The situation in Ukraine is potentially about to get much more dire, as Lucas Y. Tomilson reported for Fox News on Saturday that families of U.S. embassy personnel in Ukraine have been ordered by the State Department to begin evacuating, as soon as Monday. The State Department is also expected to encourage Americans to leave the country by commercial flights. The official had indicated "while those are still available."
Earlier Saturday morning reports from CNN have also indicated that nonessential staff are also requesting that the State Department authorizes their departure.
The State Department and Ukraine government have been tight-lipped, though:
The US Embassy in Kyiv has requested that the State Department authorize the departure of all nonessential staff and their families, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
A State Department spokesperson said they have "nothing to announce at this time," adding, "We conduct rigorous contingency planning, as we always do, in the event the security situation deteriorates." A spokesperson for the embassy declined to confirm and referred CNN to the State Department in Washington.
A source close to the Ukrainian government told CNN that the US has informed Ukraine that it is "likely to start evacuations as early as next week" of the families of diplomats from the embassy in Kyiv. The source said President Volodymyr Zelensky has spoken to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the matter and told him that if the United States took such a dramatic step, it would be an "overreaction." CNN has asked the Ukrainian government for comment.
The State Department has already issued the highest-level travel advisory for Ukraine, telling Americans not to travel to the country and to be aware of reports that Russia is planning for significant military action against Ukraine.
Matt had just reported on Friday, though, that reports are indicating that the U.S. is considering evacuation, calling back to mind the failure from just months ago of evacuating people from Afghanistan. Katie had mentioned such reports last December as well.
Additionally, there were reports from The New York Times on Monday that "Russia Thins Out Its Embassy in Ukraine, a Possible Clue to Putin’s Next Move."
Tomilson also included in his report that Russian fighter jets have arrived in Belarus. With another official indicating that the Pentagon is concerned Ukraine's capital of Kyiv is "now in the crosshairs."
Tensions are high with Russia and Ukraine, after predictably failed talks. Russia is demanding that NATO never allows Ukraine to become a member. As Rebekah Koffler explained Russian demands in a January 15 column for Townhall:
On Sunday, after the high-level US-Russia meetings kicked off with a two-hour working dinner in Geneva, Foreign Deputy Minister Ryabkov characterized his rendezvous with US counterpart Wendy Sherman as “fantastic.” On Monday, Ryabkov’s tone changed sharply, following an eight-hour session. “We are sick and tired of empty talks, half-promises. We don’t trust the other side. We must have “ironclad, legally-binding guarantees” that Ukraine and Georgia will “never become members of NATO.”
This was not a change of heart by Ryabkov. Putin’s minion was employing his judo practitioner boss’s favored tactic of keeping your enemy off-balance. Putin believes that by keeping the West on edge as he decides on the best approach to prevent former Soviet states like Ukraine from joining NATO, Russia can achieve tactical surprise when it is ready to take action. Putin’s marching orders to the Russian delegation was “not to bend under pressure from Washington” – any “concessions are absolutely out of the question.” “The specific issue at hand must be resolved on Russia’s terms.”
Neither side expected any breakthroughs going into the meetings in Europe. Although the agenda ostensibly centered around finding a resolution for the US-Russia standoff over Ukraine, at the heart of the dispute between Moscow and Washington is a much deeper issue: Who will call the shots in Eurasia, the area that roughly coincides with the old Russian Empire — which includes . . . — following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Russians are fanatical in their belief that there cannot be peaceful co-existence with the US, given that the U.S. grand strategy since the 1940s has focused on preventing Russia from dominating the region. Russia views its current struggle to prevent Ukraine and Georgia from joining NATO as an existential battle with the West. It sees Ukraine as a part of its vital interests that must be defended at all costs, including going to war. Putin has been demanding from the US for years an acknowledgement of Russia’s version of the US Monroe Doctrine. He views the weak Biden presidency as an opportunity to gain acquiescence to his demands.
When it comes to potential action, U.S. aid has arrived in Kyiv, as the U.S. embassy there tweeted. Spencer reported last week that Secretary of State Antony Blinken claims that the U.S. is "fully prepared" if Russia invades Ukraine.
The shipment - and $2.7 billion USD since 2014 - demonstrates U.S. commitment to helping Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of growing Russian aggression. ???????? #partnershipstrong [2/2] pic.twitter.com/scPFWM3we7— U.S. Embassy Kyiv (@USEmbassyKyiv) January 22, 2022
Such concerns and reports of upcoming evacuations and requests for them come as President Joe Biden on Wednesday shocked and concerned the world by potentially giving Russia the green light to take action against Ukraine, so long as it was "a minor incursion."
"And so, I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades. And it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera," Biden said, according to the White House transcript of the press conference.