U.S. scrambles on Russia monitoring around Ukraine

Posted at 5:36 PM, Feb 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-28 17:36:24-05

(CNN) — In an acknowledgment the United States could face a prolonged security crisis with Russia over Ukraine, military commanders and intelligence agencies are scrambling to determine what’s needed to get a better picture of what Moscow may be up to.

The list covers additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets. No military action is being planned at this point.

A map shoing various Eastern European countries including Ukraine.

A map shoing various Eastern European countries including Ukraine.

The goal is “to be inside the Russian decision making cycle,” essentially to have as close to real time information as possible about Russian intentions and actions, one senior U.S. official said.

Gen. Philip Breedlove, head of the U.S. European Command, has a big role in leading the effort.

“He is assessing the situation and seeing what is clearly developing into a crisis,” a U.S. official told CNN. “He is ensuring he is prepared. His job is to have options for the President.”

Those options for now do not include any U.S. planning for military action.

Breedlove and other senior officials are instead looking at what additional satellite coverage, communications intercepts, and intelligence gathering they need to be able to more fully monitor Russian movements, the official said.

The United States has struggled to determine the identity of armed men wearing uniforms without insignias who have appeared in a variety of locations in Ukraine, including the Crimea region where Russia has been conducting what it calls routine military activities.

The United States still believes Russia will not engage in large-scale intervention in Ukraine. But the spate of small-scale incursions has raised concerns to the point where American officials want to ensure the level of intelligence on the region is adequate.

Breedlove is also looking for a better assessment of news reports and social media as public information becomes a major resource for assessing the situation, a second official said.

The U.S. effort is also aimed at closely monitoring the 150,000 Russian troops exercising along the Ukraine border.

Because they are so close, the United States would have little warning if those troops were ordered to cross into Ukraine.

“Our ability to know what the Russians are doing there is much more limited,” than the United States would like, the official said.