The Pentagon pulled all U.S. military personnel out of Ukraine over concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin is days away from ordering an invasion of the former soviet state.
The Pentagon ordered 160 members of the Florida National Guard out of Ukraine to new positions in Europe. The guardsmen had been stationed in Ukraine to train and advise Ukrainian forces as part of Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Saturday, according to Fox News.
“They are departing Ukraine and will reposition elsewhere in Europe,” Kirby said. “The Secretary made this decision out of an abundance of caution – with the safety and security of our personnel foremost in mind – and informed by the State Department’s guidance on U.S. personnel in Ukraine.”
Kirby said that the move will “provide flexibility in assuring allies and deterring aggression,” but does not change the United States’ commitment to support and aid Ukraine.
The Biden administration ordered the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to be evacuated on Saturday. The U.S. State Department also issued a level 4 travel advisory for Ukraine.
“Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19; those in Ukraine should depart immediately via commercial or private means,” the advisory said. “If remaining in Ukraine, exercise increased caution due to crime, civil unrest, and potential combat operations should Russia take military action.”
President Joe Biden and Putin spoke with each other for about an hour on Saturday. During the call, Biden warned Putin of “swift and severe costs on Russia” should he order an invasion of Ukraine. The White House has refused to put military intervention on the table, instead threatening deep sanctions and other economic and diplomatic repercussions.
The White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Friday that the United States would work with allies in Europe and elsewhere to put “severe economic sanctions” on Russia.
“[The joint response] would also include changes to NATO and American force posture along the eastern flank of NATO, and it would include continued support to Ukraine,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan also warned Americans in Ukraine to immediately leave the country before a potential Russian invasion shuts down commercial means of travel. Sullivan warned Americans that the U.S. military would not be entering a war zone in Ukraine to evacuate American citizens should they be trapped during the invasion.
“We don’t know exactly what is going to happen, but the risk is now high enough, the threat is now immediate enough that this is what prudence demands. 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,” Sullivan said.
“The risk is now high enough and the threat is immediate enough that prudence demands that it is the time to leave now while commercial options and commercial rail and air service exists, while the roads are open. The president will not be putting the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk by sending them into a war zone to rescue people who could have left now but chose not to,” he added.