The warning signs were there. Russia’s posture at Ukraine’s door look like sabre-rattling, but loud exercises with tanks and choppers are also a pretty big sign that one country wants to invade another.
Big exercises are important for your troops if you want them to be prepared to hit enemy territory. They have to get used to moving quickly between way points. They need to be accustomed to local climate and terrain. They should be familiar with local highways and byways and the latest status of all enemy troops. If I were a member of the Ukrainian intelligence community, I’d have some critical questions on my checklist:
- Has Russia’s military sent large amounts of fuel, ammunition, rations, and spare parts to positions within a day’s march of our border?
- Have they cancelled leave for most of their troops?
- Have commanders become stricter with discipline, punishing infractions, and transferring the bad eggs from their units?
- What is the status of Russia’s reserve forces?
- What is the level of experience, or recent combat history, among the highest ranking officers and non-commissioned officers?
These are only some of the questions that need fast answers. These are the early symptoms of invasion. And before anyone wants to balk at the notion of Russians barging into Ukraine, consider the headcount at the border: NATO says 20,000 Russian troops are hanging out next door, but Ukraine puts the figure at 45,000. If Putin’s boys jump in under the pretext of uninvited humanitarian relief, then things are pretty straightforward in the hours and days to come.