Die Situation rund um die Ukraine ist seit Wochen angespannt – aber an diesem Freitag scheint sie sich noch mal zuzuspitzen: Die USA warnen vor einem jederzeit möglichen Angriff Russlands auf das Land, US-Präsident Joe Biden konferiert in einer nicht angekündigten Telefonschalte mit den Verbündeten, und immer mehr Länder rufen ihre Staatsbürger zur Ausreise aus der Ukraine auf. Der – natürlich nicht vollständige – Sammler zum Überblick:
• Für Freitagabend (18.00 Uhr deutscher Zeit) war die Telefonkonferenz Bidens mit europäischen Partnern vorgesehen, wie US-Medien meldeten, hier die New York Times:
President Biden is holding a phone conference on Friday with a wide array of NATO and European Union leaders to discuss what appears to be a deteriorating security situation in Ukraine.
The White House said that the call, which was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. in Washington, would include Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany; Prime Ministers Boris Johnson of Britain, Mario Draghi of Italy and Justin Trudeau of Canada; and Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France, Andrzej Duda of Poland, Klaus Iohannis of Romania, Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission and Charles Michel of the European Council; and the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg.
Nach dem Gespräch blieb der deutsche Regierungssprecher Steffen Hebestreit in den Angaben dazu via Twitter im Allgemeinen:
• Zuvor hatten die USA ihre Einschätzung der aktuellen Situation zugespitzt: Ein Angriff Russlands auf die Ukraine sei jederzeit zu erwarten, hatte Außenminister Tony Blinken bei seiner Australien-Reise betont:
Simply put, we continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border. And as we’ve said before, we’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time. And to be clear, that includes during the Olympics. We’re continuing to draw down our embassy. We will continue that process. And we’ve also been very clear that any American citizens who remain in Ukraine should leave now.
• Nach Informationen des Senders CNN liegen den US-Nachrichtendiensten weitere Informationen vor, die auf einen Angriff hindeuten:
Scoop: US and allies have new intel that suggests Russia could be planning to attack Ukraine prior to end of Olympics, contrary to previous assessments. New intel comes as officials have dramatically ramped up the urgency of public warnings related to Ukraine in past 24 hours.
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) February 11, 2022
• Weitere Länder riefen ihre Staatsangehörigen zum Verlassen der Ukraine auf, unter anderem
(LEAD) S. Korea to ban travel to all regions of Ukraine amid looming conflict https://t.co/IiwOeixRRm
— Yonhap News Agency (@YonhapNews) February 11, 2022
BREAKING: Israeli official: The decision to evacuate the families of Israeli diplomats from Kyiv was made because the situation reached a tipping point. The Russians have the number of troops they need on the border with Ukraine to start an invasion on a short order
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) February 11, 2022
British nationals advised to leave Ukraine immediately
Das Auswärtige Amt hat bislang, Stand Freitagabend, den Reisehinweis für die Ukraine nicht verschärft.
• Ein Aspekt am Rande: Die Kollegen von Politico weisen zu Recht darauf hin, dass der Blick meist auf die Landstreitkräfte gerichtet ist. Aber zur See, gerade im Mittelmeer und im Schwarzen Meer, passiert auch einiges:
‘Dangerous moment’: Russian naval buildup near Ukraine hits Cold War levels
While the world watches Russia’s tanks and troops, a quiet and remarkable flotilla is growing.
• Aus Washington mehrten sich Berichte – unter Berufung sowohl die US-Regierung als auch andere westliche Regierungen – dass nach US-Einschätzung der russische Präsident Wladimir Putin zu einem Angriff auf die Ukraine bereits entschlossen ist. Um diese Meldungen gab es ein gewisses Hin und Her; es scheint, dass der US-Präsident das im Gespräch mit den europäischen Partnern auch so kommuniziert hat:
Official from a NATO ally tells me Pres Biden told them today the US does believe Vladimir Putin has decided to attack Ukraine. Next week.
— Christiane Amanpour (@amanpour) February 11, 2022
Der nationale Sicherheitsberater Jake Sullivan bestätigte das so nicht – aber mal schauen, wie seine konkreten Aussagen dazu lauten (Transkript wird nachgetragen, wenn es vorliegt).
