Washington: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Wednesday said that Russian President Vladimir Putin may launch invasion of Ukraine after Winter Olympics in Beijing amid the intensive diplomatic campaign initiated by Biden administration to stave off a Russian invasion against Ukraine.
The Winter Olympics are set to begin on February 4 and run until February 20. Several countries, including the US, have announced diplomatic boycotts of the Games, pointing to rights abuses in China.
Sherman, speaking to a virtual conference, said that there is no way to assess what Putin will ultimately decide.
“We certainly see every indication that he [Putin] is going to use military force sometime, perhaps [between] now and the middle of February,” she said.
“We all are aware that the Beijing Olympics begin on Feb. 4, the opening ceremony, and President Putin expects to be there. I think that, probably, [Chinese] President Xi Jinping would not be ecstatic if Putin chose that moment to invade Ukraine, so that may affect his timing and his thinking,” the deputy secretary continued.
The Biden administration has undertaken an intensive diplomatic campaign to stave off a Russian invasion against Ukraine, where the Kremlin has massed more than 100,000 troops on the border of its neighbor and further moved military units into Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north.
Administration officials have warned that Russia could launch an attack at any time but have also underscored that such a decision appears based on the whim of the Russian president.
“I suspect even the people around him don’t know ultimately what he will do,” Sherman said of Putin. “I think they know the plans of setting up the military to be ready to go, and to have plans to make use of the military, but I suspect the president has other plans in mind as well, and I have no idea whether he’s made the ultimate decision.”
Taking into account earlier invasions by Russia, Crimea was invaded in 2014 just when the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, were wrapping up.
In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia during the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
According to CNN, the Pentagon on Monday announced up to 8,500 troops were placed on heightened alert for a possible deployment to Eastern Europe to support NATO countries amid Russia’s escalation.