The US and UK also ordered families of its diplomats to leave Kyiv, citing the “threat of Russian military action,” in moves Ukraine itself said was “premature” and a case of “excessive caution,” even as Moscow massed 100,000 troops on its borders.
“The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice,” the US State Department said in its evacuation advisory, adding, “US citizens in Ukraine should consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options.”
Following up President Biden’s pledge that Washington would arm Ukraine without putting boots on the ground to counter Russia, more US arms began arriving in Kyiv.
Despite expressing skepticism about the west’s assessment of an imminent Russian invasion, the country received the shipment enthusiastically.
“The second bird in Kyiv! More than 80 tons of weapons to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities from our friends in the USA! And this is not the end,” Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted, together with photos of a transport plane with armaments.
The second bird in Kyiv! More than 80 tons of weapons to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities from our friends… https://t.co/pXy5UVD0lK
— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) 1642963551000
Nato too said Monday its members are putting forces on standby and sending additional ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe, “reinforcing Allied deterrence and defence as Russia continues its military build-up in and around Ukraine.”
Although the US has signaled that it will not put boots on the ground in Ukraine in an effort not to provoke Russia, it is how said to be considering deploying 5000 US troops in newer Nato nations such as Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, which border Russian territory and were part of the former Soviet bloc, actions Moscow sees as provocation enough.
Some reports spoke of a possible eventual deployment of up to 50,000 troops. It is unclear if these would be fresh deployment from US. Approximately 64,000 US military personnel are currently stationed in Europe.
At the heart of the dispute is Russia’s insistence that US and its allies stop pushing into its sphere of influence, including shepherding Ukraine, part of the former Soviet Union, into Nato. The US and Nato believe countries should be free to join any alliance they want to.
Sending fresh troops to the region would be a dramatic pivot for a nation that has only recently withdrawn from Afghanistan bowing to the general sentiment among Americans not to get sucked into foreign wars.
The Biden administration is struggling to formulate an appropriate response after Republicans pounced on the US Presidents remarks last week that they said was too soft towards Moscow even though their own leader Donald Trump endeared himself to Putin.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was watching Nato’s moves and President Putin was “taking measures to ensure that our security and our interests are properly protected.”
“Unfortunately, we live in such an aggressive environment. This is the reality in which we exist,” Peskov said.
Responding to what it sees as US provocation, Russia is flexing its muscle in the American sphere of influence, including planned live-fire drills off the coast of Ireland in February.
In Washington, President Biden conferred with his aides to craft a US response that would not be read as a surrender to Russia’s demands.
“The Russians have put concerns on the table that they say they have about their security. We’ve exchanged some ideas. We’ll be sharing with the Russians in writing not only our concerns but some ideas for a way forward that could enhance mutual security on a reciprocal basis. At the same time, we’ll continue to build up the defense and deterrence that is necessary,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.