Watch CBS News

Sullivan says Russia could launch Ukraine invasion "essentially at any time"

Sullivan: Russia could invade Ukraine "essentially at any time"
Sullivan says Russia could launch Ukraine invasion "essentially at any time" 10:29

Washington — White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday that Russia's ramp-up of forces around Ukraine over the past few days indicates Russian President Vladimir Putin could give an order for military action "essentially at any time."

"We have seen over the course of the past 10 days a dramatic acceleration in the build-up of Russian forces and the disposition of those forces in such a way that they could launch a military action essentially at any time," Sullivan said in an interview with "Face the Nation." "They could do so this coming week, but of course, it still awaits the go-order" from Putin.

Still, he said the U.S. "cannot predict the precise day or time" that Russia might decide to take action.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have escalated as more than 100,000 Russian forces have amassed along Ukraine's borders, even as the U.S. and Western allies have urged Putin to engage in diplomacy. 

Despite the continued message of de-escalation, pushed by the Biden administration, the risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine has continued to rise, as Russia has 80% of the forces in place that would be needed for a full-scale invasion, a U.S. official told CBS News last week.

The State Department on Saturday ordered non-emergency employees at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to leave the country. Sullivan on Friday urged all U.S. citizens in Ukraine to swiftly leave the country, and warned there is "no prospect of a U.S. military evacuation" for those who choose to stay.

"If there is military action, if there is a war between Russia and Ukraine started by a Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Biden is not intending to send in American forces to fight Russia in that war," he reiterated Sunday.

President Biden spoke with Putin for roughly an hour on Saturday and warned him that the U.S. will "respond decisively and impose swift and severe costs" if Russia invades Ukraine. Mr. Biden is also set to speak with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday, a White House official said.

Sullivan, who was on the call with Putin, said he couldn't predict what the Russian leader would do, but stressed that U.S. officials would continue to "test the proposition that we can find a diplomatic path forward."

"If Russia wants to continue engaging diplomatically to find a way forward to address their security concerns and our security concerns, we're prepared to do that," he said. "If Russia decides instead to take major military action against Ukraine, we're prepared to respond decisively."

In the event Russia invades Ukraine, Sullivan said the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine and said doing so is "one of the three fundamental elements" of the Biden administration's response.

"Continue to support Ukraine as it seeks to resist Russian aggression, second, impose severe and swift economic measures sin concert with our allies and partners to go at Russia's financial system and its defense-industrial base, and then third, reinforce, reassure and deter, that is reinforce NATO territory, reassure our allies on the eastern flank and deter Russia from any action against NATO allies," he said.

Asked about the new alliance between Russia and China, Sullivan said he does not believe China "will be in a position to compensate Russia for the losses it will endure" if the U.S. and allies hit Russia with economic sanctions.

"We all have to have a bit more confidence in ourselves, the United States, the West, the leading democracies of the world," he said. "We're more than 50% of the world's economy. China and Russia are less than 20%. We've got innovation, we've got entrepreneurship and yes we've got freedom."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.