The US tells American citizens in Ukraine to get out ASAP
The State Department also raised its risk level for US travelers in Ukraine to its highest threshold. Plus: Biden is considering sending troops into Eastern Europe in case Putin makes a move.
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It’s unclear if Russian President Vladimir Putin will invade Ukraine, setting off an intense chain reaction at home and abroad that the Biden administration has attempted to avoid with diplomacy for weeks. But if Putin does move, the State Department has a message for its diplomats and their families: Get out of Ukraine ASAP.
“As to President Putin’s intentions, we don’t know if he has yet made up his mind to invade,” a senior State Department official said on a press call with reporters on Sunday night. “But he is building the military capacity along Ukraine’s borders to have that option ready at any time.”
The official added that the government won’t be in a position to evacuate US citizens in the event of a Russian invasion. And according to the State Department, Russia has amassed upwards of 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders and is conducting disinformation operations to foment unrest in the region.
The official did not disclose the number of US citizens and nationals currently in Ukraine. “We don’t have have a solid number,” the official said to Matt Lee of The Associated Press. “And it’s not helpful to share estimated numbers with you.”
The State Department also elevated its travel advisory for Ukraine to Level Four — the highest advisory level — due to the increased threat of Russian military action. (The advisory was already at a Level Four due to the pandemic.)
“These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution due to continued Russian efforts to destabilize the country and undermine the security of Ukrainian citizens and others visiting or residing in Ukraine,” the official said.
Ukraine has received $650 million of security assistance in the past year, including a $200 million shipment of ammunition for the country’s frontline defenders, which the State Department says is the first of several. The US has committed nearly $3 billion in to security assistance to Ukraine since 2014. (Putin previously invaded and conquered the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine in 2014.)
The State Department officials were adamant that nothing has changed in the security situation over the weekend that led to the decision. But the White House has been clear that Putin could move at any moment. And it seems like it is trying to get ahead in Ukraine after the rocky evacuation of US citizens in Kabul last year after the Taliban recaptured the region at the end of the Afghanistan war.
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I’ve been curious to know if Biden will ultimately deploy troops in Ukraine, which is something he’s cautioned against to this point.
Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt at The New York Times report that the president is considering deploying 1,000 to 5,000 US troops — plus warships and aircraft — to our allies in the Baltic states and Eastern Europe.
Cooper and Schmitt also report the number could increase tenfold if the situation deteriorates. None of the military options under consideration include deploying American troops to Ukraine itself.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday defended the US’s diplomacy-first strategy despite calls from some Republicans to send in the troops prior to an invasion.
“It is certainly possible that the diplomacy that Russia is engaged in is simply going through the motions and it won’t affect their ultimate decision about whether to invade or in some other way intervene or not in Ukraine,” Blinken said to Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet The Press. “But we have a responsibility to see the diplomacy through for as far and as long as we can go, because it’s the more responsible way to bring this to closure.”
Biden is expected to make a decision as early as this week.
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Both chambers of Congress are in recess and President Biden has a light schedule this week. So I thought it would be cool to fill the newsletter with some of your questions.
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Today in Politics
President Biden will return to the White House from Camp David. Then he will receive his daily intelligence briefing before meeting with his administration on its strategy for lowering inflation.
Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will travel from Los Angeles to Milwaukee this morning where the vice president will receive a tour of a training and skilled trades employment program. She will also speak on how the bipartisan infrastructure law invests in the removal and replacement of lead pipes. Environmental Protection Agency Administration Michael Regan will also speak. The vice president and second gentleman will return to DC this evening.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
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