• Nach Berichten von Reuters und anderen Medien soll das Pentagon die Verlegung weiterer 3.000 Soldaten der 82nd Airborne Division nach Polen angeordnet haben. Eine offizielle Bestätigung gibt es vorerst nicht; interessant ist die Frage, ob das ein weiterer bilateraler Schritt der USA oder eine Entsendung im Rahmen der NATO Response Force ist.
• Ausführlicher als selbst US-Medien (bislang) berichtete der Spiegel:
Die US-Geheimdienste haben gegenüber den Nato-Alliierten dringlich wie nie zuvor vor einem unmittelbar bevorstehenden Angriff Russlands auf die Ukraine gewarnt. Nach SPIEGEL-Informationen unterrichtete sowohl der US-Geheimdienst CIA als auch das US-Militär die Bundesregierung und andere Nato-Staaten im Laufe des Freitags, dass man aufgrund neuer Informationen fürchte, der Angriff könnte bereits am kommenden Mittwoch erfolgen. (…)
Auf welchen Informationen die scharfe US-Warnung fußt, war in Berlin zunächst nicht zu erfahren. Allerdings hieß es, die US-Darstellungen seien sehr detailliert gewesen und mit vielen Quellen untermauert worden. … Insider halten es allerdings auch für möglich, dass die USA die Informationen bewusst gestreut hätten, um die russischen Angriffspläne zu torpedieren.
• Parallel zum US-Präsidenten führte auch das Pentagon Gespräche mit europäischen Alliierten:
On Friday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with several of his NATO Ally counterparts to share with them his perspectives on Russian military force posture around Ukraine.
Secretary Austin spoke with Polish Minister of National Defence Blaszczak, German Federal Minister of Defense Lambrecht, Canadian Minister of National Defence Anand, French Minister of the Armed Forces Parly, Romanian Minister of National Defence Dincu, and Italian Minister of Defense Guerini.
Secretary Austin laid out steps the United States is taking to reassure NATO Allies and underscored our ironclad commitment to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty and collective defense.
The United States already has robust capabilities in Europe, and we stand united with our NATO Allies to deter and defend against any aggression. In that vein, Secretary Austin thanked his counterparts for support to Ukraine and for Alliance assurance and deterrence measures.
He particularly thanked Poland, Germany, and Romania for hosting additional U.S. forces announced today and on February 2.
The Secretary made clear that the United States continues to see signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border. He also reiterated that we are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time.
Nachgetragen: Das Transkript des Pressebriefings mit Jake Sullivan, dem nationalen Sicherheitsberater der USA, am Freitag:
MR. SULLIVAN: Good afternoon. Thanks, everybody, for giving me the opportunity to be here. I’d like to make a few comments on the situation in Russia and Ukraine, and then I’d be happy to take your questions.
We continue to see signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border.
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.
As we’ve said before, we are ready either way. We are ready to continue results-oriented diplomacy that addresses the security concerns of the United States, Russia, and Europe consistent with our values and the principle of reciprocity.
We have continued to make that clear to Russia in close coordination with our European allies and partners.
We are also ready to respond decisively, alongside those allies and partners, should Russia choose to take military action. Our response would include severe economic sanctions, with similar packages imposed by the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries. It would also include changes to NATO and American force posture along the eastern flank of NATO. And it would include continued support to Ukraine.
The President held a secure video conf- — conference today with key allies and partners to coordinate our approach to this crisis. The participants were the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Poland, Romania, the Secretary General of NATO, and the presidents of the European Union.
We have achieved a remarkable level of unity and common purpose — from the broad strategy, down to technical details.
If Russia proceeds, its long-term power and influence will be diminished, not enhanced, by an invasion. It will face a more determined transatlantic community. It will have to make more concessions to China. It will face massive pressure on its economy and export controls that will erode its defense industrial base. And it will face a wave of condemnation from around the world.
If, on the other hand, Russia truly seeks a diplomatic outcome, it should not only say so, it should pursue that diplomatic outcome.
