At a White House briefing on February 11, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could start while the Olympic games are underway.
“We can’t pinpoint the day, at this point, and we can’t pinpoint the hour, but what we can say is that there is a credible prospect that a Russian military action would take place even before the end of the Olympics,” Sullivan told reporters.
The Winter Olympics, which are currently taking place in Beijing, are set to conclude on February 20.
In late January, the Pentagon ordered 8,500 troops to remain on “high alert” as the U.S. prepares for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. This force, which would be part of NATO, is stationed in Europe to assist American allies on the ground. On January 23, President Biden also stated that the U.S. might deploy ships and aircraft in Eastern Europe alongside NATO forces.
According to Sullivan, the U.S. does not have conclusive evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an invasion, MSN reports. However, he did say that all the pieces were in place for a major military operation to begin “rapidly” and possibly before the Winter Olympic Games’ conclusion on February 20. Many believed Putin would wait until after the Chinese-hosted Olympics to launch an incursion into Ukraine.
“For Putin, Ukraine seems to be key not because he dreams of resurrecting the Soviet Union or enlarging the territory of modern-day Russia by force; rather, Ukraine presents an opportunity for Russia, once and for all, to reassert its geopolitical relevance,” Joshua Yaffa, a Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker, wrote.
National Security Advisor Sullivan said at his press conference that the situation with Russia had deteriorated to the point where Americans in Ukraine should leave “immediately” – or at the very least the next day or two.
“We don’t know exactly what is going to happen,” he said. “But the risk is now high enough, and the threat is now immediate enough that this is what prudence demands.”
In response to Sullivan’s comments, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement late Friday accusing Western countries and media of launching a “large-scale disinformation campaign” with claims that Russia intends to invade the Ukraine, in order “to divert attention from their own aggressive actions.”
“At the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, the global information space faced a media campaign unprecedented in its scale and sophistication, the purpose of which is to convince the world community that the Russian Federation is preparing an invasion of the territory of Ukraine,” the statement declared, per CNN politics.
A call between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to take place later today, February 12.