Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky went after Biden for urging the families of U.S. diplomats and U.S. citizens in Ukraine to leave as soon as possible amid the threat of an imminent invasion by Russia – in what Zelensky suggested was a sign of incompetency out of Washington.
A source close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told BuzzFeed News on Monday that Zelensky “does not think there’s any remotely imminent threat to Kyiv.”
“The fact that the US was the first one to announce this is extremely disappointing and quite frankly these Americans are safer in Kyiv than they are in Los Angeles … or any other crime-ridden city in the US,” the source said.
“On the one hand, [Washington tells Ukraine] how we should democratize. We stand with you. It’s your right to determine to join the West. We will stand with you against Russian aggression. Then Russia turns up the temperature and they’re the first to leave.”
The source further said that President Zelensky views Biden’s panicked response as an “utterly ridiculous” sign of “U.S. inconsistency.”
The Biden administration told “dependents of staffers at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv that they must leave the country,” the Associated Press reported over the weekend.
The State Department mentioned the threat of Russian invasion in a statement, saying that the situation could rapidly change with little notice.
“The security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice. Demonstrations, which have turned violent at times, regularly occur throughout Ukraine, including in Kyiv,” the department said.
“Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Ukraine due to crime and civil unrest. Some areas have increased risk.”
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, similarly suggested that the move by the Biden administration was an overreaction.
Borrell told reporters, “We are not going to do the same thing because we don’t know any specific reasons. But [U.S.] Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken will inform us.”
Borrell noted that “negotiations are going on” and that he did not see any reason to withdraw from Ukraine “unless Secretary Blinken gives us an information that justifies a move.”
AFP noted that Borrell indicated that there was no need to “dramatize” the situation, in another apparent shot at Biden.
Meanwhile, Biden is weighing the deployment of “several thousand U.S. troops, as well as warships and aircraft, to NATO allies in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, an expansion of American military involvement amid mounting fears of a Russian incursion into Ukraine,”
The New York Times reported on Sunday night. “The move would signal a major pivot for the Biden administration, which up until recently was taking a restrained stance on Ukraine, out of fear of provoking Russia into invading.”
The report further said that while the Biden admin may start with just 5,000 troops – they would consider ramping that number up “tenfold if things deteriorate.”
Author: Tim Frieson