Despite no new significant exchange of fire in Donbass, and ultimately nothing new actually happening on the ground to make things more dangerous, the State Department has in dramatic fashion issued an urgent travel advisory for all Americans, telling citizens not to travel to Ukraine.
The new travel advisory, updated Monday, warns Americans to avoid all travel to the country due to “increased threats” from Russia amid its military build-up near the border. It warns US citizens to be “aware of reports that Russia is planning for significant military action against Ukraine” – which would lead to a rapidly deteriorated security situation, possibly making it hard to get out.
The advisory also spells out that Americans still choosing to visit the country “should be aware that Russian military action anywhere in Ukraine would severely impact the US Embassy’s ability to provide consular services, including assistance to US citizens in departing Ukraine.”
The document further summarizes the nature of the “Russian threat” in the below section:
U.S. citizens should be aware of reports that Russia is planning for significant military action against Ukraine. U.S. citizens are also reminded the security conditions, particularly along Ukraine’s borders, in Russia-occupied Crimea, and in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine, are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice.
US intelligence and media reports have estimated that anywhere from 70,000 to 90,000+ Russian troops are currently mustered along the Russia-Ukraine border and in the Crimea region. Leaders in Kiev have also claimed that a Russian offensive aimed at annexing war-torn Eastern Ukraine is coming by the end of January.
Moscow has over the past month-and-a-half rejected the accusations, saying it should concern no outside country where and when it chooses to maneuver troops within Russia’s own sovereign borders.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) December 20, 2021
Interestingly the State Dept.’s travel warning also advises against all travel in Crimea, where “occupation authorities” regularly “abuse and arbitrarily imprison foreigners and the local population, particularly individuals who are seen as opposing Russia’s occupation of the peninsula” – according to the document, though without referencing specific evidence of such actions.
In the meantime, Moscow days ago sent a document proposing rapid de-escalation based on a series of security guarantees to NATO and Washington. Russia on Monday called for an “urgent” response to the proposals, but says it fears the West will only slow-play its call for immediate dialogue and negotiations. Amid no response as of yet, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, “I think they’ll try to turn this into a slow-moving process, but we need it to be urgent, because the situation is very difficult, it is acute, it tends to become more complicated.” Russia is naturally seeking legal guarantees that NATO would not expand further eastward.