We are prepared to do that. We have put concrete proposals on the table. They are now out there for the world to see. We’re prepared to engage on them and to discuss the principles and parameters of European security with our European partners and with Russia.
Whatever happens next, the West is more united than it’s been in years. NATO has been strengthened. The Alliance is more cohesive, more purposeful, more dynamic than at in any time in recent memory.
In terms of immediate next steps, President Biden and his team will remain in close contact with our allies and partners to coordinate both on the potential for diplomacy and on any response that is necessary should Putin decide to order military action.
We are continuing to reduce the size of our embassy footprint in Kyiv.
And I want to take a moment to echo what both President Biden and Secretary Blinken have already said: We encourage all American citizens who remain in Ukraine to depart immediately.
We want to be crystal-clear on this point: Any American in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible, and in any event, in the next 24 to 48 hours.
We obviously cannot predict the future. We don’t know exactly what is going to happen. But the risk is now high enough and the threat is now immediate enough that this is what prudence demands.
If you stay, you are assuming risk with no guarantee that there will be any other opportunity to leave and no prospect of a U.S. military evacuation in the event of a Russian invasion.
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. A subsequent ground invasion would involve the onslaught of a massive force.
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.
Now, again, 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 is the time to leave now while commercial options and commercial rail and air service exist, while the roads are open.
The President will not be putting the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk by sending them into a warzone to rescue people who could have left now but chose not to. So, we are asking people to make the responsible choice.
With that, I’m happy to take your questions.
Q Thanks, Jake. I know you don’t want to get into the intelligence, but can you give us any sense what has changed over the past 24 or 48 hours to lead to your new level of concern?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first, I would say: When I appeared on the Sunday shows last weekend, I made the point that we were in the window, that Russian military action could begin any day now. And that remains true. It could begin any day now. And it could occur before the Olympics have ended.
I’m not going to get into intelligence information. But if you look at the disposition of forces in both Belarus and in Russia — on the other side of the Ukrainian border, from the north, from the east — the Russians are in a position to be able to mount a major military action in Ukraine any day now. And for that reason, we believe that it is important for us to communicate to our allies and partners, to the Ukrainians, and to the American citizens who are still there.
I want to be crystal-clear though: We are not saying that a decision has been taken — a final decision has been taken by President Putin. What we are saying is that we have a sufficient level of concern, based on what we are seeing on the ground and what our intelligence analysts have picked up, that we are sending this clear message. And it remains a message that we have now been sending for some time. And it is — yes, it is an urgent message because we are in an urgent situation.
Q But just to clarify: So you now believe that Russia has all the forces it needs to mount a full-scale invasion of Ukraine?
MR. SULLIVAN: What I’m saying is that Russia has all the forces it needs to conduct a major military action. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by, quote, “full-scale invasion,” but Russia could choose, in very short order, to commence a major military action against Ukraine.
Q Has NATO told the President that it will call up the NATO Response Force of Americans who have been put on that short leash? And is the President prepared to send additional unilateral forces to our partners in the border region of Ukraine?
And is it your judgment and the judgment of U.S. intelligence and the U.S. government that Putin is behaving as a rational actor in his judgments at this point?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, on the question of the President authorizing more unilateral U.S. forces to Europe: He’s been clear all along that he is open to doing so as circumstances warrant.
But I want to be very clear about something: These deployments of U.S. service members to Poland, to Romania, to Germany — these are not soldiers who are being sent to go fight Russia in Ukraine. They are not going to war in Ukraine. They are not going to war with Russia. They’re going to defend NATO territory, consistent with our Article 5 obligation. They are defensive deployments. They are non-escalatory. They are meant to reinforce, reassure, and deter aggression against NATO territory.
In terms of the U.S. forces that have been put on heightened readiness to be deployed in the event of a NATO decision to deploy them: The President had the chance, as part of the discussion today, to hear from the Secretary General. No decisions have been taken in that regard, but those forces standby should a decision be taken by the North Atlantic Council to call up the NATO Response Force and a request comes in for American forces to be a part of that.
Finally, I can’t get inside the head of President Putin. I’m not going to speculate as to his motivations, his intentions, or, at this point, his decisions. All I will say is that we are ready either way.
