russians were being threatened. The US fervently rejected these claims at the time.
  • “Next, the attack is planned to begin,” Blinken said. “Russian missiles and bombs will drop across Ukraine. Communications will be jammed. Cyberattacks will shut down key Ukrainian institutions.”
    • After the initial stages of the attack, Blinken said that Russian tanks and soldiers would advance on “key targets that have already been identified and mapped out in detailed plans.”
    • Blinken added that “conventional attacks” are not all that Russia is planning, explaining that “we have information that indicates Russia will target specific groups of Ukrainians.” He did not elaborate further.

A view shows Russian T-72B3 main battle tanks during combat exercises at the Kadamovsky range in the southern Rostov region, Russia January 12, 2022.

A view shows Russian T-72B3 main battle tanks during combat exercises at the Kadamovsky range in the southern Rostov region, Russia January 12, 2022.

REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov


Blinken said that he hoped by laying out Moscow’s playbook for an invasion he could “influence Russia to abandon the path of war and choose a different path while there’s still time.”

Russia has claimed it doesn’t plan to invade and accused the US of generating hysteria.

Addressing this in his speech on Thursday, Blinken said that if Russia doesn’t invade, then the US will be relieved Moscow “changed course and proved our predictions wrong.”

“That would be a far better outcome than the course we’re currently on,” Blinken added. “And we will gladly accept any criticism that anyone directs at us.”

In a nod to the false intelligence on weapons of mass destruction that the US leaned on to justify the controversial and disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, Blinken also said, “I am mindful that some have called into question our information, recalling previous instances where intelligence ultimately did not bear out. But let me be clear: I am here today, not to start a war, but to prevent one.”

Blinken concluded by calling on Russia to unequivocally state that it will not invade Ukraine and pull all troops and military equipment away from the border.

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