Kremlin order of Ukraine invasion to proceed prompted Biden warning: reports
President Biden’s announcement on Friday that he was “convinced” Russian President Vladimir Putin had “made the decision” to invade Ukraine was reportedly based on U.S. intelligence that indicated the Kremlin ordered Russian military units to move forward with an invasion of Ukraine, according to multiple reports.
The New York Times and CNN, citing U.S. officials and various sources, reported on Sunday that the U.S. obtained intelligence last week illustrating that the Kremlin had ordered the military to proceed with an invasion of Ukraine, which prompted Biden’s statement that he was convinced Putin had made the decision to launch an incursion.
The Kremlin’s order, however, is not permanent, according to CBS News. A U.S. official told the network that Putin can still change the directive.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized on Sunday that the U.S. believes Putin “has made the decision” to invade Ukraine but emphasized that a diplomatic path forward will remain an option until the last possible minute.
“Until the tanks are actually rolling and the planes are flying, we will use every opportunity and every minute we have to see if diplomacy can still dissuade President Putin from carrying this forward,” Blinken said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Concerns have mounted for weeks in the U.S. and among allied nations that Russia will likely carry out a military incursion against Ukraine. Blinken on Sunday said Moscow has amassed more than 150,000 troops across the Ukrainian border.
The U.S. envoy to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Friday detailed reports that up to 190,000 Russian troops are now along the Ukrainian border, including those in Belarus and Crimea.
Fears of an invasion heightened further on Sunday when Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin announced that military leaders from Russian and Belarus would “continue checking” joint force readiness because of an “increase in military activity” near the Belarusian border. Khrenin also cited the “aggravation of the situation” in eastern Ukraine.
Blinken on Sunday said the continuation of joint exercises between Russia and Belarus makes him more concerned about a potential Russian invasion. He also said the new development illustrates that Russia is following the “playbook” he laid out at the United Nations Security Council, which said Moscow is looking to create provocations to justify aggression against Ukraine.
Blinken also pointed to the increased number of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border and potential false flag operations that unfolded over the weekend.
He said those factors illustrate that “the playbook that we laid out is moving forward.”
The Washington Post, citing people familiar with the matter, said the U.S. obtained intelligence indicating that the Kremlin had ordered the Russian military to move forward with an invasion as military personnel and security officials were working to execute the command.
The Post first reported on the Kremlin giving orders to proceed with the invasion.
An administration official told The Hill on Sunday that Biden’s “statement on Friday reflects the assessments of the intelligence community.”
“As he also made clear, the door to diplomacy will remain open,” the administration official added.
Jordan Williams contributed.
Updated at 11:05 p.m.