WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) – White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday that Russia could invade Ukraine “any day” and unleash a conflict that carries “enormous human costs”.
President Joe Biden’s senior adviser warned the day after US officials confirmed that Russia has done so collected at least 70% of military firepower it probably plans to be ready by mid-month to give President Vladimir Putin the opportunity to launch a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.
“If a war breaks out, it will entail huge human costs for Ukraine, but we believe that based on our preparations and response, it will also entail strategic costs for Russia,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan did not directly respond to reports that the White House has informed lawmakers that a full-scale Russian invasion could lead to the swift capture of Kiev and possibly 50,000 casualties, as he appeared on a trio of talk shows on Sunday.
US officials, who discussed internal assessments of the Russian buildup on the condition that they were not identified, outlined a series of indicators suggesting Putin plans to launch an invasion in the coming weeks, although the size and scale are unclear. They emphasized that a diplomatic solution appears to remain possible.
One such military indicator: An exercise of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, usually held every fall, was moved from mid-February to March. That coincides with what US officials see as the most likely window for an invasion.
The government has issued more warnings in recent days that Russia appears to be increasingly planning to invade further Ukrainian territory.
Last week, officials of the Biden administration said intelligence findings showed the Kremlin had devised an elaborate plot to fabricate an attack by Ukrainian forces that Russia could use as a pretext to take military action against its neighbor.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Thursday the plan included the production of a graphic propaganda video that would show staged explosions and use corpses and actors portraying grieving mourners.
“It could happen tomorrow or it could be several more weeks,” Sullivan said. He added that Putin “put himself in a position with military commitment to act aggressively against Ukraine at any time.”
Still, Sullivan said the government continued to hope that the Russians would step in to de-escalate the situation through diplomacy.
“The most important thing is that the United States must and be prepared for all these contingencies and be in step with our allies and partners,” Sullivan said. “We have reinforced and reassured our allies on the eastern flank.”
Meanwhile elite US troops and equipment landed in southeastern Poland on Sunday near the border with Ukraine, on Biden’s orders to deploy 1,700 soldiers there, fearing a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Hundreds more 82nd Airborne Division infantry troops are expected at Rzeszow-Jasionka airport. A US Army Boeing C-17 Globemaster plane brought in several dozen troops and vehicles.
Their commander is Major General Christopher Donahue, who on August 30 was the last US soldier to leave Afghanistan.
“Our national contribution here in Poland shows our solidarity with all our allies here in Europe and of course, in this period of uncertainty, we know that we are stronger together,” Donahue said at the airport.
Biden ordered additional US troops to be sent to Poland, Romania and Germany to demonstrate America’s commitment to NATO’s eastern flank amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The eastern member of NATO, Poland, borders both Russia and Ukraine. Romania borders Ukraine.
The division can quickly deploy within 18 hours and launch parachute attacks to secure key targets. Based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the division’s history dates back to 1917.
Biden is set to meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz Monday at the White House. Scholz has said Moscow would pay a “high price” in the event of an attack, but his government’s refusal to supply deadly weapons to Ukraine, bolster its troop presence in Eastern Europe or explain what sanctions it will face against Russia would support, has drawn criticism abroad and at home.
French President Emmanuel Macron was due to arrive in Moscow on Monday for talks with Putin, and Scholz will be there in the coming days as well.
Sullivan expressed assurance that operation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany “will not continue” if Russia invades further into Ukraine. The pipeline is completed, but no gas is flowing yet.
“While it is true that Germany has not sent any weapons to Ukraine, they are the second largest donor to Ukraine in Europe after the United States,” Sullivan said. “The great thing about the kind of alliances we have with 30 NATO allies is that different allies will take different parts of this.”
Sullivan has appeared on “Fox News Sunday”, NBC’s “Meet the Press” and ABC’s “This Week”.