U.S. 'watching very carefully' for phony Russian reason to kick off Ukraine invasion

“There is a kind of bizarre quality to all of this where the Russians are claiming they are the ones who are under threat, despite the fact that they have amassed more than 100,000 forces … on the border of their neighbor,” Sullivan said .

In a separate interview with CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sullivan warned, “The world should be prepared for Russia staging a pretext and then launching a potential military action.”

The comments are the latest warning that Moscow may fabricate an attack on Russian territory or troops to justify invading Ukraine after a monthslong military buildup on the border. Top administration officials have also warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could give the go-ahead for an invasion any day.

The Biden administration has obtained intelligence suggesting Russia plans to stage an attack to falsely pin on Kyiv and justify an invasion, according to reports last week.

The administration has already publicly called out Moscow for potential false flag tactics, charging earlier this month that Russia was weighing filming a fabricated attack by Ukrainian forces to justify launching an invasion.

False flag tactics are used to justify military action by blaming an attack another country. Nazi Germany, for instance, launched the 1939 invasion of Poland that started World War II in Europe with a false flag attack on a German radio station, using attackers dressed as Polish nationals.

The Biden administration’s response to the Russian buildup has drawn bipartisan critiques from lawmakers who contend more weapons should have been sent to Ukraine sooner and that Moscow’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline should have been sanctioned.

Still, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — one of just two GOP lawmakers to join House Democrats’ investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection — praised the move to publicize a possible fabricated pretext for an invasion, though he added the Nord Stream pipeline should be sanctioned “regardless of what happens in Ukraine.”

“They have done a good job, particularly bringing out intel early, to try to defang any Russian narrative that could come with Ukraine,” Kinzinger told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We know about the discussion of a false flag attack. Well, now we’ve made it clear that Russia may do that.”

Another defense hawk, Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) said he wasn’t sure if the administration’s tactics, including warning of a false flag operation, are effective in pushing back on Putin.

Instead, Graham argued to Congress and the administration should levy heavy sanctions on Moscow ahead of an invasion.

“That’s a really good question. I don’t want to ring an alarm bell as much as take action,” he said. “They’re telling us the invasion is imminent. But they’re not telling Putin with clarity what happens if you invade.”

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