White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is warning that a Russian invasion of Ukraine “could happen at any time” — as US officials said Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has assembled 70 percent of the firepower he needs to launch a full-scale attack.
“We’re in the window where something could happen. That is a military escalation and invasion of Ukraine could happen at any time,” Sullivan said in an interview airing Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “We believe that the Russians have put in place the capabilities to mount a significant military operation into Ukraine, and we have been working hard to prepare a response.”
He said an incursion could “take many forms,” including annexing territory in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine where Russia is backing pro-separatist militias and conducting cyber-attacks to destabilize the Kyiv government.
Russia’s possible aggression could also come as an all-out attack, Sullivan said.
“Part of the reason that we’ve been working so intensively over the last few months is not just to prepare for one contingency but to prepare for all contingencies and to work with our allies and partners on what a response would look like in each of those instances,” Sullivan told host Chuck Todd.
“We believe that we have strong alignment with our allies, that we are on the same page when it comes to severe economic consequences and the other forms of pressure that we would impose in response to any kind of Russian action that amounts to aggression and escalation against Ukraine,” he said.
Sullivan went on to say that an invasion, which he defined as any Russian tank or troop movement across the border, would spark “severe economic sanctions” against Russia and result in the scuttling of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline between Moscow and Germany.
“If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward. And Russia understands that. We are coordinated with our allies on that, and that will be the reality if Russia chooses to move forward,” he said.
The Biden administration has claimed the pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea can be used as leverage against Russia, although President Biden decided to waive sanctions on the company involved in its construction back in May because the project was “almost finished.”
Along with amassing a force of more than 100,000 troops along the Ukraine border, Putin has laid out a number of security concerns that he has demanded the US and its European allies agree to.
He wants Ukraine and other former Soviet satellite states barred from joining NATO, a drawdown of US and NATO troops from Eastern Europe and assurances that the US will not deploy troops or missile systems in Ukraine.
Sullivan reiterated that barring a NATO membership for Ukraine is off the table, but other issues could come up in diplomatic talks.
“We’re prepared to sit down with the Russians, alongside our allies in NATO and other partners in Europe, to talk about issues of mutual concern in European security,” Sullivan said. “And yes, that includes the placement of certain range systems of missiles. It includes transparency around military exercises. It includes greater capacity to have confidence building and to avoid incidents that could lead to escalation or miscalculation.
“We’ve laid all of that out in a paper that we sent to the Russians after coordinating it carefully with our allies,” he said, referring to the US’s written response to Putin’s demands delivered last month.
“But what we’re not prepared to negotiate are the fundamental principles of security that include an open door to NATO for countries who can meet the requirements,” he said.
Sullivan’s appearance followed warnings from US officials Saturday that Putin has gathered about 70 percent of the military might that he likely needs to launch an attack and that he could do so beginning in mid-February.
The assessment predicts that civilian casualties would run as high as 50,000 and that the attack would spark a refugee crisis in Europe.
If Putin rejects a diplomatic solution and attacks, Russia will also suffer, Sullivan said.
“If war breaks out, it will come at an enormous human cost to Ukraine, but we believe that based on our preparations and our response, it will come at a strategic cost to Russia as well,” Sullivan said on “Fox News Sunday.”