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Hala Gorani Tonight

Sources: New Intel Suggests Russia May Invade Ukraine During Olympics; U.S. Urges Americans Living In Ukraine To Evacuate Immediately; Sources: New Intel Suggests Russia Could Invade During Olympics; Intel: Russia Prepared To Launch Attack Before Olympics End; WH: We Don't Know If Putin Has Made Invasion Decision. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired February 11, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

HALA GORANI, HOST, HALA GORANI TONIGHT: Hello, and welcome, everyone, I'm Hala Gorani in London. Tonight, we are waiting on a White House briefing

that will start any moment now. We just got a two-minute warning just about two minutes ago. So, any second, we should see the U.S. National Security

adviser Jake Sullivan speaking amid escalating tensions with Russia. We'll bring that to you live. He'll be joining the daily briefing alongside the

Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

And that's because after sounding the alarm for months, western leaders now say a Russian invasion of Ukraine could happen within days. Sources telling

CNN, the U.S. and its allies have new Intelligence that suggests an attack could come even before the Olympics are over, and the Olympics are

scheduled to end on February 20th. The U.S. Secretary of State said as much today.


GORANI: In fact --

PSAKI: So we are joined by our National Security --


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: As we said before, we're in a window when an invasion could begin at any time. To be clear,

that includes during the Olympics.


GORANI: All right. Let's go straight to that briefing room at the White House where Jake Sullivan is addressing reporters.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks, everybody, for giving me the opportunity to be here. I'd like to make a few

comments on the situation in Russia and Ukraine, and then I'd be happy to take your questions. We continue to see signs of Russian escalation

including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border. As we've said before, we are in the window when an invasion could begin at any time

should Vladimir Putin decide to order it.

I will not comment on the details of our Intelligence information, but I do want to be clear. It could begin during the Olympics, despite a lot of

speculation that it would only happen after the Olympics. As we've said before, we are ready either way. We are ready to continue results-oriented

diplomacy that addresses the security concerns of the United States, Russia and Europe, consistent with our values and with the principle of


We continue to make that clear to Russia in close coordination with our European allies and partners. We are also ready to respond decisively

alongside those allies and partners should Russia choose to take military action. Our response would include severe economic sanctions with similar

packages imposed by the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries. It would also include changes to NATO and American force

posture along the eastern flank of NATO.

And it would include continued support to Ukraine. The president held a secured video conference today with key allies and partners to coordinate

our approach to this crisis. The participants were the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Poland, Romania, the Secretary-General of NATO, and

the presidents of the European Union. We have achieved a remarkable level of unity and common purpose from the broad strategy down to the technical


If Russia proceeds, it's long-term power and influence will be diminished, not enhanced by an invasion. It will face a more determined Trans-Atlantic

community. It will have to make more concessions to China. It will face massive pressure on its economy and export controls that will erode its

defense industrial base. And it will face a wave of condemnation from around the world. If, on the other hand, Russia truly seeks a diplomatic

outcome, it should not only say so. It should pursue that diplomatic outcome.

We are prepared to do that. We have put concrete proposals on the table. They are now out there for the world to see. We're prepared to engage on

them and to discuss the principles and parameters of European security with our European partners and with Russia. Whatever happens next, the West is

more united than it's been in years. NATO has been strengthened. The alliance is more cohesive, more purposeful, more dynamic than at any time

in recent memory.

In terms of immediate next steps, President Biden and his team will remain in close contact with our allies and partners to coordinate both on the

potential for diplomacy and on any response that is necessary should Putin decide to order military action. We are continuing to reduce the size of

our embassy footprint in Kyiv, and I now want to take a moment to echo what both President Biden and Secretary Blinken have already said.


We encourage all American citizens who remain in Ukraine to depart immediately. We want to be crystal clear on this point. Any American in

Ukraine should leave as soon as possible, and in any event, in the next 24 to 48 hours. We obviously cannot predict the future. We don't know exactly

what is going to happen. But the risk is now high enough and the threat is now immediate enough that this is what Putin demands.

If you stay, you are assuming risk with no guarantee that there will be any other opportunity to leave, and there're no prospect of a U.S. military

evacuation in the event of a Russian invasion. If a Russian attack on Ukraine proceeds, it is likely to begin with aerial bombing and missile

attacks that could obviously kill civilians without regard to their nationality. A subsequent ground invasion would involve the onslaught of a

massive force with virtually no notice of communications to arrange a departure could be severed and commercial transit halted.

No one would be able to count on air or rail or road departures once military action got underway. Now, again, I'm not standing here and saying

what is going to happen or not happen. I'm only standing here to say that the risk is now high enough and the threat is immediate enough that Putin

demands that it is the time to leave now. While commercial options and commercial rail and air service exist while the roads are open.

The president will not be putting the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk by sending them into a war zone to rescue people who could have

left now but chose not to. So, we are asking people to make the responsible choice. With that, I'm happy to take your questions.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jake. I know you don't want to get into the Intelligence, but can you give us any sense what has changed over the past

24 or 48 hours to lead to your new level of concern?

