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‘Significant buildup’ of Russian military forces in Crimea

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Over the past 18 months, the Russian military has reportedly been expanding and building up its forces and infrastructure in Crimea.

A U.S. intelligence official told Defense One that Russia was conducting “a deliberate and systematic buildup of their forces on the peninsula.”

“The combat radius covers all Ukraine and beyond the Black Sea. It significantly increases their strike options, potentially extending to the Middle East,” the official said.

Russia annexed Crimea, a peninsula south of Ukraine, in 2014 in a move that roiled Europe and led to increased tension between the U.S. and Russia. Russia has indicated it has no plans to ever return Crimea to Ukraine, despite pressure from the U.S. to do so. There have been previous reports of Russia building up its military presence in the region.

Sarah Bidgood, director of the Eurasia Nonproliferation Program at Middlebury College, said that she thinks the buildup makes for a “really dangerous environment” in the region.

“This is a significant buildup. NATO is going to be under increasing pressure from allies in the region to show that it’s able to push back against Russian attempts to gain greater control of the Black Sea,” Bidgood said.

Ukrainian officials claim that Russia is also upgrading four facilities in Crimea to hold nuclear weapons, although U.S. officials have declined to confirm or deny the claim.

State Department Special Representative Kurt Volker said in May that the U.S. is standing firm in its commitment not to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

“The United States does not and will not recognize Crimea’s claim to annexation by Russia,” Volker said.

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