Yesterday, the State Department let it be known that it was considering an evacuation of diplomats’ families from the US embassy in Ukraine. Today, State ordered their removal:
🚨BREAKING: State Department orders families of U.S. embassy personnel in Ukraine to begin evacuating the country as soon as Monday, U.S. officials say
— Jacqui Heinrich (@JacquiHeinrich) January 22, 2022
Joe Biden’s getting pretty good at emptying American embassies, eh?
The US Embassy in Kyiv has requested that the State Department authorize the departure of all nonessential staff and their families, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
A State Department spokesperson said they have “nothing to announce at this time,” adding, “We conduct rigorous contingency planning, as we always do, in the event the security situation deteriorates.” A spokesperson for the embassy declined to confirm and referred CNN to the State Department in Washington.
A source close to the Ukrainian government told CNN that the US has informed Ukraine that it is “likely to start evacuations as early as next week” of the families of diplomats from the embassy in Kyiv. The source said President Volodymyr Zelensky has spoken to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the matter and told him that if the United States took such a dramatic step, it would be an “overreaction.” CNN has asked the Ukrainian government for comment.
If this was just a “minor incursion,” as Joe Biden put it in his presser on Wednesday, why would the US need to evacuate its embassy in Kyiv? The capital sits at a significant distance from the Donbas and the territory ceded by the Soviets to Ukraine in 1922 — a century ago, when Soviet domination made the transaction more or less a moot point. This map from the Australian government outlining the contested areas of Ukraine at the moment (including Crimea) gives a good sense of the distance between Kyiv and the Soviet — er, Russian — front:
As one can see, Kyiv is far from the Donbas and from the Russian border. It’s well over 200 miles from Kyiv to Sumy, and almost 500 miles to Donetsk. Any incursion from the east that threatens Kyiv would hardly be “minor,” and would likely take at least several days if not weeks of fighting.
But what about from the north? Kyiv only sits about 100 miles from Belarus’ southern border, although it wouldn’t be the easiest land route for an invading army. For one thing, a ground incursion through that region would pass through the Chernobyl area. Perhaps the US embassy isn’t worrying so much about a ground invasion or incursion, though:
Russian military forces and hardware began arriving in Belarus this week for the “Allied Resolve” military exercises to be held near the former Soviet republic’s western border with NATO members Poland and Lithuania, and close to its southern flank with Ukraine. …
Russia’s defence ministry said two S-400 battalions – which typically include eight anti-aircraft missile systems each – have started moving to Belarus from Russia’s Far East by train, Interfax said.
Moscow has said that 12 Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and a Pantsir missile system would also be deployed to Belarus for the drills.
That doesn’t sound like preparations for a “minor incursion” either. It also threatens to escalate the conflict into a wider regional war. After all, while Belarus is clearly a satellite of Moscow, it is still considered a sovereign nation — and allowing Russia to launch a military strike from its territory would make Alexander Lukashenko responsible for an act of war against Ukraine.
Clearly, the US embassy is concerned about more than just a “minor incursion.” They are worried that Vladimir Putin will launch an all-out war to seize Ukraine entirely from two different directions. In response, the Biden administration has decided to get the hell out of Dodge, and if our experience in Afghanistan is any guide, it won’t be women and children first. As my pal Duane Patterson warned today, it’ll be more like the preacher’s advice to Black Bart in Blazing Saddles — son, you’re on your own:
If you're an American in Ukraine, get out. Get out right now. If you stay, the United States will abandon you there without so much as a shrug. This is the Joe Biden way. https://t.co/UO2EMWEe09
— Duane Patterson (@Radioblogger) January 22, 2022
Indeed. At the rate Biden’s going, we may end up getting very efficient at abandoning American embassies, as well as Americans.