SULLIVAN: Well, first, I would say when I appeared on the Sunday shows last weekend, I made the point that we were in the window. That Russian

military action could begin any day now, and that remains true. It could begin any day now. And it could occur before the Olympics have ended. I'm

not going to get into Intelligence information, but if you look at the disposition of forces in both Belarus and in Russia on the other side of

the Ukrainian border from the north, from the east, the Russians are in a position to be able to mount a major military action in Ukraine any day


And for that reason, we believe that it is important for us to communicate to our allies and partners, to the Ukrainians, and to the American citizens

who are still there. I want to be crystal clear though, we are not saying that a decision has been taken, a final decision has been taken by

President Putin. What we are saying is that we have a sufficient level of concern based on what we are seeing on the ground and what our Intelligence

analysts have picked up that we are sending this clear message.

And it remains a message that we have now been sending for some time, and it is yes, it is an urgent message because we're in an urgent situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But just to clarify. so you now believe that Russia has all the forces it needs to mount a full scale invasion of Ukraine?

SULLIVAN: What I'm saying is that Russia has all the forces it needs to conduct a major military action. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by,

quote, "full scale" invasion, but Russia could choose in very short order to commence a major military action against Ukraine. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has NATO told the president that it will call up the NATO response force of Americans who have been put on that short leave, and

is the president prepared to send additional unilateral forces to our partners in the border region of Ukraine? And is it your judgment and the

judgment of U.S. Intelligence and the U.S. government that Putin is behaving as a rational actor in his judgments at this point?

SULLIVAN: So, on the question of the president authorizing more unilateral U.S. forces to Europe, he's been clear all along that he is open to doing

so as circumstances warrant. But I want to be very clear about something. These deployments of U.S. service members to Poland, to Romania, to

Germany, these are not soldiers who are being sent to go fight Russia in Ukraine. They are not going to war in Ukraine. They are not going to war

with Russia.

They are going to defend NATO territory consistent with our article 5 obligation. They are defensive deployments. They are non-escalatory. They

are meant to reinforce, reassure and deter aggression against NATO territory. In terms of the U.S. forces that have been put on heightened

readiness to be deployed in the event of a NATO decision to deploy them. The president have the chance as part of the discussion today to hear from

the secretary-general.

No decisions have been taken in that regard, but those forces standby should a decision be taken by the North Atlantic Council to call up the

NATO response force and a request comes in for American forces to be a part of that.


Finally, I can't get inside the head of President Putin, I'm not going to speculate as to his motivations, his intentions or at this point his

decisions. All I will say is that we are ready either way. If President Putin wants to engage in diplomacy, we are prepared to engage in diplomacy.

We would like to find a diplomatic path forward and we've sketched out the parameters and principles for that. If President Putin chooses to move

forward, we will work in lockstep with our allies and partners to respond decisively. Yes --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Jake, it sounds like you're saying that the assessment previously, that Putin has not yet made a decision, still

stands. So, I guess based on that, is it your assessment that it's more likely that an invasion could happen now than previously believed?

SULLIVAN: Look, it's hard to assign a percentage probabilities to any of this. We have to think about the range of scenarios that we confront. And

it's our job to be ready for all of them. So what I will say is that the way that he has built up his forces and put them in place along with the

other indicators that we have collected through Intelligence, makes it clear to us that there is a very distinct possibility that Russia will

choose to act militarily, and there is reason to believe that, that could happen on a reasonably swift time frame.

Now, we can't pinpoint the day at this point. And we can't pinpoint the hour, but what we can say is that there is a credible prospect that a

Russian military action would take place even before the end of the Olympics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And this warning that you just delivered to Americans who are in Ukraine, saying that they should get out now while they still

can, do you have a picture of how many Americans right now are in Ukraine?

SULLIVAN: I would refer you to the State Department for the specifics on this --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They said they don't know?

SULLIVAN: I don't want to do it off the top of my head. There's basically two categories. There are those who have registered with the embassy and

those who have not registered with the embassy. In the first category, obviously, they have a number, although some of those folks have already

left and didn't de-register. In the second category, we don't know because of course, no American is obligated or required.

So, you can't fix a perfect number, but they're the ones who are best positioned to be able to explain what our current picture is of American

citizens in Ukraine. What I can do is stand before the world media and send a very clear message to all Americans and to any American who is in Ukraine

right now who needs help, needs financial help, or needs logistical help to take advantage of a commercial option to get out, please call the U.S.

Embassy in Kyiv because we stand ready to provide that help. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. But two quick questions. One, are you looking at this being some kind of attack on Kyiv, on the Donbass, on

another region? Do you have any sense of that? And then what is the level of confidence that the Intelligence community has in what they're hearing

about this plan, especially about the potential for it to come before the end of the Olympics?

SULLIVAN: When you say -- I'm sorry, can you repeat the second question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just around the confidence that the Intelligence world has around whether this will happen before the Olympics.

SULLIVAN: The intelligence community has sufficient confidence that I can stand before you today and say what I have said. Which is that there is a

distinct possibility that Vladimir Putin would order a military action, an invasion of Ukraine, in this window, in this time period. And that could

include the time period before February 20th, before the Beijing Olympics have been completed.

