NBC News reports President Joe Biden was made aware of the recent intel before giving his public warning of a possible Russian attack last week.
“As of this moment, I’m convinced he’s made the decision. We have reason to believe that,” Biden said at the White House Friday (February 18) via NBC News, adding, “We have a significant intelligence capability.”
The president’s comments came before Russian military units took several additional steps to prepare for an invasion, which included adding to its already strong presence at the border, with more than 190,000 troops present, the Hill reported on Friday.
Biden had previously addressed the likelihood of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, but provided a more definitive answer last week.
On Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance hasn’t seen “any withdrawal of Russian forces” at the Ukrainian border, but is hopeful that diplomacy should continue.
“Allies welcome all the diplomatic efforts and there are signs from Moscow that the diplomacy should continue. But so far, we do not see any sign of de-escalation on the ground. No withdrawals of troops or equipment. This may of course change,” Stoltenberg said while addressing reporters after a summit of NATO defense ministers in Brussels via CNN.
Stoltenberg’s comments came after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky suggestedMonday (February 14) that Russian troops planned to invade on Wednesday.
“We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack. We will make it the Day of Unity,” Zelensky said in a statement, which spokesman Sergii Nykyforov later claimed was the president — a former comedian — referring “to a date that was spread by the media,” according to a statement obtained by NBC News.
On Monday, the U.S. announced its plans to close its embassy in Kyiv amid tensions in Ukraine and would “temporarily” relocate diplomatic staff to Lviv, which is located about 330 miles west and closer to the border of Poland, where the U.S. has already deployed thousands of troops.
On Saturday (February 12), Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the 160 members of the Florida National Guard assigned to the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team previously deployed to Ukraine in November 2021 to leave the country and reposition elsewhere in Europe, CNBC reported.
The Kremlin insists the presence is part of military exercises, though the significant growth over the weekend led to Zelenskyy questioning the increasingly strong statements from U.S. officials during the past few days regarding a possible Russian military invasion.