The United States assesses that Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent into Ukraine “nearly 100 percent” of the combat forces that were amassed on the border, a senior Defense Department official told reporters on Monday.
But the U.S. does not believe that Russia is “preparing to move additional battalion tactical groups from elsewhere in the country to shore up what they’ve put into Ukraine,” said the official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity.
“We have not seen any indication that [Putin] is going to go beyond the amassed combat power that he’s already developed,” said the official, who declined to provide an estimate of how many troops constituted Russia’s total force.
Overall, the United States is “not seeing a lot of progress” by Russian forces despite some gains in Ukraine’s south, the official said, and “they continue to be frustrated by a stiff Ukrainian resistance, as well as their own internal challenges.”
The official said Washington also is confident that Russia is now actively recruiting Syrian fighters to aid its assault, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
“We find that noteworthy, that [Putin] believes that he needs to rely on foreign fighters to supplement what is a very significant commitment of combat power inside Ukraine as it is,” the official said.
Even though Russia is embarking on a recruiting campaign, the official warned that Putin still “has an awful lot of combat power available to him, and he has it in numbers that are superior to the numbers that the Ukrainians have arrayed against” Russian forces.
“I just don’t think we should underestimate that — or the firepower that he is so clearly willing to increase the use of,” the official added.
Senior Defense Department officials said last Thursday that Russia had moved roughly 90 percent of its pre-staged combat power across the border into Ukraine. Officials increased that estimate to roughly 92 percent last Friday and to roughly 95 percent on Sunday.