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Russia could attack Ukraine any day, diplomatic doors still open  

A service member of the Ukrainian armed forces walks at combat positions near the line of separation from Russian-backed rebels in Luhansk Region, Ukraine February 6, 2022. REUTERS/Maksim Levin

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan cautioned on Sunday that Russian President Vladimir Putin might launch an attack on Ukraine within days or weeks, as Washington and its European allies continued to offer Putin a diplomatic way out of the issue.

The news: After two U.S. officials warned on Saturday that Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, had roughly 70 per cent of the fighting capabilities it believes it would require for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Sullivan made the comments in television appearances.

  • While massing more than 100,000 troops near the border, Russia has stated that it is not preparing an invasion, but that if its security demands are not met, it may take unspecified military action.
  • These include a vow that Ukraine will never be admitted to NATO, a demand that the U.S. and the 30-nation Western security bloc have rejected.
  • According to the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday. That conversation came before of Macron’s travel to Moscow on Monday, which marked the end of days of French meetings with Russia and Ukraine in an attempt to de-escalate tensions.
  • According to a French Presidency source, the 40-minute call between Biden and Macron allowed the two leaders to coordinate ahead of the trip.
  • If the diplomatic pressure fails to discourage Putin, annexing Ukraine’s Donbass area, where Russian-backed separatists broke away from Ukrainian government control in 2014, cyberattacks, or a full-scale invasion of Ukraine are all possibilities, according to Sullivan.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. National security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 13, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

What Sullivan said: “We believe that there is a very distinct possibility that Vladimir Putin will order an attack on Ukraine,” Sullivan told ABC’s “This Week” program.

  • “It could happen as soon as tomorrow, or it could take some weeks yet. He has put himself in a position with military deployments to be able to act aggressively against Ukraine at any time now,” Sullivan added.

What’s going on: While seeking more military assistance, Ukraine has also sought to allay fears of an invasion. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, urged people to disregard “apocalyptic predictions,” saying his country was strong and benefited from unparalleled international support.

  • The United States has made it clear that it would not send troops to defend Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
  • However, Washington has provided armaments to Kyiv and announced last week that it will send almost 3,000 additional troops to Poland and Romania to protect Eastern Europe from the crisis’ potential spillover.
  • A plane carrying U.S. troops arrived in Poland on Sunday. The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that roughly 1,700 troops, mostly from the 82nd Airborne Division, would deploy from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Poland.
Russia could invade Ukraine within days or weeks but could still opt for a diplomatic path, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday

What Biden said: As he arrived to the White House after a weekend in Delaware, Biden issued a message to the military. As he spoke to reporters, he clenched his fist and stated, “We’re thinking about you.”

  • Biden said he wouldn’t speculate on whether more troops will be needed in Europe. While asked what factors Putin is considering when deciding whether to go ahead with an invasion, Biden said the Russian president is looking for “things he cannot get.”

What’s important: On Sunday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who will meet with Biden at the White House on Monday, said he was ready to sending extra troops to Lithuania to help NATO’s eastern flank.

  • Should Russia invade, the U.S. and its allies have threatened Russia with severe economic consequences. Financial sanctions and export-control measures could be among them.
  • Wally Adeyemo, the U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary, warned on Sunday that any penalties would be harsh on Putin and the Russian elites because of their reliance on Europe, Russia’s major economic partner, and the U.S. dollar.
  • “By the United States and Europe acting together, we put ourselves in a position where we not only would have an impact on the overall Russian economy but we’d have a direct impact on President Putin, who is tied to the Russian economy,” he told CBS News’ “Face the Nation. “On a daily basis, Russian financial institutions do about $46 billion worth of financial transactions globally with 80 per cent of those in dollars, Adeyemo said. Russia’s biggest trading partner is Europe, accounting for about 40 per cent of Russian commerce.
  • When asked if Russia could instead turn to China, Adeyemo said it would be tough due to the severity of expected U.S. sanctions and Russia’s ties with the West.
  • He told CBS that China “does not have access” to critical technologies that Russia relies on from the US and its allies.
  • “Russian elites are not investing their money in China because they would be shut off from the global financial system. They’re putting their money in Europe and the United States,” Adeyemo explained.
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