Feb 11, 2022 - World

U.S. warns threat of Russian invasion of Ukraine is "immediate"

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday that all Americans in Ukraine should leave within the next 48 hours, warning that the risk of a Russian invasion is now "high" and "immediate."

Why it matters: Sullivan denied an explosive PBS report that the U.S. believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade, but said there is "a credible prospect that a Russian military action would take place even before the end of the Olympics."

Driving the news: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered an additional 3,000 U.S. troops to deploy to Poland in the coming days to shore up NATO's eastern flank, according to a senior defense official.

  • That's in addition to the 1,700 U.S. troops ordered to Poland, 300 deployed to Germany and 2,000 repositioned from Germany to Romania last week.
  • "These additional deployments are temporary in nature, meant to supplement for a brief time the more than 80,000 U.S. troops already in Europe on rotational and permanent orders," the official said.
  • The U.S. has ruled out a military intervention or evacuation in Ukraine.

What they're saying: "If a Russian attack on Ukraine proceeds, it is likely to begin with aerial bombing and missile attacks that could obviously kill civilians without regard to their nationality," Sullivan said at a White House press briefing.

  • "A subsequent ground invasion would involve the onslaught of a massive force," he continued.
  • "With virtually no notice, communications to arrange a departure could be severed and commercial transit halted. No one would be able to count on air or rail or road departures once military action got underway."
  • "I'm not standing here and saying what is going to happen or not happen. I'm only standing here to say that the risk is now high enough, and the threat is immediate enough, that prudence demands that it is the time to leave now."

The big picture: President Biden spoke Friday with the leaders of major NATO allies, a day after Russia launched massive military exercises in Belarus and the Black Sea.

  • A flurry of diplomacy by European leaders this week has failed to produce any breakthrough in talks with Russia.
  • The European Union and Israel have ordered the families of diplomats to leave Ukraine, after previously playing down the threat of invasion and declining to evacuate their embassies.

What to watch: Biden and Putin will speak Saturday, per the White House.

Go deeper: Satellite images show increased Russian military buildup near Ukraine

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