US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was "a real risk, and it's a high risk" when last asked about the likelihood of a Russian attack on Ukraine.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said something similar: There is "a real risk of an armed conflict in Europe".

The American President went furthest when he suggested that Putin "will go in" to Ukraine.

Joe Biden said, "He has to do something."

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

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Adding to these already alarming statements was more worrying news over the weekend. This is how the evacuation of the American embassy in Kiev is to be prepared; it could start next week. The British Foreign Office reported on Russian plans for a coup in Kiev to install a Moscow-dependent leader. Meanwhile, troop movements towards Ukraine continued unabated. More and more combat units and heavy equipment, which have been transferred from Russia's eastern military district, are arriving in Belarus. Among them are skills needed for an invasion. Officially, the troops are to hold joint maneuvers with the Belarusian armed forces. By sea, six Russian warships are en route for landing operations;they could go to the Mediterranean in the new week and from there to the Black Sea.

200,000 forces for an invasion?

To be clear, no Western intelligence service has yet come to the conclusion that the Russian President has ordered an attack on Ukraine, including the American services.

However, the situation has deteriorated in recent weeks.

A senior Western intelligence official speaks of a "rather dramatic picture in terms of the size, scale and nature of the capabilities" that Russia is massing on its borders with Ukraine.

If there is a major attack on Ukraine, it will be "the largest battle in Europe since the end of the Second World War".

"And it will probably be as brutal as those battles."

Of course, Russia has not yet positioned the forces that would be necessary for a full-scale invasion. The secret service agent, who cannot be identified, puts the number of soldiers who are already ready for action at 106,000, only combat troops from the army. This coincides with the latest Ukrainian information; including the Navy and Air Force, the number is 127,000. This does not include the approximately 35,000 separatists in Donbass. Military planners reckon that Russia would increase its forces to about 200,000 troops before launching a full-scale invasion - the size of Ukraine's army. How long would such growth take? "Maybe two or three weeks," says the secret service agent. "That brings us to mid-February."

However, Russia is already able to carry out geographically limited attacks.

"You could just do it like this," says the man, snapping his fingers, "with little or no warning." As a possible scenario, he names a conquest of the coastal strip from Mariupol to Crimea - the so-called "land bridge" to the 2014 annexed Peninsula.

Or even further west, via Odessa, to Transnistria, which already belongs to the Russian sphere of influence.

In this case, Ukraine would lose all access to the sea.

"You could do that today.

It would be even easier when the DropShips arrive in the Black Sea.” The six ships could carry hundreds of main battle tanks and thousands of marines;

their destination is not yet known.

Russian troops are moving closer to the border

Such operations are possible because Russia has brought more and more "strategic enablers" into position, which are absolutely necessary for this.

In the first phase until the end of November, these were primarily artillery, rocket and engineer units as well as electronic warfare capabilities.

"Since the end of December, Russia has also brought stocks of ammunition, field hospitals and military police to the border," says the secret service agent.

The military police in particular are of decisive importance for an occupation.

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