Without discussing the intelligence, Mr. Sullivan said Russian forces are in a position to launch major military action in Ukraine within 24 to 36 hours.
The invasion could begin during the Olympic games in China, which are scheduled to run through Feb. 20, Mr. Sullivan said. It was originally believed that Mr. Putin would not pull the trigger on a Ukraine invasion so as to avoid upstaging his ally, Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Mr. Sullivan emphasized that the administration does not believe that Mr. Putin has made a decision about whether to invade Ukraine.
He pushed back against a PBS Newshour report that said Western officials believe Mr. Putin has made up his mind to invade Ukraine and communicated that decision to Russian military leaders. Mr. Sullivan said the report was not accurate and the U.S. government does not believe he made a decision.
Echoing earlier remarks from President Biden, Mr. Sullivan urged any Americans in Ukraine to depart the country immediately.
“The risk is now high enough and the threat is now immediate enough that this is what prudence demands,” he said. “If you stay, you are assuming risk with no guarantee that there will be any other opportunity to leave, and no prospect of a U.S. military evacuation in the event of a Russian invasion.”
He underscored that the Biden administration will not send U.S. troops into Ukraine to rescue Americans stranded in the country after an invasion.
A Russian attack would likely start with aerial bombings and missile strikes including a “rapid assault on the city Kyiv,” Mr. Sullivan said. He declined to speculate about Mr. Putin’s goals of invading Ukraine, but suggested he’s looking to control “a significant amount of territory in Ukraine.”
“A subsequent ground invasion would involve the onslaught of a massive force with virtually no notice, communications to arrange a departure could be severed and commercial transit halted,” Mr. Sullivan said.
Mr. Sullivan’s remarks come amid increasing diplomacy from Biden administration officials. Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley spoke with his Russian counterpart on Friday, the Pentagon confirmed.
Earlier Friday, Mr. Biden held a call with European leaders as they scramble to pursue a diplomatic solution to the escalating crisis.
The call included the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, the United Kingdom, NATO, the European Commission and the European Council, according to the White House.
• Mike Glenn contributed to this report.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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