Russian Troop Movements in Crimea – “Readiness Check”or Prelude to War?

Faye Higbee

Ever since the Russians “annexed” the Crimean peninsula in March of 2014, there have been tensions between the Ukraine and Russia. On March 24, 2021, Ukraine President Zelensky signed a document that basically made it official Ukrainian policy to take back Crimea from Russia. Was that a declaration of war? Meanwhile, Russian troop movements have seriously increased. Russia calls them a “readiness check.”

The document Zelensky signed stated:

In accordance with Article 107 of the Constitution of Ukraine, I decree:

1. To put into effect the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine of March 11, 2021 “On the Strategy of deoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol”

2. To approve the Strategy of deoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol…

3. Control over the implementation of the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, enacted by this Decree, shall be vested in the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.

4. This Decree shall enter into force on the day of its publication.

President of Ukraine V.ZELENSKY, March 24, 2021 (Zero Hedge)

One question raised – did the Biden administration have anything to do with the signing of that document? Because the very next day after the document was signed, Russians began moving tanks and other heavy equipment to the Crimean border.

For those who don’t know, this isn’t the brigade you want to see on the move. The 56th Guards Air Assault Brigade is an airborne brigade of the Russian Airborne Troops. The brigade was first formed in 1979 and fought in the Soviet–Afghan War, the 1st & 2nd Chechen War.


In July of 2020, a ceasefire agreement was signed between Ukraine and Russia. But in the last week, according to Michael Snyder at Zero Hedge, the agreement has been violated “hundreds of times.” Four Ukrainian soldiers were killed on March 26, and two others injured in a mortar attack in the eastern part of Ukraine. Do the Russian Troop movements have anything to do with the violations?

Russia claims that any Russian troop movements are simply part of a “readiness” check. But Russia also announced that the 56th Air Brigade would be permanently moving to Crimea. Some experts do not believe this is a prelude to war, others do.

Russia is unlikely to be preparing for either a major or localized offensive against Ukraine at this time. Large-scale Russian force deployments, a logistical buildup, and a likely NATO response would be indicators of looming large-scale offensive operations against Ukraine. Russia’s frontline conventional units have not deployed at the brigade level or above during ongoing readiness checks in the SMD. Russia’s Western Military District (WMD) has likewise not mobilized key regiments and divisions that would likely be necessary to support an offensive against Ukraine. ISW has not observed or captured reports of the buildup of logistical supplies—including fuel, ammunition, and medical supplies—which would be necessary to support a major offensive. The United States, Ukraine, and NATO would almost certainly observe the preparations for a major offensive and issue far more strident statements than they have so far made.

Understanding War

It is improbable that Russia is doing this to “test Biden.” First of all, a man with such obvious cognitive decline as Joe Biden is an ‘unworthy’ adversary. Russia likely has a different goal. As for the Ukraine trying to get Crimea back from Russia, that simply won’t happen without another conflict, which would likely draw the US/Nato into the fracas. EUCOM has in recent days raised its watch level to its highest.

In spite of America’s ever-growing list of problems and conflicts, now there is something that needs watching “across the pond.” Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley called his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts on March 31 to discuss the Russian deployments, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart on April 1. What’s up?


Featured photo: screenshot of Russian tanks on the move via Twitter

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