And so, they believed that, that -- everything I have just said is well grounded in both what they are seeing on the ground and what they are

picking up through all of their various sources. Now, to your question about what type of action it would be, we've been clear that it could take

a range of different forms, but I want to be equally clear that one of those forms is a rapid assault on the city of Kyiv.

That is a possible line of attack, course of action that the Russian forces could choose to take. They could also choose to move in other parts of

Ukraine as well. The last point that I would make, and I know this has been the subject of a fair amount of back and forth between the administration

and the press over the course of the past week. We are firmly convinced that the Russians, should they decide to move forward with an invasion, are

looking hard at the creation of a pretext.

A false flag operation. Something that they generate and try to blame on the Ukrainians as a trigger for military action. And we are calling that

out publicly because we do believe that if Russia chooses to do that, they should be held to account. The world should not believe that a false flag

operation that they conducted is a legitimate casus belli for going into Ukraine. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Jake. You mentioned that you did not want to say that Putin has made a decision. But can -- does the United States

believe that the president -- pardon me, that President Putin has made a decision.


Because "PBS News" hour just reported a little bit ago that the United States does believe that Putin has made a decision, and has also

communicated that decision to the Russian military. Is that accurate?

SULLIVAN: The report that you just referenced, which I have not seen yet, it does not accurately capture what the U.S. government's view is today.

Our view is that we do not believe he has made any kind of final decision or we don't know that he has made any final decision, and we have not

communicated that to anybody. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On that, just my colleague (INAUDIBLE) he's doing that reporting. He's citing three western and defense officials who say the

U.S. does believe that Putin has made up his mind, has communicated that to the military, and that they've been shown the Intelligence on that. So,

you're saying that's not true?

SULLIVAN: What we have communicated to our allies and partners, all 30 allies in NATO plus a range of other partners, our latest Intelligence

information, and it does not include a statement that Vladimir Putin has definitively given an order to proceed with the invasion. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have anything from your NATO allies either?

SULLIVAN: I'm sorry?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You haven't been shown any evidence or briefed on Intelligence that speaks to that from NATO allies?

SULLIVAN: We've not seen anything come to us that says a final decision has been taken to go order has been given. What I will say -- and the

reason I'm up here talking in the way I am to American citizens, the reason we are taking the various actions we're taking, the reason the president

convened our closest allies and partners from across the NATO alliance and the European Union is because we believe he very well may give the final go


That is a very distinct possibility. But we are not standing here before you today and say the order has been given, the invasion is on. It may well

happen. It may well happen soon. But we are not saying I think the way that you've just characterized that, I have not seen this "PBS" report yet, but

as you've characterized it, that does not capture the communication that we are making to our NATO allies, nor what we understand internally.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Given the risk that you've laid out, the fact that you're not a 100 percent certain that Putin has made a decision yet. We

have seen other world leaders meeting with Putin. Has there been any more thought to President Biden engaging with him directly?

SULLIVAN: I would expect that President Biden will engage by telephone with President Putin, but I don't have anything to announce for you on that

right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jake, just sort of --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The presidents are getting so close now, and the concern that you're weighing towards the American people, is there a need

to provide some underlying evidence of just what you're seeing? That shows Americans this is a country that went through Iraq, and concerns about what

the Intelligence is showing? Does the administration see a need to just provide underlying Intelligence?

SULLIVAN: Well, let me just start with a fundamental distinction between the situation in Iraq and the situation today. In the situation in Iraq,

Intelligence was used and deployed from this very podium to start a war. We are trying to stop a war. To prevent a war, to avert a war. And all we can

do is come here before you and give good faith and share everything that we know to the best of our ability while protecting sources and methods so we

continue to get the access to Intelligence we need.

But there's another big difference between what happened in 2003 and what's happening in 2022. And that is in that case, it was information about

intentions, about hidden things, stuff that couldn't be seen. Today, we are talking about more than 100,000 Russian troops amassed along the Ukrainian

border with every capacity out there in the open for people to see. It's all over social media. It's all over your news sites.

So you can believe your own eyes that the Russians have put in place the capabilities to conduct a massive military operation against Ukraine should

they choose to do so. And then finally, I would just say if you look at the course of the past few months, as we have said, we predict there will be a

build-up of this kind. Our information is telling us that the Russians are likely to move in these ways.

Thus far, in November, in December, in January, that has borne out. So, I think when you take all that together, we put forward a credible case. But

it's not my job to stand up here and convince any of you of anything. It's your job to ask the questions and do what you can do. All I can do is based

on the best information I have available, that I can share, that the president can share, the Secretary of State can share, put that out there

in close consultations with our allies and partners. That's what we've done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more, Jake, would you expect the country would hear directly from the president on this, and the risk of world order of

Vladimir Putin rolling tanks or bombing a foreign capital?

