Intelligence regarding tactical commanders and intelligence agents is one of several indicators the United States is monitoring to assess whether Russian preparations are in the final stages of a possible invasion.
Some sources indicate that other indications, such as electronic jamming and pervasive cyberattacks, have not yet been observed. The sources warned that the orders could always be withdrawn or it could be false information intended to confuse and mislead the United States and its allies.
“But until the tanks actually roll in and the planes fly, we’ll take every opportunity and every minute to see if diplomacy can still dissuade President Putin from moving forward,” he continued.
Biden held a National Security Council meeting on Sunday on the situation in Ukraine with his top advisers including Blinken and Harris, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan — all of whom were in Europe over the weekend to discuss the path forward with allies. to tackle the crisis.
“They are disintegrating and they are now about to strike,” Austin said in remarks from Lithuania on Saturday, adding that troops were “moving in the right kinds of positions to be able to launch an attack.”
Adding to fears that Russia may be planning a large-scale attack is the dramatic escalation of ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine in recent days, which Ukraine has blamed on Russian-backed forces in Ukraine’s Donbas region. Russia, in turn, claimed that Ukraine was planning a large-scale attack in the Donbass, which would necessitate a larger pro-Russian military presence there.
Blinken told the Munich Security Conference on Friday that the recent escalation in eastern Ukraine was “part of a scenario that is already at play to create false provocations, then have to respond to those provocations and then eventually commit new aggression against Ukraine.”
Earlier on Sunday, the White House suddenly announced that Biden would travel to Wilmington, where he will remain for the President’s Day vacation. But the flight was abruptly canceled on Sunday afternoon, according to a White House official, as the president was on the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron for a short 15-minute call.
This story was updated with additional information on Sunday.
CNN’s Katie Bo Lillis contributed to this report.