Fears of Russian invasion of Ukraine rises despite US push for diplomacy
U.S. officials are raising alarm that Russian threats of war against Ukraine are spiking dangerously despite the conclusion of a week of diplomatic meetings aimed at avoiding the outbreak of open conflict. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned Thursday that Russia is preparing a "false flag" operation to use as a pretext to launch an offensive against Kyiv on top of its buildup of more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine's eastern border.National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned Thursday that Russia is preparing a "false flag" operation to use as a pretext to launch an offensive against Kyiv on top of its buildup of more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine's eastern border.
It was chilly in Geneva on Thursday morning, and there was no reason to think the talks between the top diplomats from the U.S. and Russia the following day would be any warmer. Tension between the two global powers continues to rise, with President Biden saying on Wednesday that it was his "guess" Russian President Vladimir Putin would use the roughly 100,000 forces he has massed along the border to "move in" to Ukraine.
"He has to do something," Mr. Biden said during a White House news conference, warning that if Putin did decide to invade his neighbor, Russia would suffer "consequential" loss of life. The president didn't elaborate on the level of military assistance the U.S. might offer Ukraine in the face of an invasion, but it came as his administration worked with NATO allies to bolster Ukraine's forces — and quickly.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit Ukraine as US-Russia tensions escalate
Blinken will be in Kyiv on Tuesday to show U.S. support after last week's talks with Moscow failed to resolve disagreements over Ukraine.Blinken’s trip comes as Russia threatened to escalate conflict with Ukraine should the United States and its European allies not concede security and political support for the eastern European country.
U.S. weapons, Russian war games
U.S. officials confirmed to CBS News that the Biden administration had given permission to several NATO allies to send emergency shipments of U.S.-made weapons — including anti-tank missiles — to Ukraine to reinforce the country's defenses. State Department sources said allies including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the U.K. were cleared to make "Third Party Transfers" of U.S.-made and supplied equipment to Ukraine, which one official described as part of a race "to get as much gear to the Ukrainians as quickly as possible."
Russia, meanwhile, was moving military hardware and troops into Belarus — a close Russian ally that borders not only Ukraine, but also Lithuania, Latvia and Poland — for military exercises set to take place in February. American officials have voiced concern that Russia could use its troop presence in Belarus as another route to stage an overt invasion of Ukraine, or a so-called "false-flag" operation to create a "pretext for invasion."
US, allies pledge unity on Russia; to do what isn't as clear
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden has rallied European allies to pledge as one that they will take tough measures against Russia if it rolls troops into Ukraine. But when it comes to what exactly the United States and Europe are willing to do, the allies don't look as ringingly united. Militarily, for example, the United States, Turkey and Britain have stood out for supplying or agreeing to supply anti-tank missiles, armed drones, naval warships and other weapons, along with money to help Ukraine build its defenses.
© Provided by CBS News Russia continues to amass forces at Ukraine b... 09:20
Russia's defense ministry also announced on Thursday that it would conduct naval exercises "in all areas of responsibility of its fleets," including the Mediterranean, the northern Arctic seas, the northeastern Atlantic and in the Pacific Ocean. The drills, to take place in January and February, will involve more than 140 ships, 60 aircraft and about 10,000 forces, the ministry said.
The ministry said the drills would cover regions of seas and oceans adjacent to Russian territory, as well as what the Russian military called "operationally important areas" of other bodies of water.
U.S. and allies on the "same page"?
Secretary of State Antony Blinken left Ukraine early Thursday morning for Germany, where he was to meet with allies who, by President Biden's own admission, are not all on the "same page" about the level of sanctions to impose on Russia should Putin choose to invade his neighbor again. Russian forces last openly invaded Ukraine in 2014, when Putin unilaterally annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
Senators wrestle with Russia sanctions as Ukraine crisis deepens
“We should impose those sanctions sooner rather than later, not wait for the invasion to start," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.With the Biden administration warning that Moscow could launch an offensive against Kyiv at any moment, senators from both parties are hustling to back up their promises of bipartisanship with a legislative response aimed at crippling Russia’s economy if President Vladimir Putin triggers a war in eastern Europe. But despite some positive momentum, Republicans and Democrats have yet to agree on a consensus sanctions plan.
American officials have played down divisions within NATO over how much pressure to exert on Russia. The U.S. and Britain, for instance, have extended direct military aid to Ukraine, while Germany has declined to do so.
There was scant immediate reaction from EU capitals to President Biden's tough rhetoric on Thursday, but French President Emmanuel Macron said Europe should have its own negotiations with Russia and not rely on the U.S. to speak for it.
Asked about the divisions among allies, a senior State Department official insisted to CBS News on Thursday that there was "universal agreement on the steep costs" Russia must be forced to pay if it does invade, and the U.S. and its allies were "in the process of finalizing the mechanics" on how to ensure that could be done.
Reading Russian minds
The biggest outstanding question, from the perspective of U.S. officials and their allies, had not changed as Blinken prepared for his Friday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov: What does Putin really want? © Provided by CBS News White House warning on Russia and Ukraine 01:38
Kremlin officials have insisted that Russia has no plans or intentions to invade Ukraine, and Putin and his top aides insist it is the U.S. and NATO fueling animosity by threatening sanctions and moving military hardware and personnel close to Russia's western borders. But Moscow also issues continual warnings of military action if Putin's demands are not met — chiefly his insistence that NATO reject Ukraine's bid for membership.
Ukraine, midterms and Build Back Better: White House plays cleanup after Biden's marathon press conference
Biden took questions for nearly two hours Wednesday. Remarks about Ukraine and election integrity prompted the White House to clarify his comments.For 1 hour and 51 minutes, Biden stood at a lectern in the White House East room, fielding more than 180 questions from 24 reporters. Almost no issue went untouched.
The Biden administration has called that demand a non-starter, but both sides have shown a willingness to at least keep talking, most notably with the Friday meeting between Blinken and Lavrov on the neutral ground in Geneva.
Despite President Biden's "guess" on Wednesday, American officials say they still don't know for certain if Putin has decided to launch an invasion of Ukraine, on any scale, or whether the brinkmanship is merely intended to extract concessions from the U.S. and NATO as Moscow seeks what it calls "security guarantees." © Provided by CBS News A Ukrainian soldier is seen along the front line as Ukraine's forces battle Russian-backed separatists, near the town of Zolote-4, in eastern Ukraine, January 19, 2022. / Credit: Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency/Getty
Mr. Biden said on Wednesday that he didn't believe Putin wanted a "full-blown war," but that he expected the Russian leader to test the U.S. and NATO's resolve as much as possible.
State Department officials have said they still don't know what Putin is thinking, but they're planning for all eventualities. A large part of Blinken's mission when he meets Lavrov on Friday will no doubt be to assess, to the extent possible, Moscow's intentions.
CBS News' Margaret Brennan in Washington and Mary Ilyushina in Moscow contributed to this report.
Biden Says Russian Invasion of Ukraine Could Be 'Largest Invasion Since WWII' .
President Joe Biden again warned Russia of severe consequences if it invades Ukraine, saying the military operation would have worldwide effects.Biden again underscored the gravity of the tense situation at the border between the two Eastern European countries, where Russia has amassed 100,000 troops in possible preparation of an invasion of the former Soviet republic.