Raised military action will likely continue with Russia and Ukraine over the short term. As of January 14th, over 100,000 additional Russian troops remain deployed in regions bordering or near Ukraine following a series of international meetings to discuss the situation. Russian government officials met with their US government counterparts in Geneva January 9-10th, NATO officials in Brussels on January 12, and attended an OSCE meeting in Vienna on Jan. 13. Russia is demanding security guarantees from the US and NATO that would limit NATO deployments in Eastern Europe and prohibit the expansion of NATO into former Soviet states, such as Ukraine. Neither Russia nor Western nations made any major concessions during the round of talks.
The belief of Russian military action with Ukraine remains low in the wake of the talks, an escalation in tensions on the shared border, as well as an uptick in violent incidents in the Donbas conflict, are possible. Maritime incidents in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are also increasingly possible as Russia attempts to reinforce its bargaining position. Additionally, belligerent actions short of war remain likely, including cyberattacks on sensitive sites or critical infrastructure and aggressive military maneuvers.
The bulk of the additional troops are deployed in the Smolensk Oblast, which borders Belarus; however, significant troop movements are frequently reported in Russia’s Kursk, Bryansk, Belgorod, Rostov-on-Don, and Voronezh oblasts, which all border Ukraine. Russia already maintains an unknown number of troops in areas bordering Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are partly under the control of pro-Russia separatist militants, and has also bulked up the forces permanently stationed in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Road and rail movement of large numbers of military vehicles could cause temporary disruption on regional highways and arterial rail lines. Increased scrutiny of foreigners’ identity and visa documentation is likely near any military sites in Russia and near the border with Ukraine and in areas where additional military units are deployed. Despite the recent deployments, the current threat to businesses operating in Ukraine is unchanged. There is currently no sign of any potential impediment to entry and exit of foreign and local nationals, except current COVID-19-related restrictions.
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