If President Putin wants to engage in diplomacy, we are prepared to engage in diplomacy. We would like to find a diplomatic path forward, and we’ve sketched out the parameters and principles for that.
If President Putin chooses to move forward, we will work in lockstep with our allies and partners to respond decisively.
Q Thanks, Jake. It sounds like you’re saying that the assessment previously — that Putin has not yet made a decision — still stands. So, I guess based on that, is it your estimate that it’s more likely that an invasion could happen now than previously believed?
MR. SULLIVAN: Look, it’s hard to assign percentage probabilities to any of this. We have to think about the range of scenarios that we confront, and it’s our job to be ready for all of them.
So, what I will say is that the way that he has built up his forces and put them in place, along with the other indicators that we have collected through intelligence, makes it clear to us that there is a very distinct possibility that Russia will choose to act militarily, and there is reason to believe that that could happen on a reasonably swift timeframe.
Now, 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.
Q In the warning that you just delivered to Americans who are in Ukraine, saying that they should get out now while they still can, do you have a picture of how many Americans right now are in Ukraine?
MR. SULLIVAN: I would refer you to the State Department for the specifics on this because —
Q They said they don’t know.
MR. SULLIVAN: — I don’t want to do it off the top of my head. There is basically two categories: There are those who have registered with the embassy and those who have not registered with the embassy. In the first category, obviously, they have a number, although some of those folks have already left and didn’t deregister. In the second category, we don’t know because, of course, no American is obligated or required.
So, you can’t fix a perfect number. But they’re the ones who are best positioned to be able to explain what our current picture is of American citizens in Ukraine.
What I can do is stand before the world media and send a very clear message to all Americans. And to any American who’s in Ukraine right now who needs help — needs financial help or needs logistical help to take advantage of a commercial option to get out: Please call the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv because we stand ready to provide that help.
Q Thanks, Jake. I got two quick questions. One, are you looking at this being some kind of attack on Kyiv, on the Donbas, on another region? Do you have any sense of that?
And then, what is the level of confidence that the intelligence community has in what they’re hearing about this plan, especially about the potential for it to come before the end of the Olympics?
MR. SULLIVAN: When you say — I’m sorry, can you repeat the second question?
Q Just around the confidence that the intelligence world has around whether this will happen before the Olympics.
MR. SULLIVAN: The intelligence community has sufficient confidence that I can stand before you today and say what I have said, which is that there is a distinct possibility that Vladimir Putin would order a military action and invasion of Ukraine in this window, in this time period, and that could include the time period before February 20th, before the Beijing Olympics have been completed.
And so, they believe that that — everything I have just said is well-grounded in both what they are seeing on the ground and what they are picking up through all of their various sources.
Now, to your question about what type of action it would be: We’ve been clear that it could take a range of different forms. But I want to be equally clear that one of those forms is a rapid assault on the city of Kyiv. That is a possible line of attack, course of action that the Russian forces could choose to take. They could also choose to move in other parts of Ukraine as well.
The last point that I would make — and I know this has been the subject of a fair amount of back-and-forth between the administration and the press over the course of the past week: We are firmly convinced that the Russians, should they decide to move forward with an invasion, are looking hard at the creation of a pretext — a false-flag operation — something that they generate and try to blame on the Ukrainians as a trigger for military action.
And we are calling that out publicly because we do believe that if Russia chooses to do that, they should be held to account; the world should not believe that a false-flag operation that they conducted is a legitimate casus belli for going into Ukraine.
Q Thanks. Thanks, Jake. You mentioned that you do not want to say that Putin has made a decision. But can — does the United States believe that the President — pardon me, that President Putin has made a decision? Because PBS NewsHour just reported a little bit ago that the United States does believe that Putin has made a decision and has also communicated that decision to the Russian military. Is that accurate?
MR. SULLIVAN: The report that you just referenced, which I have not seen yet, it does not accurately capture what the U.S. government’s view is today.
Our view is that we do not believe he has made any kind of final decision — or we don’t know that he has made any final decision. And we have not communicated that to anybody.
