US steps up rhetoric, sends more troops to Poland as Biden and Putin prepare for critical talks

Russian President Putin and US President Joe Biden are expected to speak by phone this weekend. | Photo credit: Twitter

Highlights

  • On Friday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan sounded the clearest warning of an impending Russian invasion when he said, “Every American in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible, and in any event in the next 24 to 48 hours.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be keeping his cards close to his chest, leaving many wondering if Moscow is indeed considering launching an attack on Ukraine.
  • Reports that President Putin and US President Joe Biden are due to speak by phone on Saturday suggest that Moscow and Washington remain committed to keeping diplomatic channels open

Following an abrupt meeting in the Situation Room, US officials warned that a Russian attack on Ukraine was now an “obvious possibility”. In recent days, Russia reportedly mustered more than 100,000 ground forces around Ukraine, which US intelligence analysts said was almost enough to carry out a full-scale invasion.

Despite repeated assertions by Russian officials that no invasion of Ukraine was planned, the United States, along with several other countries, issued advisories to their nationals based in Ukraine to evacuate the country.

On Friday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan sounded the clearest warning of an impending Russian invasion when he said: “Every American in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible, and in any event in the next 24 to 48 hours”.

“We obviously can’t predict the future, we don’t know exactly what will happen. But the risk is now high enough and the threat is now sufficiently immediate that that is what caution demands,” he added. Sullivan also noted that a Russian attack on Ukraine was “likely to begin with aerial bombardments and missile attacks which obviously could kill civilians regardless of nationality.”

Shortly after Sullivan’s statement, reports surfaced that the United States had ordered the deployment of 3,000 additional troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to Poland to join the 1,700 troops already stationed there. The troops, US officials said, were intended to help Americans seeking to evacuate Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be keeping his cards close to his chest, leaving many wondering if Moscow is indeed considering launching an attack on Ukraine. Prior talks between President Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron failed to defuse the situation, however, reports that President Putin and US President Joe Biden are due to speak by phone on Saturday suggest that Moscow and Washington remain determined to keep diplomatic channels open.

According to reports, President Biden has told NATO and EU officials that Washington believes President Putin is seriously considering leading an invasion of Ukraine in the coming days. Moscow has repeatedly condemned the accusations, calling them false and part of a disinformation campaign perpetrated by Western nations.

Russia has also rejected NATO and the European Union’s collective response to its demands for respect for the principle of “indivisible security” in Europe. The Russian Foreign Ministry said, via a statement, that it “awaits a detailed response to the question we posed from each recipient.”

In the meantime, the price of Brent oil continued to rise, topping $95 a barrel on February 11 – the first time since 2014 – as Russian military buildup around Ukraine heightened concerns regarding disruptions in the global oil supply. Any military escalation, analysts say, would not only cast uncertainty over oil supplies, but could also result in retaliatory US sanctions, threatening the economic stability of the European Union.

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