SULLIVAN: Well, first, the country has heard from the president directly on the Ukraine subject many times over the course of the past three months,

and they will continue to. So, it's not like President Biden has been silent on this question. He has been very vocal on it. He's spoken to every

aspect of it. He has read out his calls on it with world leaders, his meetings, et cetera. But he will continue to speak directly to the American

people as we watch the situation unfold.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And no plans for any kind of address to the nation from the Oval Office. No kind of speech specifically about this issue with

prepared remarks?

SULLIVAN: I don't have anything to announce in terms of speech or prepared remarks at this point. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, thank you so much. So, you and other administration officials have been quite transparent in describing the

strategy towards Ukraine through us, the press. Do you believe that, that strategy is actually helping to reduce tensions or do you feel that, that

may be part of the reason why it's boxing Vladimir Putin even further in airing your strategy so publicly like this?

SULLIVAN: So, only one country has amassed more than a 100,000 troops on the border of another country with all of the capabilities and capacities

to conduct an invasion. That country is Russia. That country is not the United States. So the fastest way to de-escalate this situation for all

involved would be for Russia to choose to de-escalate its mobilization of forces. The United States is responding to the active sustained build-up of

military pressure on Ukraine.

We are doing so in lockstep with allies and partners, and at the same time, we have been extremely forward-leaning in our willingness to engage in

diplomacy to address the mutual concerns of Russia, the Europeans and the United States when it comes to European security.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much, Jake. Two questions for you. Next week, vice president is going to Germany for the Munich's Security

Conference. Why isn't President Biden going? Wouldn't it be a good time to engage with his allies in person? Or is he doing enough to avoid a war? And

the second question, next week, the Brazilian president is going to Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin. How does the White House see this visit and

the timing of this visit? And do you guys expect anything from the Brazilian president during his meeting?

SULLIVAN: If you simply looked at a catalog of the engagements the president has had with his allies and partners including the engagement he

had today, that catalog alone would be a rebuttal to the proposition that he's not doing enough to rally the West and to offer Russia a credible

diplomatic path out of this.

That's included phone calls. It's including meetings, it's included video conferences. It's included just countless sustained effort over the course

of months and we will continue with that. We're also very proud to have the vice president representing the American delegation at the Munich's

Security Conference.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the question of President this -- meeting with Vladimir Putin next week?

SULLIVAN: The Brazilian president is obviously, you know, free to conduct his own diplomacy with other countries including with Russia. And I really

don't have anything else to add on it today. Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Jake. You mentioned the possibility of an assault on Kyiv specifically. What is your sense if Putin does decide to

invade Ukraine? Is he looking to take over the entire country or part like Crimea in 2014? And just one follow-up as well. How do you explain the

disconnect between the rhetoric that we're hearing or the wording we're hearing from you and other western countries and what seems to be a playing

down of the risk from Ukraine itself?

SULLIVAN: So I won't speak to the decisions that the Ukrainian leadership is making in terms of how they're communicating on this issue. I will only

say that we're coordinating extremely closely with them. President Biden has spoken multiple times with President Zelensky. I speak nearly every day

with senior aides to President Zelensky. Secretary Blinken is deeply engaged with both his counterpart and the president in Kyiv.

So, we will continue that level of coordination-sharing of information across every dimension of our government. But I can't characterize why it

is that they're choosing their course. I can only say that based on the information we have, we've chosen to be as transparent as possible with

what we see as a significant risk of military action in Ukraine. And as to your other question, I can't obviously predict what the exact shape or

scope of the military action will be.

As I said before, it could take a variety of forms. It could be more limited. It could be more expansive. But there are very real possibilities

that it will involve the seizure of a significant amount of territory in Ukraine, and the seizure of major cities including the capital city.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president's departure is at 2:25.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so, if people want to leave, they need to leave now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: if people want to leave, they should leave now. We'll proceed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jake is not one of those people --



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jake, do you think that Russia --

SULLIVAN: I'm sorry, I'm just going to give people a moment to I guess leave if they have to. OK, yes.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll wait until people are out --



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for taking my question. Did the U.S. wait too long to arm Ukraine especially with respect to weapons that could

defend against an air strike like you laid out? Did they wait too long to move U.S. forces to NATO countries, and does the president still view the

idea of pre-invasion sanctions as a stupid question?

SULLIVAN: So as to the question of waiting too long on arming the Ukrainians, over the course of the past year, the United States has

provided more than half a billion dollars, $650 million in defensive assistance to Ukraine. That's more than has ever been given by any

president in any year at any time, and that began more than a year ago under the presidency of Joe Biden. Second, we have made good on the

commitment to get those deliveries into the hands of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Those are defensive weapons intended to defend Ukraine against aggression. They are not meant for offensive purposes against any country. So, we feel

very proud of the contribution and commitment that we have had to helping the Ukrainians be able to defend themselves.

With respect to the question of the deployment of forces to defend NATO territory, our view is that in addition to the 80,000 strong U.S. force

presence in Europe today, that showing in Poland and Romania in particular, but also through the deployment of air squadrons to the Baltics as we had a

few days ago and other significant moves we've made.

