Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) urged Americans to leave Ukraine, warning that Russia could invade the former soviet state in “a matter of days.”
Cotton issued the stark warning during an appearance on Fox News on Thursday. Cotton said that drills the Russian military recently began conducting in Belarus are a warning sign that an invasion of Ukraine could be imminent.
“The sad fact is that Russia has troops encircling Ukraine and they’re exposed on almost every front,” Cotton said, according to Fox News. “But my estimate, based on the late troop movements into Belarus, is that Vladimir Putin decided that he wanted to get to the capital sooner rather than later.”
“I think those military drills … are nothing but a cover for a likely invasion,” he told host Martha MacCallum. “I think they tell us, since they’re starting so soon, that we could be down to a matter of days, not weeks.”
Cotton said that the U.S. military should move troops into Ukraine, but urged the roughly 30,000 Americans in the country to get out or make emergency plans to escape west should Russia invade. Cotton stressed that Americans should not count on the U.S. military to evacuate them should fighting erupt.
“I would say this about the more than 30,000 Americans we have in Ukraine. You should leave now. If you do not leave now, you should make a plan to leave by ground to the west into countries like Poland or like Hungary,” Cotton said. “You should not expect that the American military is going to be able to fly aircraft into Ukraine to help you evacuate after a potential invasion. For the sake of safety, I would urge all Americans in Ukraine to leave today.”
I encourage all Americans to leave Ukraine at once. pic.twitter.com/blZWnCX0eL
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 10, 2022
Russia and Belarus began conducting joint military exercises this week. The exercises, while not unusual in and of themselves, have set off alarm bells in Ukraine that Russian troops are now on its northern border in addition to an estimated 100,000 already stationed along the border between Russia and Ukraine, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Russia has justified the joint military exercises, called Allied Resolve 2022, by saying that it feels threatened due to recent military moves by Western nations. U.S. foreign policy experts disagreed.
“This is clearly more than a readiness exercise,” Foreign Policy Research Institute fellow Rob Lee, an expert on the Russian military, told WSJ. “At minimum it is coercive — or it is part of preparations for an invasion.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian military exercises are a form of “psychological pressure.”
“The accumulation of forces at the border is psychological pressure from our neighbors. We see nothing new here,” Zelensky told a group of European business leaders during a meeting in Kyiv, according to News24.
“As for the risks – the risks are there and have been there since 2014,” he added, referring to Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.