A rift is emerging between US-UK and their allies on how soon Russia could invade Ukraine

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A rift is emerging between US-UK and their allies on how soon Russia could invade Ukraine
The US embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine.Sergei Supinsky / AFP via Getty Images)
  • Fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine are growing.
  • The US and UK told families of embassy staff in Ukraine to leave the country.
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A rift is emerging between the US and UK, and their NATO and EU allies, on the imminence of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This week the US and UK told families of embassy personnel to leave Kyiv, citing a growing threat from Russia. The US warned of "threats of Russian military action" on Sunday and the UK followed suit on Monday, saying "events in Ukraine are fast moving."

But those moves have irked and perplexed officials in Ukraine and some EU states, who say the move is unnecessary and alarmist.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko tweeted Monday that the US and UK moves were "premature."

Josep Borrell, the EU's top diplomat, said the bloc did not want to "dramatize" the situation by following suit.

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"We are not going to do the same thing, because we do not have any specific reasons," Borrell said.

Mujtaba Rahman, the managing director of Eurasia Group, tweeted Monday that that a source in French President Emmanuel Macron's office told him: "There is a kind of alarmism in Washington and London which we cannot understand. We see no immediate likelihood of Russian military action."

And in an apparent attempt to reassure Ukraine's partners, President Volodymyr Zelensky told European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday that he was "grateful" to EU leaders "whose diplomats remain in our country and support us in our work."

A rift is emerging between US-UK and their allies on how soon Russia could invade Ukraine
A composite image of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.VALERY SHARIFULIN,BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images

Intel gaps?

The split between the US and Britain and their allies "points to a gap in assessments of Russia's likely courses of action," Keir Giles, a senior consulting fellow on the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, told Insider.

"There is a history of the US trying to convince its European partners that the threat is imminent, based on the sources and intelligence it has, and they [Europe] apparently, do not."

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"It may be that after several weeks of this being repeated, Russia's partners in Europe, particularly the major members of the EU are placing less credence on what they are being told by Washington," he said.

In a Monday interview with BBC Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said the US and UK withdrawals were contributing to panic and playing into President Vladimir Putin's hands.

Putin has long worked to destabilize western Europe, either through politics or business, and welcomes instances of disunity.

However, Giles said that putting safety first was a sensible policy when it comes to Russian aggression.

"Despite the fact that there's skepticism in Kyiv itself as to the imminence of a Russian move against Ukraine, it's still a prudent step to draw down nonessential personnel from embassies," he said.

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"We know from previous practice by Russia in different theaters that targeting civilian populations is a key means of winning wars. It makes sense to take personnel who don't need to be there out of harm's way regardless of whether an attack is actually happening right now."

Despite fears of invasion, Russia may not yet be ready

Currently, around 100,000 Russian troops are estimated to be stationed at the Ukrainian border, but in an essay published Monday, a trio of Ukrainian military experts said Russia was not yet ready to launch a full-scale invasion.

"This number of troops is not enough for a full-scale offensive," read an article published by Pravda by Andriy Zagorodnyuk, Ukraine's former defense minister, Alina Frolova, and Oleksiy Pavliuchyk.

"According to our estimates, supported by many of the indicators below, a large-scale general military operation can't take place for at least the next two or three weeks," they wrote.

The US on Tuesday put 8,500 troops on alert to deploy to Europe in case of an escalation with Russia.

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But Giles suggested those troops could be waiting some time.

"The invasion has been going to happen 'tomorrow' for several months now, and still hasn't," he said.

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