“American citizens should leave now,” Biden said in the interview, which aired on “NBC Nightly News.”
Russia is on the brink of invading Ukraine, U.S. officials have repeatedly stated. Russia has not ruled out invading its neighbor but has accused the United States of misrepresenting its position, and Ukrainian officials have also taken issue with the U.S. stance.
Biden made clear that, in the event Russia does invade, he will not send troops to evacuate Americans.
“No. How do you do that? How do you even find them?” he said. “That’s a world war, when Americans and Russians start shooting at one another,” he also said.
Biden presided over the evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan in 2021, but held fast to his withdrawal deadline as U.S. troops pulled out despite hundreds of Americans still being in the Middle Eastern country.
The United States evacuated the families of diplomats from Ukraine in late January while authorizing non-essential U.S. embassy staff to leave the country. Officials have since then encouraged all Americans to depart, adding urgency to the request in recent days.
Still, there is “no active planning” for the evacuation of Americans who live in Ukraine, the Pentagon’s spokesman said this week.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Australia on Friday that “we continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border” and that “we’re in a window when an invasion could begin at any time.”
“We’re continuing to draw down our embassy. We will continue that process and we’ve also been very clear that any American citizens who remain in Ukraine should leave now,” he said.
Russia has amassed over 100,000 troops at or near the border with Ukraine, according to U.S. officials.
“We’re dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. This is a very different situation. And things could go crazy quickly,” Biden said.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, meanwhile, told reporters in Russia that a UK official apparently not recognizing Russian sovereignty over two of its southern regions earlier in the week highlighted how Western officials have “a conceptual misunderstanding” of the Russia–Ukraine situation.
Russian officials say forces from members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should not be dispatched to countries near Ukraine and Russia and have long called for the organization to commit to not accepting Ukraine as a member.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said after meeting with Poland’s prime minister in Warsaw that if Russia wants fewer troops near their borders, “this is entirely the wrong way to go about it.”
“It would be a disaster for them, it would be a disaster for Russia, it would be a disaster for the world, if they were to invade,” he said.