The cell is trying to tailor responses to the many types of attacks that could occur in the coming weeks, from cyberattacks aimed at crippling Ukraine’s power grid and pipelines to seizing large and small amounts of territory.
Intelligence officials recently said they believed the least likely possibility was a full-scale invasion in which the Russians tried to take the capital, Kiev. However, many assessments have explored more gradual measures by Mr Putin, which could include seizing a little more land in the Donbass region, where the war has sunk into a stalemate, or a land bridge to the Crimea.
Several officials familiar with the planning said the administration was considering European countries that could provide more assistance to support Ukrainian forces ahead of any conflict, as well as in the early stages of a Russian invasion.
Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Anton Semelroth noted in December that the United States had already committed more than $ 2.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014, including $ 450 million in 2021 alone. In the past three months, it has delivered 180 Javelin missiles, two patrol boats, grenade launcher ammunition, machine guns, secure radios, medical supplies and other items. US officials call it defensive.
But the planning cell is considering more lethal weapons, such as anti-aircraft weapons.
After visiting Ukraine last month, Representative Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts and former naval officer, said that in his opinion, “We have to make any Russian incursion more painful – the first day is painful, not in six months “.
“We have a short window to take decisive action to deter Putin from a serious invasion,” Moulton said in an interview. “I am concerned that our current deterrence tactics are reacting to an invasion rather than preventing it.”
One option likely to be discussed at NATO next week is a plan to increase, perhaps by several thousand, the number of troops stationed in the Baltic states and in south-eastern Europe.