Q To follow up on that — it’s my colleague, Nick Schifrin, who’s doing that reporting. And he’s citing three Western and defense officials who say the U.S. does believe that Putin has made up his mind, has communicated that to the military, and that they’ve been shown intelligence on that. You’re saying that’s not true?
MR. SULLIVAN: What we have communicated to our Allies and partners — all 30 Allies in NATO, plus a range of other partners — our latest intelligence information. And it does not include a statement that Vladimir Putin has definitively given an order to proceed with the invasion.
Q You haven’t been shown anything from your NATO Allies either?
MR. SULLIVAN: I’m sorry?
Q You haven’t been shown any evidence or briefed on intelligence that speaks to that from NATO Allies?
MR. SULLIVAN: We have not seen anything come to us that says a final decision has been taken, the go order has been given.
What I will say — and the reason I’m up here talking in the way I am to American citizens, the reason we are taking the various actions we’re taking, the reason the President convened our closest Allies and partners from across the NATO Alliance and the European Union is because we believe he very well may give the final go order. That is a very distinct possibility. but we are not standing here before you today and say, “The order has been given. The invasion is on.”
It may well happen. It may well happen soon. But we are not saying — I think the way that you’ve just characterized it — and I have not seen this PBS report yet, but as you’ve characterized it, that does not capture the communication that we are making to our NATO Allies, nor what we understand internally.
Q Given the risk that you’ve laid out, the fact that you’re not 100 percent certain that Putin has made a decision yet — we have seen other world leaders meeting with Putin. Has there been any more thought to President Biden engaging with him directly?
MR. SULLIVAN: I would expect that President Biden will engage by telephone with President Putin, but I don’t have anything to announce for you on that right now.
Q And just — because this is getting so close now and the concern that you’re weighing towards the American people, is there a need to provide some underlying evidence of just what you’re seeing that shows Americans — this is a country that went through Iraq — and concerns about what the intelligence is showing? Does the administration see a need to just provide underlying intelligence?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, let me just start with a fundamental distinction between the situation in Iraq and the situation today.
In the situation in Iraq, intelligence was used and deployed from this very podium to start a war. We are trying to stop a war, to prevent a war, to avert a war. And all we can do is come here before you in good faith and share everything that we know to the best of our ability, while protecting sources and methods so we continue to get the access to intelligence we need.
But there’s another big difference between what happened in 2003 and what’s happening in 2022, and that is — in that case, it was information about intentions, about a hidden thing, stuff that couldn’t be seen. Today, we are talking about more than 100,000 Russian troops amassed along the Ukrainian border, with every capacity out there in the open for people to see. It’s all over social media. It’s all over your news sites.
So you can believe your own eyes that the Russians have put in place the capabilities to conduct a massive military operation against Ukraine, should they choose to do so.
And then, finally, I would just say: If you look at the course of the past few months, as we have said, we predict there will be a buildup of this kind. Our information is telling us that the Russians are likely to move in these ways. Thus far — in November, in December, in January — that has borne out.
So I think when you take all of that together, we put forward a credible case. But it’s not my job to stand up here and convince any of you of anything. It’s your job to ask the questions and do what you can do. All I can do is, based on the best information I have available — that I can share, that the President can share, the Secretary of State can share — put that out there in close consultation with our Allies and partners. That’s what we’ve done.
Q At what point, Jake, would you expect the country would hear directly from the President on this and the risk to world order of Vladimir Putin rolling tanks or bombing a foreign capital?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first, the country has heard from the President directly on the Ukraine subject many times over the course of the past three months, and they will continue to.
So it’s not like President Biden has been silent on this question. He has been very vocal on it. He has spoken to every aspect of it. He has read out his calls on it — with world leaders, his meetings, et cetera. But he will continue to speak directly to the American people as we watch the situation unfold.
Q But no plans for any kind of address to the nation from the Oval Office? No kind of speech specifically about this issue with prepared remarks?
MR. SULLIVAN: I don’t have anything to announce in terms of a speech or prepared remarks at this point.
Q Thank you so much. So, you and other administration officials have been quite transparent in describing the strategy towards Ukraine to us, the press. Do you believe that that strategy is actually helping to reduce tensions? Or do you feel that that may be part of the reason why it’s boxing Vladimir Putin even further in airing your strategy so publicly like this?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, only one country has amassed more than 100,000 troops on the border of another country with all of the capabilities and capacities to conduct an invasion. That country is Russia; that country is not the United States.