A carrier in the Mediterranean that for the first time in 30 years actually flew the NATO flag as well as the American flag, that we have been forward-

leaning and robust in defending and reassuring our NATO allies, and you don't have to take it from me. You can talk to the president of Poland or

the president of Romania about the satisfaction they have with the fact that the United States has stepped up alongside other NATO allies to deter

and reassure and reinforce our presence along the eastern flank.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the pre-invasion sanctions? You didn't answer that part of my question. Is the president looking at sanctions

ahead of an invasion any differently than he has been up until this point, given the escalation that we're seeing from Russia?

SULLIVAN: The president believes that sanctions are intended to deter. And in order for them to work to deter, they have to be set up in a way where

if Putin moves, then the costs are imposed.

We believe that, that is the right logic both on its own merits, but equally importantly, we believe that the most important fundamental for

anything that unfolds in this crisis, whether through diplomacy or as a result of military action, is that the West be strong, be united, and be

determined to operate with common purpose, and he believes that the sanctions approach he's taken in lockstep with our European partners, the

Canadians and others puts us in a position for the West to be able to respond to this contingency in the most united and purposeful way possible.

That will pay dividends for us in this circumstance, but it will also pay enormous strategic dividends for the United States in the years and decades




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our understanding is that there was a sudden meeting last night in the Situation Room to talk about Russia. And now you and

Secretary Blinken are obviously using sharper rhetoric about the timing of the invasion. I know you don't want to get into specific Intelligence, but

is there something that prompted the meeting last night, and that has changed in the administration's assessment overnight?

SULLIVAN: So, I'm not going to speak to internal deliberations and I'm not going to get into the specifics of Intelligence information. What I am

going to say is that for some time now, including out of my own very mouth, we have been talking about how we had entered the window where any day now

a military action could be taken. That was the formula I was using several days ago.

Now, as we gained more information, our view that military action could occur any day now and could occur before the end of the Olympics is only

growing in terms of its robustness so that I can stand here and say that is a very distinct possibility. But I just want to say two things. First, we

can't predict the exact determination that Putin would make if and when he makes a determination.

So, all we can say is that the strong possibility of action, the distinct possibility of action in a relatively near-term time frame including along

the time frame that I've laid out, that Secretary Blinken talked about, that is backed up by our view of what's happening on the ground and it's

backed up by information that we continue to acquire day-by-day, including over the course of the past few days.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that -- why would -- why would -- please, deal with a little more. Why would Russia risk provoking China in

the action during the Olympics, and secondly, can you just speak more broadly to the China-Russia what looks like an emerging alliance is here on

certain issues? And how much does that concern you?

SULLIVAN: So I'd say three things about this. First, you know, Russia's calculus vis-a-vis China, whether they're going to make Beijing upset or

not, you know, that's kind of between Russia and China, and Putin will obviously have to decide what he wants to do on that front.

China also has its own decisions to make. And to the extent that they are giving a wink and a nod, or a green light to a Russian invasion of Ukraine,

for no justified reason, I believe that China will ultimately come to suffer consequences as a result of that in the eyes of the rest of the

world, most notably in the eyes of our European partners and allies.

And then finally, I would just say that we do not believe that China can compensate Russia for the economic losses that would be sustained in the

event of an invasion, due to sanctions and export controls and the like.

Just one more thing on the broader issue of China and Russia, because there was quite a bit of hype about the statement that they put out and it was a

notable statement that we have taken a careful look at.

I've said this before, I want to say it again, and then I'll leave because Jen is now standing up. And I think it's well past my time to go. The

United States, under the Biden ministration, has confidence in us. And in the West, we are 50 percent plus of global GDP. China and Russia are less

than 20 percent. We have innovation, we have entrepreneurship, we have freedom.

And when you put all of that together, the tools and capacities that we can bring to bear, now that we are more united, more purposeful, more dynamic

than we have been in a very long time, we are well-situated to be able to deal with any threat or challenge that would be posed to us by any

autocracy in the world, including the two that you just mentioned. So let me just leave it at that. Thank you, guys.

REPORTER: You don't think China could bail them out from sanctions, right, Jake?


GORANI: All right, Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser, they're saying we don't know if Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, has made a

final decision, but saying that there is intelligence that an attack could happen within days even before the end of the Olympic Games. On February

20th, when it was believed that if Russia was going to invade Ukraine, it would do so after February 20th. The United States encouraging all

Americans in Ukraine to leave within 24 to 48 hours, that the risk, according to Jake Sullivan, is high enough that it is prudent to do so at

this stage.

If an attack proceeds, the National Security Adviser said it is likely to begin with aerial bombardments followed by a ground operation and a

possible assault on Kiev.

We're covering this story from all angles. Alex Marquardt is in Dnipro, Ukraine. Kevin Liptak is in Washington, Fred Pleitgen is in Bucharest,

Romania. He had a TV exclusive interview with the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, today.

Alex, let's start with you and what the -- what Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser, has said that potentially within days, the Russians could

begin an assault on Ukraine.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Hala, I think it was very interesting there because we've all been asking the question,

will he or won't he for several weeks now and Jake Sullivan, making clear that the intelligence that they have so far has not made a concrete

determination that Russia will be invading Ukraine.

What is new here is firmer language about what they believe to be Russia's intent, what the U.S. and the NATO Allies believed to be Russia's intent,

and that is that there's a very distinct possibility, as Sullivan put it, and a credible prospect of an invasion that, as you noted, they thought

could start with aerial bombardment followed by troops moving along on the ground.

I -- what I thought was interesting about the earlier -- bombardment part was that, you know, I've been speaking with Ukrainian forces, Ukrainian

generals over the course of the past few days, one of the major elements that they are missing from the weapons that have been given to Ukraine,

both from the U.S., the U.K. and others, are air defense capabilities, anti-aircraft weapons, the defensive weapons, as they call them, that have

been sent to the Ukrainian forces have primarily been Javelin missiles. So those are anti-tank missiles as well as small arms. So they are currently

missing any real significant anti-aircraft capability.

Hala, the other thing that Jake Sullivan kept highlighting there was now the distinct possibility of an invasion coming before February 20th.

There's always been this question of whether Putin would upset his friend, President Xi Jinping of China, by disrupting those Olympic -- those Winter

Games with an invasion.

Now the U.S. saying that is a real possibility that he could do so before then. February 20th is also significant for another reason, that is the day

that those Russian-Belarus exercises are supposed to end in Belarus.


Now there's never been any real confidence that they would come to a close. THE Russians have never said that we will leave on February 20th, and send

our troops back home. Instead, what they have done now, Hala, is create a significant front, a second front, in addition to the one on the eastern

side of Ukraine, now along that northern border of Belarus, from which they could attack Ukraine from the north, and head straight to Kiev.

And I should note, there's also a potential third front. We now know that Russia will carrying out -- carry out what they're calling naval exercises

next week in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. So you now have Ukraine facing active Russian military activity on three different sides. The U.S.

saying they will not send troops to fight against Russia, if they decide to invade, that they will continue to send weapons, but of course, Ukraine

saying that they need an awful lot more if Russia is going to invade, Hala.

GORANI: And Joe Biden, the U.S. president said things could get crazy quickly if Russia invades. Kevin Liptak, to you in Washington, D.C. So the

United States is putting a timeline now on this. Essentially, the Biden administration is saying it could happen any time.

Why be so precise? Because if it doesn't happen, then doesn't it sort of give the impression that the U.S. is kind of wagging the dog? That's the

expression of, you know, so what's the strategy behind this?

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, one of the big reasons it seems like Jake Sullivan and President Biden before him in that interview

yesterday wanted to ramp up the urgency here is to stress to Americans who are still in Ukraine that it's time to get out.

And one of the things that Jake Sullivan said there was that these aerial bombardment and missile attacks, they would be unsparing. And if you're an

American who is still in Ukraine, you're at risk. So that's one of the reasons I think that this urgency has been ramped up.

The president today conveyed a lot of the same messages that we just heard from Jake Sullivan, he spoke to a number of allies in a virtual phone call

in the Situation Room. We're starting to get some readouts of that as well. And the President sort of conveyed this new level of urgency to those

leaders as well that this imminent attack could be coming.

But it's very important, I think, to note that Jake Sullivan said in there that they don't know whether President Putin has made a decision on this.

And he did say that President Biden would speak to President Putin at some point. He didn't say when, but he would be on the telephone with him

sometime in the coming days.

Before this, the President hadn't spoken to Putin since December. So clearly, this is all ramping up. Jake Sullivan wouldn't specify what

intelligence the U.S. had seen that is leading to this new urgency. He was very kind of circumspect about that. But he did note that Russia had been

massing forces in new areas, there had been new deployments of forces in Belarus and parts of Ukraine or parts of Russia that are near Ukraine.

And he was more specific, I think, in a lot of the choreography of the attack that the U.S. sees coming, like the aerial bombardments, like the

assault on the City of Kiev. And so it's a it's it is interesting, the U.S. has been taking -- adopting a new strategy in this -- in the lead up to all

of this, they have been very forthright about what intelligence they're seeing. They have been trying to get out in some ways ahead of what

President Putin might be planning.

And you heard Jake Sullivan mention in there the idea of a false flag attack. That's a notion that American officials have been raising for a

couple of weeks now. It's a strategy that I think is designed to get ahead of President Putin, who may be seeing these reports of what he's planning,

and maybe second-guessing himself. There's no indication that he's doing that yet.

And now, as President Biden, he's about to leave for the presidential retreat in Camp David, I'm told that he'll be updated all weekend on this -

- on these events on this intelligence and this sort of new sense of urgency, as American officials say, we're really at a critical juncture

here, Hala.

GORANI: And Fred Pleitgen, you spoke to the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, and one of the things Alex said from Ukraine is that the

weaponry that perhaps the Ukrainians feels they might be missing, especially if a Russian invasion starts with aerial bombardment, is a

surface-to-air missile technology. How quickly would that type of weaponry be able to be -- how quickly can that technology, that weaponry be

transported to Ukraine?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think one of the things that Jens Stoltenberg told me today is that he said that NATO is

obviously a defensive alliance.

And right now, as Jake Sullivan also said, as well that U.S. forces are not going to be fighting in Ukraine. NATO forces also are not going to be

fighting in Ukraine, but what NATO is doing is also one of the reasons why Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, was here in Romania today is they

are obviously already beefing up NATO's eastern flank.


And if you look at this area right here in Romania, around Romania, the countries around here, they're extremely concerned about the situation

nearby Ukraine with also Russian forces, of course, not too far away, either.

The Baltic Sea Region is one, Hala, and this is something that I heard from the Secretary General today that is of massive concern to NATO. Obviously,

the Russians amassing a lot of forces, they're amassing a lot of forces in Crimea, amassing a big naval force as well.

And so that's one of the reasons why you have NATO pouring more resources into this place here. But I think that also one of the things that we have

to keep in mind is that countries like Romania and other countries also on the eastern flank of NATO, they are extremely concerned about what's going

on because, of course, one of the demands that President Vladimir Putin sets out or puts to the United States is he demands that NATO forces

essentially be withdrawn from new member states of NATO. And that, of course, includes Romania. That, of course, includes Poland, and that

includes other Eastern European NATO states as well.

And what the alliance is trying to show is that there are no second tier members of the alliance, that it is going to be there for members like for

instance, Romania, and others as well. And certainly we also heard from the President of Romania today, they are saying it's extremely important that

United States forces are on the ground here as well. In fact, there's a thousand troops in the 2nd Cavalry Regiment that just arrived here with

Stryker vehicles. And they simply show that the United States is fully committed to a collective security here in Eastern Europe.

But the Secretary General, Hala, also saying that he, like the U.S. administration also believes that the situation right now near the borders

with Ukraine, also with those exercises going on in Belarus, that that situation is extremely dangerous. And the way he put it, he said the

Russians are putting in more troops, and the time of warning is going down, because those troops are moving closer to the border. And with that, with

every day goes by, the situation certainly does become more dangerous.

NATO, like the U.S., says they hope that they can be a diplomatic solution to all of this, but certainly listening to Jake Sullivan, also listening to

the Secretary General today, they are preparing for the case that maybe diplomacy could fail, even though it's obviously something that no one

wants to see happen, Hala.

GORANI: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thanks very much. Alex Marquardt, Kevin Liptak, thanks to all of you as we continue to cover this story from all

angles and all locations as well.

It's important to note, though, that the National Security Adviser did push back against reports that Vladimir Putin had made some sort of final

decision to invade. We don't know if Vladimir Putin has made that final decision, he said, but did or encourage and urge Americans in Ukraine in

Ukraine, inside Ukraine, to leave in the next 24 to 48 hours because the estimation coming from the U.S. side is that the risk is high enough that

there -- if there is an invasion, or a military assault on Ukraine, by Russia, that the situation could become perilous for U.S. citizens.

And by the way, it's not just the United States. It's also the U.K., Japan, Norway, other countries are also urging their citizens to leave Ukraine.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.



GORANI: Welcome back. More on our top story now. Fears of an imminent invasion of Ukraine, a new intelligence is suggesting Russia could launch

an attack on Ukraine before the end of the Olympics on February 20th.

The U.S. Secretary of State says there are new and deeply troubling signs of Russia's escalation along the Ukraine border. The Kremlin has been

ramping up its military deployments, this is something we can see with a satellite imagery, including a significant buildup in Crimea. It comes

alongside those joint military drills between Russia and Belarus.

President Biden has been speaking to allies during the past few hours and is warning Americans in Ukraine to get out as soon as possible. Let's get

more with the perspective from Moscow. Andrey Kortunov is the Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council and he joins me now

live. Thanks for being with us. Do you think Vladimir Putin is intent on invading in the next few days Ukraine?

ANDREY KORTUNOV, DIRECTOR GENERAL, RUSSIAN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL: I just hope that it is not the case. I can see very clearly what Russia has

to lose if it goes after Ukraine. I don't see what Russia can gain through such an operation. And until recently, I think they have stated that the

Russian leadership has no intention to start a military operation against Ukraine. So, I hope that they will stick to their promises.

GORANI: So Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser, said that Russia has all the forces it needs now around Ukraine to commence a "major

military action" on the country. If it -- if he decides to go in, does the Russian military have all the forces it needs to mount this all-out


KORTUNOV: Well, that depends on the specific military goals that Russia might pursue because I cannot imagine that the goal would be to occupy all

of Ukraine. I think is a challenging --

GORANI: It's a huge country. Exactly. It's a huge country. I mean, when you look at it on the map, you realize just how big it is, and how impossible

it would be for one army of 100,000, 120,000 men to occupy it entirely.

KORTUNOV: Correct. Correct. I think that if we see an escalation, the odds are that this escalation takes place in Donbas. And again, if you look at

the Russian discourse, they argue that allegedly, Ukraine might be tempted to try to resolve the Donbas problem by military means. And if that

happens, Russia might be forced to intervene, to support the eastern republics of Luhansk and Donetsk.

