Things are moving fast as the situation in Ukraine becomes increasingly less stable. Here’s the big picture to help make sense of what’s happening:
– In Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv – all Russian-speaking cities in eastern Ukraine – Russian-loyalist protesters have taken over government buildings, demanding Russian intervention and aid. All three cities lie in a path that could connect Crimea and Russia if Russian troops move across the Ukraine border.
– Poland, already the beneficiary of a fresh U.S. squadron of F16’s, seeks more NATO help as they worry about Russian forces near Ukraine. Polands Prime Minister has said he would be satisfied with two heavy combat brigades (about 4,000 troops with tanks and artillery).
– NATO announced plans to deliver a “reassurance package” for eastern European members worried about Russia’s nearby forces. General Breedlove, NATO Supreme Commander, is scheduled to deliver the plan on April 15.
– Russian troops remain massed in a high state of readiness at the Ukraine border, Troop strength is estimated to be between 40,000 (U.S. estimates) and 88,000 (Ukraine estimates). The troops are remarkably disciplined and well-equipped with modern equipment.
– U.S. military intelligence is facing withering criticism for failures to predict, measure and track Russian troop movements.
Ukraine, meanwhile, would be hard pressed to mount an effective defense against far superior Russian forces. NATO’s top commander General Breedlove estimates that Russia could achieve its objectives in 3 to 5 days.