The Biden administration is considering evacuating United States citizens from Ukraine if a Russian offensive occurs in the following months, CNN reported Tuesday.
The Pentagon is leading the contingency planning; six sources told the network.
State Department official Victoria Nuland revealed the plan during a Senate briefing Monday, where she also outlined a series of prepared sanctions by the Biden administration.
“The Department of Defense is a planning organization and must be ready for any manner of contingencies around the world,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement. “We do a lot of thinking about a lot of scenarios. But there is no demand signal for civilian evacuations in Ukraine, and it would be wrong to conclude that there is an active effort in the Pentagon to prepare for them.”
U.S. officials are still unclear whether Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade the neighboring state.
“We don’t know that Putin has made up his mind to use force, but what we do know is that he’s putting the Russian military, the Russian security forces in a place where they could act in a pretty sweeping way,” CIA Director Bill Burns said at a Wall Street Journal CEO Council Summit on Monday.
Reassuring the public, officials emphasized any potential evacuation in Ukraine would not resemble the controversial U.S. effort to evacuate all American citizens from Afghanistan earlier this year.
The news comes after The Washington Post reported Friday that U.S. intelligence uncovered Russia was amassing 175,000 troops for a multi-front conflict against Ukraine that could occur as soon as next year.
Russia had previously annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014, taking advantage of the chaos surrounding the war in Donbas caused by Russian-speaking separatists, according to the Brookings Institution. The annexation was rendered internationally illegal, and Russia was booted out of the international Group of Eight (G8).