But of course, they denied it in Kiev. I don't think that in Kiev, they might count on a small victorious war in the east. It's not likely to


GORANI: Right. So when you say you don't see what Russia has to gain from mounting a military operation right now, and that they have a lot to lose,

what do they have to lose? What does Putin have to lose?

KORTUNOV: Well, first of all, definitely Russia will face a new round of sanctions. And these sanctions are likely to affect some of the core

sectors of the Russian economy, namely the energy sector and the financial system. So it will be more than anything that we have seen before. That's

for sure.

On top of that, it will be the end of the Minsk agreements. And I think that Russia still values the Minsk agreements, because that's the only

framework in which we can hope to reach some kind of resolution of the problem of East Ukraine.

And finally, of course, that would mean that inter-Russians fillings in Ukraine will go through the roof. Even if there is no guerilla war,

definitely it will destroy what is left from our brotherly relations that we've had until recently.


And, again, this is something that cannot be ignored.

GORANI: So then why is he massing over 100,000 troops at every possible area -- border area around Ukraine? There are Black Sea drills that will be

happening soon. Russia engaged in military exercises in Belarus. I mean, why then do all of that, if in the end, the intention is just to do


KORTUNOV: Well, one of the possible explanations is that in the Kremlin, they believe it's the only way to get the Western attention. Because the

perception is that the West has been ignoring Russia's concerns, Russian security grievances. And right now, if it is, indeed the goal, you can

argue that Putin was quite successful in achieving the goal because we have a chain of foreign visitors in Moscow. And I haven't seen that for a long


GORANI: That is the case. We saw the French president, we saw Foreign Ministers, heads of state and government, all visiting the Kremlin and


But -- if how does this end, though? Because there are only really two scenarios, either the war happens, and we really hope it doesn't, or

there's some sort of off-ramp, there is some sort of diplomatic solution. How does it end?

KORTUNOV: Well, I think that, yes, I think that we should keep in mind that it's not just about Ukraine, it's about the European security at large.

And if you look at the Western response to Russia's proposals that was leaked to El Pais, you'll see that definitely the West is ready to make

certain concessions, not on the NATO enlargement, but on some specific issues which Russia was trying to convince the west into doing, like, you

know, moratorium on mid-range missiles or resurrection of the NATO-Russia council with the military dimension added.

There are a couple of not very, you know, huge but still significant issues on which we see, at least we can hope that to the west might somewhat

modify its position and take our oceans concerns more seriously.

GORANI: All right. Well, we'll be following obviously this story very carefully. Andrey Kortunov, the head of the Russian International Affairs

Council joining us live from Moscow. Thanks so much for being with us.

KORTUNOV: Thank you. Thank you, Hala.

GORANI: We'll be right back.



GORANI: Well, we've been following breaking news all hour, but I want to bring you another top story.

The International Testing Agency has confirmed that a Russian skater failed a drug test ahead of the Winter Olympics. It is now appealing her right to

compete. Selina Wang has that.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kamila Valieva has lit up the world of figure skating, leading a Russian team to gold on Monday at the Beijing

Olympics, an honor that could still be taken away after the team tested positive to a banned substance before the games, the heart medication,



DR. ELIZABETH MURRAY, PEDIATRIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: What this drug does is actually kind of make your heart work more efficiently.


WANG: And because she is only 15, it's unclear what kind of penalty she might face if any. Other athletes, like men singles gold medalist Nathan

Chen of the U.S. watching closely certainly.


NATHAN CHEN, U.S. FIGURE SKATING GOLD MEDALIST: Certainly, you know, as athletes, you know, you want to be able to have as fair of a playing field

as possible.


WANG: In a statement Friday, the ITA said the sample that later tested positive was taken on Christmas Day last year, but it said the test result

was only reported after Valieva had competed in the team event here. Russia's anti-doping agency suspended her from their Olympic team, but then

overturned that the next day after she appealed.

Now the ITA says the International Olympic Committee is challenging Russia in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. While the Russian Olympic Committee

says she's tested negative before December 25th and after arrival in China, and should be able to compete and claim her team gold medal.


CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: If people tune in on Tuesday and if she is competing, what a travesty that will be, what a tainted competition

that will be.


WANG: That legal process eating up precious time here at the Olympics. Valieva allowed to practice as her singles event grows closer. All eyes

will be on this venue on Tuesday to see if Valieva will be able to take the ice. This doping scandal is overshadowing the premier event of the Winter

Olympics. It's diminishing Valieva's phenomenal athleticism and once again putting the spotlight on Russia's history of state-sponsored cheating.

The RFC says it is taking measures to keep its "honestly won Olympic gold medal," but if they lose it, Chen's U.S. team would move from silver to



CHEN: The Medal Ceremony is definitely a very special part of the Olympics. And for those that, you know, should get a medal, I truly hope that they



WANG: The ITA warn Friday that a decision on whether the team from Russia keeps its gold medals could take time and that might not allow for a team

medal ceremony at all. Selina Wang, CNN, Beijing.


GORANI: Thanks for watching. I'm Hala Gorani. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.