The New York Times correspondents Michael R. Gordon and EricSchmitt write about it, Censor.NET reports, citing the New YorkTimes article.
Over the past several weeks, Russia has built up 17 battalions -totaling 19,000 to 21,000 troops, according to one Western estimate- into a battle-ready force of infantry, armor, artillery and airdefense within a few miles of the border. In addition, it hasvastly expanded its firepower, increasing the number of advancedsurface-to-air missile units to 14 from eight, and deploying morethan 30 artillery batteries, according to the officials.
American intelligence experts say that the advance byUkrainian government forces on Donetsk and other steps that theUkrainian government is taking to regain territory in the east fromthe separatists might prompt Mr. Putin to send his forces acrossthe border under the guise of a "peacekeeping operation."
"That's a very real option," a senior DefenseDepartment official said on Monday. "And should Putin decide, hecould do that with little or no notice. We just don't know whathe's thinking."
Wesley K. Clark, the retired general and former NATO commander,said that Mr. Putin had put the pieces in place for a majormilitary intervention by massing Russia forces near the border,arming separatist groups, infiltrating operatives, conductingexercises to practice the military's ability to coordinate fire andsupporting the self-proclaimed mayor of Luhansk, who has called forthe Russian military to come to the separatists' aid.
"He has set the military and political conditions forwhat he believes could be a successful intervention," General Clarksaid. "But he still doesn't seem to have made the politicaldecision to do this, perhaps because he recognizes that the risksafter an intervention are incalculable."
Several American officials confirmed that Russianarmored vehicles and trucks with the peacekeeping insignia had beenseen on Russian territory near Ukraine. But these officials saidthat Western intelligence had no independent confirmation that theyhad crossed into Ukraine.
"We've seen a significant rebuild up of Russian forces along theborder, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarianor peacekeeping intervention in Ukraine," Antony J. Blinken, thedeputy national security adviser to Mr. Obama, said last week whenthe White House announced new sanctions. "So there's urgency toarresting this."