Evelyn Farkas, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia under President Barack Obama, appeared on last night’s episode of BBC Newsnight to discuss the tensions. The Russian military annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, leading to tensions with Ukraine.
When asked by host Kirsty Wark about the rising tensions between Russian and Ukraine, Ms Farkas noted Moscow is moving tactically.
She told the broadcaster: “Yeah I mean I think the first point is that this is not some kind of military exercise.
“This is an unprecedented military build up that includes, by the way, sending additional forces into Crimea so the Russians can come from two directions into Ukraine.”
Iuliia Mendel, Ukrainian presidential spokeswoman, also told Reuters on Monday Russia had amassed more than 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s eastern border, and more than 40,000 in Crimea.
READ MORE: Russia vs Ukraine explained: Why are Russia and Ukraine in conflict?
Ms Farkas went on to call the Russian movement a “very dangerous situation”, and urged US President Joe Biden to threaten clear sanctions should Mr Putin invade Ukraine.
She added: “They’re escalating it militarily, also in their rhetoric. It’s quite strong language that they are using.
“What we, the West, need to do is deter Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin by letting him know what the consequences will be if he moves militarily, and then of course, we can do things like move our own forces out there to deter him and to provide addition military support to the Ukrainians.
“But I think we need to spell out clearly what the sanctions and other measures will be if Russia goes further.”
In a sign of the “strong” rhetoric, Deputy Foreign Ministry Sergei Ryabkov warned the US to keep American troops away from the annexed Crimean peninsula “for their own good”
He said: “There is absolutely nothing for American ships to be doing near our shores.
“We warn the United States that it will be better for them to stay far away from Crimea and our Black Sea coast.
“It will be for their own good.”
The Kremlin has also denied it wants to invade Ukraine, but has said it “will not remain indifferent” on the lives of Russian-speaking residents of Crimea and in Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists have been fighting in the east of the country since shortly after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
In recent weeks, fighting has intensified between the army and separatists in Ukraine’s east.
Separatists, believed to be backed by the Russian military, have fired artillery at eastern Ukraine homes.
The conflict in Ukraine’s east has killed more than 13,000 people.
On Sunday, the Ukrainian military reported another death after a soldier was said to have been killed by artillery fire from Russian-backed fighters.
Yesterday, Mr Biden demanded a summit with the Russian President over the tensions in Ukraine in a third country.
When Ms Wark questioned whether the US President had been “played”, Ms Farkas remarked: “There are things we can offer, there are carrots, and (a summit with Biden) is exactly the kind of carrot that Putin wants.
“And let’s not forget that there’s also a domestic context for this, which Vladimir needs to address.”
Orysia Lutsevych, head of the Ukraine forum at Chatham, also appeared on Newsnight to say domestically war with Kyiv is “hardly popular”.
She added: “Unfortunately the annexation of Crimea was popular among the Russian public, but the open military conflict with Ukraine with direct incursion into a new Ukrainian territory is hardly popular in Russia.”