The Biden administration is increasingly concerned that Russia could invade Ukraine in the coming days, as Russian President Vladimir Putin shows no sign of de-escalating or engaging in meaningful diplomacy to end the standoff. The administration is urging Americans still in Ukraine to leave as soon as possible, but within 24 to 48 hours at the most, with national security adviser Jake Sullivan saying Russia could invade Ukraine “at any time.”
President Biden convened a virtual call Friday morning with the leaders of Canada, major European allies, and the heads of NATO and the European Commission to discuss concerns that Russia continues to mass troops and military equipment around Ukraine. While the leaders have universally objected to Putin’s military buildup, their views differ on what Putin’s intentions are. Russia has insisted it won’t start a war, but at the same time, it won’t allow its interests to be ignored.
“We continue to see signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border,” Sullivan told reporters during Friday’s White House briefing. “As we’ve said before, we are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time, should Vladimir Putin decide to order it. I will not comment on the details of our intelligence information, but I do want to be clear: It could begin during the Olympics, despite a lot of speculation that it would only happen after the Olympics.”
The Winter Olympics, which are being held in China, end on February 20. Sullivan made it clear that Americans who remain in Ukraine are at risk, and the U.S. military won’t enter the country to extract them, should Russia invade. The Biden administration has asked American citizens to leave Ukraine for weeks. The U.S. believes a Russian attack could begin with aerial bombing and missile attacks, followed by a ground invasion of troops.
“The president will not be putting the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk by sending them into a war zone to rescue people who could have left by now, but chose not to,” Sullivan said.
American officials again vocalized their concerns on Friday. Traveling in Australia, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time. And to be clear, that includes during the Olympics.”
Blinken’s comments came after the president convened a Situation Room meeting late Thursday to discuss the Russian military deployments with top security advisers, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Also on Thursday, Mr. Biden used an NBC News interview to once again warn Americans in Ukraine to “leave now.”
“We’re dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. It’s a very different situation and things could go crazy quickly,” the president said.
The flurry of diplomatic activity comes as Russia has deployed six warships to the Black Sea, restricting, if not completely cutting off Ukraine’s naval access and increasing the number of Russian forces now encompassing the former Soviet republic.
Margaret Brennan is moderator of CBS News’ “Face The Nation” and CBS News’ senior foreign affairs correspondent based in Washington, D.C.