Pentagon press secretary John Kirby warned Sunday that the situation in Ukraine is “building now to some sort of crescendo opportunity for Mr. Putin,” based on US intelligence.
Asked on Fox News Sunday what intelligence the Pentagon has seen to suggest Russia could invade Ukraine at any moment, Adm. Kirby said “it really was a combination of factors” including what the United States is seeing “in plain sight” on the border.
“I think a mosaic of the intelligence that we’re seeing. Not speaking to it specifically but we have good sources of intelligence and they’re telling us that things are sort of building now to some kind of crescendo opportunity for Mr. Putin,” Kirby said.
In a separate interview with MSNBC, Kirby provided a further readout of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Saturday phone call with his Russian counterpart. This said that Austin made the point that “if one of the things President Putin says he doesn’t want is a strong NATO and a strong NATO on his western flank, he’s exactly going to end up with that result” if he continues down the path of invasion.
Kirby also confirmed on MSNBC that 160 Florida National Guard soldiers have safely left Ukraine after the Pentagon ordered their evacuation Saturday. Those troops have been in Ukraine since November on a training mission.
Kirby said that Austin “out of an abundance of caution… decided it was time to move them out of the country.” The press secretary added that the troops were already stationed close to the Polish border and it was “fairly easy to get them out of the country.”
Asked whether German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s planned visit to Russia on Tuesday was a “last-ditch effort,” Kirby replied: “I don’t know if I’d say last ditch but certainly we recognize the time component here seems to be shrinking and that gives us all cause for concern. But again, we’ve said it and we still believe it today, there is still a time and a space for a diplomatic path forward.”