President Joe Biden’s administration has reportedly authorized a plan for U.S. troops to help Americans fleeing Ukraine amid a Russian attack on Ukraine.
Officials who spoke with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday said the plan would entail U.S. troops deployed in Poland, near Ukraine’s borders, to receive and process arriving U.S. citizens. U.S. troops won’t actually enter Ukraine from neighboring countries or fly aircraft missions out of Ukraine, however.
Americans fleeing a Russian invasion will first have to get out of Ukraine by their own means, and without U.S. military support, before U.S. troops in Poland can give them aid and support from within Poland.
About 1,700 troops from the 82nd Airborne Corps are already in Poland and have reportedly started preparing checkpoints, tent camps and other temporary facilities near the border with Ukraine.
The officials told the Wall Street Journal an estimated 30,000 Americans are in Ukraine and in the event of a Russian attack, would likely have to leave quickly.
President Joe Biden has already warned Americans in Ukraine should leave, to get out of potential harm’s way if Russia attacks.
“I think it’d be wise to leave the country,” Biden said at a White House press conference on Tuesday. “Not — I don’t mean our — I don’t mean — I’m not talking about our diplomatic corps; I’m talking about Americans who are there. I’d hate to see them get caught in a crossfire if in fact they did invade. And there’s no need for that. And I — if I were they — if I had anyone there, I’d say leave.”
The evacuation plan comes as Russia continues to amass thousands of troops along Ukraine’s borders. Russia has kept around 100,000 troops near Ukraine for months now and on Tuesday Russia began sailing six amphibious landing ships and an attack submarine into the Black Sea, raising the risk of an additional seaborne assault if Russia does decide to attack.
The Biden White House’s reported plan for a civilian evacuation of Ukraine comes less than a year after it completed a U.S. military-led evacuation of Afghanistan. U.S. troops facilitated the evacuation through the Afghan city of Kabul, and evacuation efforts were repeatedly delayed by civilians crowding the Kabul airport tarmac and less-than-full evacuation flights. The evacuation efforts were also slowed and threatened by a gauntlet of Taliban-controlled checkpoints surrounding the airport. The Biden administration eventually authorized military helicopters to retrieve Americans struggling to get through to the Kabul airport, but only on a limited “case-by-case” basis.