So, the fastest way to deescalate this situation for all involved would be for Russia to choose to deescalate its mobilization of forces.
The United States is responding to the active, sustained buildup of military pressure on Ukraine. We are doing so in lockstep with Allies and partners. And at the same time, we have been extremely forward-leaning in our willingness to engage in diplomacy to address the mutual concerns of Russia, the Europeans, and the United States when it comes to European security.
Q Thank you so much, Jake. Two questions for you. Next week, the Vice President is going to Germany for the Munich Security Conference. Why isn’t President Biden going? Wouldn’t it be a good time to engage with his allies in person? Is he doing enough to avoid a war?
And the second question: Next week, the Brazilian president is going to Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin. How does the White House see this visit and the timing of this visit? And do you guys expect anything from the Brazilian president during his meeting?
MR. SULLIVAN: If you simply looked at a catalog of the engagements the President has had with his allies and partners, including the engagement he had today, that catalog alone would be a rebuttal to the proposition that he’s not doing enough to rally the West and to offer Russia a credible diplomatic path out of this. That’s included phone calls. It’s included meetings. It’s included video conferences. It’s included just countless sustained effort over the course of months, and we will continue with that.
And we’re also very proud to have the Vice President representing the American delegation at the Munich Security Conference.
Q But what about the question about the Brazilian president meeting with Vladimir Putin next week?
MR. SULLIVAN: The Brazilian president is obviously, you know, free to conduct his own diplomacy with other countries, including with Russia, and I really don’t have anything else to add on it today.
Q Thanks, Jake. You mentioned the possibility of an assault on Kyiv, specifically. What is your sense, if Putin does decide to invade Ukraine: Is he looking to invade and take over the entire country or a part, like Crimea in 2014?
And just one follow-up as well. How do you explain the disconnect between the rhetoric that we’re hearing — or the warnings we’re hearing from you and other Western countries and what seems to be a playing down of the risk from Ukraine itself?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, I won’t speak to the decisions that the Ukrainian leadership is making in terms of how they’re communicating on this issue. I will only say that we are coordinating extremely closely with them. President Biden has spoken multiple times with President Zelenskyy. I speak nearly every day with senior aides to President Zelenskyy. Secretary Blinken is deeply engaged with both his counterpart and the President in Kyiv.
So we will continue that level of coordination, sharing of information across every dimension of our government. But I can’t characterize why it is that they’re choosing their course.
I can only say that, based on the information we have, we’ve chosen to be as transparent as possible with what we see as a significant risk of military action in Ukraine.
And as to your other question, I can’t obviously predict what the exact shape or scope of the military action will be. As I said before, it could take a variety of forms. It could be more limited. It could be more expansive. But there are very real possibilities that it will involve the seizure of a significant amount of territory in Ukraine and the seizure of major cities, including the capital city.
Q Thank you for taking my question. Did the U.S. wait too long to arm Ukraine, especially with respect to weapons that could defend against an airstrike like you laid out? Did they wait too long to move U.S. forces to NATO countries? And does the President still view the idea of pre-invasion sanctions as a stupid question?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, as to the question of waiting too long on arming the Ukrainians: Over the course of the past year, the United States has provided more than half a billion dollars — $650 million — in defensive assistance to Ukraine. That’s more than has ever been given by any President in any year at any time. And that began more than a year ago under the presidency of Joe Biden.
Second, we have made good on the commitment to get those deliveries into the hands of the Ukrainian armed forces. Those are defensive weapons intended to defend Ukraine against aggression. They are not meant for offensive purposes against any country.
So we feel very proud of the contribution and commitment that we have had to helping the Ukrainians be able to defend themselves.
With respect to the question of the deployment of forces to defend NATO territory: Our view is that, in addition to the 80,000 strong U.S. force presence in Europe today, that — showing in Poland and Romania, in particular, but also through the deployment of air squadrons to the Baltics, as we had a few days ago, and other significant moves we’ve made — a carrier in the Mediterranean that, for the first time in 30 years, actually flew the NATO flag as well as the American flag — that we have been forward-leaning and robust in defending and reassuring our NATO Allies.
