Everything that has been happening on the ground in Ukraine, including Russia's announcement of the extension of its military exercises near the border, suggests that Moscow is on the brink of invading the ex-Soviet republic, according to a statement made by United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday.
Speaking on broadcaster CNN's State of the Union show, Blinken, however, added that the United States was committed until the last minute to using every opportunity to see if diplomacy can dissuade Russian President Vladimir Putin from going ahead with an invasion.
"...Everything we're seeing suggests that this is dead serious, that we are on the brink of an invasion."
"But until the tanks are actually rolling and the planes are flying, we will use every opportunity and every minute we have to see if diplomacy can still dissuade President Putin from carrying this forward," Blinken said.
Blinken also said President Joe Biden is willing to meet Russia's Vladimir Putin "at any time" to defuse Ukraine war tensions.
Russia extended military drills near Ukraine's northern borders Sunday amid increased fears that two days of sustained shelling along the contact line between soldiers and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine could spark an invasion. Ukraine's president appealed for a cease-fire.
The exercises were originally set to end Sunday and brought a sizable contingent of Russian forces to Belarus. The presence of the Russian troops raised concern that they could be used to sweep down on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, a city of about 3 million people less than a three-hour drive away.
Western leaders warned that Russia was poised to attack its neighbor, which is surrounded on three sides by about 150,000 Russian soldiers, warplanes and equipment. Russia held nuclear drills Saturday as well as the conventional exercises in Belarus, and has ongoing naval drills off the coast in the Black Sea.
The United States and many European countries have alleged for months that Russia is trying to create pretexts to invade. They have threatened massive, immediate sanctions if it does.
“ We’re talking about the potential for war in Europe,” U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said Sunday at a security conference in Munich, Germany. “It’s been over 70 years, and through those 70 years ... there has been peace and security.”