Any Americans still in Ukraine should leave “immediately,” the White House said Friday, as it warned that Russia could potentially launch an invasion of the country “any day now” — possibly even during the Olympics.
“Any American in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible, and in any event in the next 24 to 48 hours,” President Joe Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, said during a press briefing.
Those remarks echoed Biden’s own warning for U.S. citizens in Ukraine to “leave now” during an interview Thursday evening with NBC News’ Lester Holt. “This is a very different situation, and things could go crazy quickly,” Biden said.
Sullivan noted that the U.S. is not certain that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a final decision to invade Ukraine. But “it may well happen soon,” he said.
Russia has spent months building up its military presence at various points along the Ukrainian border. More than 100,000 Russian troops are currently stationed there.
An invasion, if it occurs, was previously expected to come after the close of the winter Olympics in Beijing in order to avoid a conflict with China, Russia’s ally.
The 2022 winter games, set to end on Feb. 20, have themselves been marred by controversy, including diplomatic boycotts over China’s human rights record and the recent revelation that a champion Russian figure skater tested failed a drug test.
But Sullivan on Friday stressed that an attack “could begin during the Olympics, despite a lot of speculation” that it would not.
Should Russia invade, the U.S. and its allies are “ready to respond decisively” through an array of actions, such as imposing “severe economic sanctions” and changes to NATO’s force posture, Sullivan said.
“If Russia proceeds, its long-term power and influence will be diminished, not enhanced, by an invasion,” Sullivan said.
“It will face a more determined transatlantic community. It will have to make more concessions to China. It will face massive pressure on its economy and export controls that will erode its defense industrial base, and it will face a wave of condemnation from around the world,” he said.
“Whatever happens next, the west is more united than it’s been in years,” Sullivan said.
Biden earlier Friday held a video call with several NATO leaders to discuss the Kremlin’s escalation on the Russia-Ukraine border.
Other countries, including Britain and Israel, have also urged their citizens to leave Ukraine.
This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.
— CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.