Sanctioned, but so far undeterred, Vladimir Putin is making the Russian presence felt on the Ukraine border. As Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt of the New York Times report:
Russia has roughly doubled the number of its battalions near the Ukrainian border, Western officials said Monday, and could respond to the Kiev government’s gains there by launching a cross-border incursion with little or no warning. Over the past several weeks, Russia has built up 17 battalions — totaling 19,000 to 21,000 troops, according to one Western estimate — into a battle-ready force of infantry, armor, artillery and air defense within a few miles of the border. In addition, it has vastly expanded its firepower, increasing the number of advanced surface-to-air missile units to 14 from eight, and deploying more than 30 artillery batteries, according to the officials.
The White House, meanwhile, has not given up on diplomatic and political solutions.
In a call Friday to Mr. Putin, Mr. Obama “reinforced his preference for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine” and agreed to keep open “the channels of communication,” the White House said in a statement. Mr. Obama also repeated his “deep concerns about Russia’s increased support for the separatists in Ukraine,” the White House said.