And you don’t have to take it from me. You can talk to the President of Poland or the President of Romania about the satisfaction they have with the fact that the United States has stepped up alongside other NATO Allies to deter and reassure and reinforce our presence along the eastern flank.
Q What about the pre-invasion sanctions? You didn’t answer that part of my question. Is the President looking at sanctions ahead of an invasion any differently than he has been up until this point, given the escalation that we’re seeing from Russia?
MR. SULLIVAN: The President believes that sanctions are intended to deter. And in order for them to work — to deter, they have to be set up in a way where if Putin moves, then the costs are imposed. We believe that that is the right logic, both on its own merits, but equally importantly, we believe that the most important fundamental for anything that unfolds in this crisis, whether through diplomacy or as a result of military action, is that the West be strong, be united, and be determined to operate with common purpose.
And he believes that the sanctions approach he’s taken in lockstep with our European partners, the Canadians, and others puts us in a position for the West to be able to respond to this contingency in the most united and purposeful way possible. That will pay dividends for us in this circumstance, but it will also pay enormous strategic dividends for the United States in the years and decades ahead.
Q Thanks, Jake. Our understanding is that there was a sudden meeting last night in the Situation Room to talk about Russia. And now you and Secretary Blinken are obviously using sharper rhetoric about the timing of the invasion. I know you don’t want to get into specific intelligence, but is there something that prompted the meeting last night and that has changed the administration’s assessment overnight?
MR. SULLIVAN: So I’m not going to speak to internal deliberations, and I’m not going to get into the specifics of intelligence information.
What I am going to say is that for some time now, including out of my own very mouth, we have been talking about how we had entered the window where any day now a military action could be taken. That was the formula I was using several days ago.
Now, as we gain more information, our view that military action could occur any day now and could occur before the end of the Olympics is only growing in terms of its robustness — so that I can stand here and say that is a very, very distinct possibility.
But I just want to say two things. First, we can’t predict the exact determination that Putin would make if and when he makes a determination. So all we can say is that the strong possibility of action, the distinct possibility of action in a relatively near-term timeframe — including along the timeframe that I’ve laid out, that Secretary Blinken talked about — that is backed up by our view of what’s happening on the ground, and it’s backed up by information that we continue to acquire day by day, including over the course of the past few days.
Q Jake, why would — why would — can you delve into a little bit more: Why would Russia risk provoking China with an action during the Olympics? And secondly, can you just speak more broadly to the China-Russia — what looks like an emerging alliance here on certain issues? And how much does that concern you?
MR. SULLIVAN: So I’d say three things about this. First, you know, Russia’s calculus vis-à-vis China — whether they’re going to make Beijing upset or not — you know, that’s kind of between Russia and China. And Putin will obviously have to decide what he wants to do on that front.
China also has its own decisions to make. And to the extent that they are giving a wink and a nod or a green light to a Russian invasion of Ukraine for no justified reason — I believe that China will ultimately come to suffer consequences as a result of that in the eyes of the rest of the world, most notably in the eyes of our European partners and allies.
And then, finally, I would just say that we do not believe that China can compensate Russia for the economic losses that would be sustained in the event of an invasion, due to sanctions and export controls and the like.
Just one more thing on the broader issue of China and Russia, because there was quite a bit of hype about the statement that they put out. And it was a notable statement that we have taken careful — a careful look at.
I’ve said this before, I want to say it again — and then I’ll leave because Jen is now standing up, and I think it’s — (laughter) — it’s well past my time to go: The United States, under the Biden administration, has confidence in us and in the West. We are 50 percent-plus of global GDP. China and Russia are less than 20 percent. We have innovation. We have entrepreneurship. We have freedom.
And when you put all of that together, the tools and capacities that we can bring to bear — now that we are more united, more purposeful, more dynamic than we have been in a very long time — we are well situated to be able to deal with any threat or challenge that would be posed to us by any autocracy in the world, including the two that you just mentioned. So let me just leave it at that.
Thank you, guys.
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