Speed Reads

Foreign affairs

Russia's troop buildup near the Ukraine border is making everyone nervous

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Russia has amassed at least 10,000 soldiers — Ukraine estimates the number at more than 80,000 — plus tanks, artillery units, attack helicopters, and fighter jets along its border with eastern Ukraine. Moscow has also sent a handful of Sukhoi-27 fighter jets to Belarus, a Russian ally on Ukraine's north, essentially putting Russian forces on three sides of Ukraine. Russia characterizes this troop buildup as intensive training exercises.

The U.S. and Europe, not to mention Ukraine, are getting increasingly concerned about the show of force before Sunday's controversial referendum in the Russian-occupied region of Crimea. In unusually strong language, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament on Thursday that if Russia keeps up its aggressive posturing, Germany, "as neighbors of Russia, would not only see it as a threat," but it will "change the European Union’s relationship with Russia" and "cause massive damage to Russia, economically, and politically."

Germany, Russia's largest trading partner in Europe, has been relatively restrained in its public comments about Russia's occupation of Crimea. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are meeting in London to try to work out a diplomatic solution to the escalating situation in Ukraine. The New York Times has some great maps on the Ukraine situation; this one shows where Russia is flexing its military might: