President Joe Biden said Tuesday that every indication is that Russia is “prepared to go into Ukraine, attack Ukraine.” Biden added, “My sense is it will happen in the next several days.”
Biden’s comments are just part of the Biden administration’s strong public warnings that an invasion of Ukraine is imminent. On Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the U.N. Security Council and in no uncertain terms said that Russia is planning a false flag operation and that Russian forces, including troops, aircraft, and ships, are “preparing to launch an attack against Ukraine in the coming days.” Those assertions were a continuation of the U.S.’s extraordinary forthcoming response to what it says is intelligence showing Putin very well might invade, but were more determinative than the Biden administration has previously been.
Blinken sounded prophetic and convicted as he described what he says the U.S. believes may unfold:
The highest levels of the Russian government may theatrically convene emergency meetings to address the so-called crisis. The government will issue proclamations declaring that Russia must respond to defend Russian citizens or ethnic Russians in Ukraine. Next, the attack is planned to begin. Russian missiles and bombs will drop across Ukraine. Communications will be jammed. Cyberattacks will shut down key Ukrainian institutions. After that, Russian tanks and soldiers will advance on key targets that have already been identified and mapped out in detailed plans.
Blinken also described possible ways that Russia will launch a false flag operation, saying, “We don’t know precisely how this will play out, but here’s what the world can expect to see unfold”:
First, Russia plans to manufacture a pretext for its attack. This could be a violent event that Russia will blame on Ukraine or an outrageous accusation that Russia will level against the Ukrainian government. We don’t know exactly the form it will take. It could be a so-called terrorist bombing inside Russia, the invented discovery of a mass grave, a staged drone strike against civilians, or a fake — even a real — attack using chemical weapons. Russia may describe this event as ethnic cleansing or a genocide, making a mockery of what we in this chamber do not take lightly.
Blinken explained that Russian media has already started to spread some of these claims in order to “maximize public outrage” and lay the groundwork for justifying war. “Today,” Blinken said, “that drumbeat has only intensified in Russia’s state-controlled media…. We’ve been warning the Ukrainian government of all that is coming, and here today, we are laying it out in great detail with the hope that by sharing what we know with the world, we can influence Russia to abandon the path of war and choose a different path while there’s still time.”
Addressing those who have called into question U.S. intelligence on the matter, Blinken said, “Let me be clear. I am here today not to start a war, but to prevent one. The information I presented here is validated by what we’ve seen unfolding in plain sight before our eyes for months.” He said he would gladly accept any criticism directed at him if Russia backs down.
Also on Thursday, ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, “The evidence on the ground is that Russia is moving toward an imminent invasion. This is a crucial moment.”
Our goal is to convey the gravity of the situation. The evidence on the ground is that Russia is moving toward an imminent invasion. This is a crucial moment. Today’s Council meeting should not distract us from that. It should focus on what is happening right now in Ukraine.
— Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@USAmbUN) February 17, 2022
In a speech Tuesday night, Biden was also bullish on a Russian attack on Ukraine, but he did not declare that he expected it to happen. He said that an invasion “remains distinctly possible.” Those comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was withdrawing some troops from the border and was open to negotiations, which calmed some of the sky-high tensions and caused the stock market to somewhat recover.
Defense officials have since insisted that Russian troops have shown no sign of withdrawing. Instead, the number of troops on the border is actually increasing, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Thursday, adding that Russia is building its readiness in the Black Sea, stocking up on blood supplies, and flying in additional combat aircraft. Other nations, including Lithuania, have said that assessment matches their intelligence. The UK defense ministry also tweeted Thursday that “Russia retains a significant military presence that can conduct an invasion without further warning.”
INTELLIGENCE UPDATE: Russia retains a significant military presence that can conduct an invasion without further warning.
Below demonstrates President Putin’s possible axis of invasion. He still can choose to prevent conflict and preserve peace. pic.twitter.com/QHRM1wNwJG
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) February 17, 2022
There were more signs Thursday of accelerating Russian aggression and deteriorating diplomatic relations owing to Russian hostility.
On Thursday, tensions escalated in eastern Ukraine as a kindergarten and school in a Ukrainian town were hit by mortar shells. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said it was a “big provocation” by pro-Russian forces. Russia blamed Ukraine, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying, “Attempts to shift all the blame for what is happening around Ukraine onto Russia will not succeed.”
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Russia filed a report with the U.N. which claims that Ukraine is pursuing the “genocide of the Russian-speaking population.”
The State Department said Thursday that Russia had expelled the second-highest-ranking diplomat in Moscow. “Russia’s action against our DCM was unprovoked and we consider this an escalatory step and are considering our response,” a State Department spokesman said.
Last week, sources told CBS that the U.S. had intelligence showing that Putin had decided to invade. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan denied the reporting while affirming that it was very much possible that an invasion could happen within the week. On CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, Sullivan said, “We cannot perfectly predict the day, but we have now been saying for some time that we are in the window, and an invasion could begin — a major military action could begin — by Russia in Ukraine any day now.”
In his speech Thursday, Biden warned that if Russia does invade, “the human costs for Ukraine will be immense, and the strategic cost for Russia will also be immense.” U.S. intelligence has shown that 50,000 Ukrainian civilians could be killed or injured in a Russian invasion.
“If Russia attacks Ukraine,” Biden said, “it’ll be met with overwhelming international condemnation. The world will not forget that Russia chose needless death and destruction.”
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