New finer details about planning a false flag attack in Ukraine by Russia were among the intelligence operatives discussed in the Situation Room Thursday night at an emergency meeting, US officials confirmed to CBS News.
These details were just part of what two US officials described as a vast mosaic of information accumulating since the fall that led the Biden administration to plan a worst-case scenario for a simultaneous, multi-pronged attack on Ukraine by the Russian military.
the Washington Post It was the first to report, on Friday, that Operation False Flag was among the data points in the new intelligence.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday that the United States is fully convinced that Russia is seriously looking into creating a false operation to justify the invasion, “something they are being born with and trying to blame the Ukrainians for as a motive for the military’s action.” Sullivan said any subsequent offensive would likely begin with “air bombardment and missile attacks” before a “massive force offensive.”
Russian forces are already stationed to send troops across Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus and launch a naval offensive from the Black Sea. Moscow is also able to send troops across Ukraine’s eastern border.
US officials have said that Russia already has intelligence agents on the ground who could create a pretext for an invasion by helping create fake flags.US officials said this could include Russian operatives “who have been trained in urban warfare and in the use of explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russian proxy forces.”
Ground-freezing weather conditions will allow heavy Russian military equipment including tanks to advance more easily. But ground forces are not the only option that Russian President Vladimir Putin could use.
US officials have no evidence that Putin decided to deploy these assets to launch an invasion but they maintain that he is now able to make the decision to execute without warning. On Friday, Politico was the first to report that the United States had intelligence indicating that Russian military leaders had been told to be prepared by February 16.
The cumulative picture of Moscow’s planning on Saturday prompted the United States to withdraw American military advisers, withdraw some embassy staff from Kiev, and move staff to a temporary consular post in Lviv, a city in western Ukraine. Sullivan said Friday that “wisdom calls for” planning — although the United States doesn’t know exactly what will happen.
In private, US and Western officials say it is entirely possible that this was a very dangerous and costly ploy on Putin’s part, but they argue that it is the responsibility of their leaders to assess the risks.
Three Western officials from allied governments have expressed doubts that Putin will take extreme measures such as putting 100,000 soldiers on the march and risking a state-on-state conflict, or preparing to face the occupation of a country that has resisted Russian aggression for the past eight years. However, all three acknowledged that intelligence indicates that the Russian military is certainly planning this option.
Camila Schick contributed reporting.