“We’ll be totally surrounded by equal forces,” the senior Ukrainian safety official mentioned.

In Washington, U.S. officers say they nonetheless assess that Mr. Putin has not but decided to invade. They describe him as extra a tactician than a grand strategist, and so they imagine that he’s always weighing a bunch of various components. Amongst them is how effectively he might climate the threatened sanctions on his banks and trade, and whether or not his calls for that Ukraine cease veering towards NATO — and that NATO cease spreading towards Russia — are receiving sufficient consideration.

However the U.S. officers say Mr. Putin may additionally have concluded that with america and different international locations arming Ukraine, his army benefit is liable to slipping away. Britain’s protection secretary, Ben Wallace, introduced in an address to Parliament on Monday that the nation would start offering Ukraine with gentle, anti-armor defensive weapons. Mr. Putin might turn into tempted to behave sooner quite than later.

U.S. officers noticed Russia’s embassy evacuations coming. “We now have info that signifies the Russian authorities was making ready to evacuate their members of the family from the Russian Embassy in Ukraine in late December and early January,” a U.S. official mentioned in a press release.

Ukrainian officers say they noticed the Russians depart.

However that leaves open the query of what, if something, the Russians had been signaling.

It’s doable they had been attempting to bolster the case that america and its Western allies ought to take critically their calls for that Ukraine can by no means be part of NATO, and that troops, nuclear weapons and different heavy weaponry should be faraway from former Warsaw Pact states, like Poland, that had been as soon as allied with the Soviet Union.

It may be that the Russians had been attempting to point that an assault was brewing, although there have been no different alerts. In reality, the buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border shouldn’t be rising at a price that Pentagon officers anticipated a month in the past.

The most recent U.S. estimates are that about 60 battalion tactical teams, referred to as B.T.G.s and every with a median of 800 troopers, at the moment are in place on the border with Ukraine. Mixed with different native forces, the Russians have about 77,000 troops on the border, with extra on the best way. Others put the determine at nearer to 100,000 — a lot is determined by how totally different forces are counted — however that’s effectively wanting the Pentagon’s estimate greater than a month in the past that the overall quantity might rise to 175,000.