All indications point to Russia’s imminent invasion of Ukraine, U.S. Secretary Of State Antony Blinken stated on Sunday. However, Washington still pledged that it would use every opportunity up until the very last minute to dissuade Moscow by diplomacy.
CBS News reported Sunday that U.S. intelligence services confirmed that Russian commanders were given orders to invade Ukraine. Commanders on the ground had made specific plans for how they would maneuver within their respective areas of the battlefield.
The intelligence suggests that they are doing “everything that American commanders would do once given the order to proceed,” CBS News National Security correspondent David Martin reported.
Blinken, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union”, maintained Washington’s position on the deterrent effect of sanctions if they were triggered before an invasion. This is despite Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s passionate plea to release them on Saturday.
“Everything we are seeing suggests that this is dead serious, that we are on the brink of an invasion. We will do everything we can to try to prevent it before it happens,” Blinken said, adding that the West was equally prepared if Moscow invades.
“Until the tanks are actually rolling, and the planes are flying, we will use every opportunity and every minute we have to see if diplomacy can still dissuade President (Vladimir) Putin from carrying this forward,” he said.
Blinken said that President Joe Biden was open to engaging with Putin at any time and in any format “if it can help prevent war,”
President Joe Biden was also prepared to engage with Putin “at any time, in any format if that can help prevent a war,” Blinken added.
Western leaders warned of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and estimated that over 150,000 Russian troops are currently in the country.
The Belarus defense minister stated earlier that Russia and Belarus were continuing military drills, which were scheduled to conclude on Sunday.
The decision to extend the drills was made because of military activity near the borders of Russia and Belarus and an escalation of the situation in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, the Belarusian defense ministry said in a statement.
Washington warned that Russia could make false claims about Ukraine’s Donbass conflict, including allegations of mass graves and chemical weapons production, in order to justify an invasion.
Asked if the decision made him more concerned about an invasion, Blinken said: “Yes.”
“All of this along with the false flag operations we’ve seen unfold over the weekend tells us that the playbook that we laid out is moving forward,” he said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in an interview with broadcaster ABC warned about “enormous casualties” if Russia were to deploy the tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and rocket forces it has massed on the Ukraine border.
“You could see a significant amount of combat power move very quickly now to take Kiev,” he said, and added: “If he employs that kind of combat power it will certainly create enormous casualties within a civilian population.”