White House warns Russia ready to launch an attack on Ukraine 'at any point'

White House warns Russia ready to launch an attack on Ukraine 'at any point'
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A Russian tank and Russian soldier
A Russian service member walks near a T-72B3 main battle tank during military drills at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region of Russia on December 20, 2021.Sergey Pivovarov/Reuters
  • The White House warned that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine "at any point."

  • The US has warned of severe consequences if Russia invades the former Soviet republic.

  • "No option is off the table, in our view," Psaki said.

The White House on Tuesday warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent as top US and European diplomats scramble to prevent a new conflict in Europe.

"We believe we're now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine. I would say that's more stark than we have been," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, describing the circumstances on the Ukrainian border as an "extremely dangerous situation."

Russia, which invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, has gathered tens of thousands of troops along its next-door neighbor's border in recent weeks. The Kremlin has claimed it has no plans to invade, but Western powers are highly skeptical.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Ukraine and Germany this week as the crisis escalates and the White House continues to warn Russia of massive economic consequences if it invades.

"What Secretary Blinken is going to do is highlight very clearly that there's a diplomatic path forward," Psaki said, underscoring that it is Russian President Vladimir Putin's choice "to make whether they are going to suffer severe economic consequences or not."

"No option is off the table, in our view," Psaki said. "We continue to consult closely with European counterparts on severe consequences for Russia if it further invades Ukraine."

After visiting Kyiv and Berlin, Blinken is set to travel to Geneva to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday. Blinken spoke to his Russian counterpart via phone on Tuesday, stressing "the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions surrounding the deeply troubling Russian military build-up in and near Ukraine," the State Department said in a statement.

There have been no major breakthroughs in diplomatic talks between Russia and the US and its allies and partners in Europe this month. Russia has continued to make demands for binding security guarantees that the US and NATO have made clear are non-starters. This includes insisting that Ukraine and Georgia, another former Soviet republic that Russia invaded in 2008, never be permitted to join NATO.

Top US officials and Russia watchers have expressed concerns that Russia is looking for a "pretext" to invade amid reports of intelligence pointing to Russian operatives planning a "false-flag" operation within Ukraine to create the justification for an invasion.

Putin has blamed the US and NATO for the heightened tensions, despite his history of aggressive actions toward Ukraine and even as his troops stage provocative exercises in the region. In addition to the recent military buildup along the Ukrainian border, Russia also sent troops into Belarus this week for war games near Ukraine.

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