Reuters quoted the US minister as saying that Washington is still monitoring “very worrying” indications of a Russian escalation in Ukraine.
“We are in a context where an invasion could start at any time, and to be clear this includes the Olympics,” Blinken said. “Simply put, we continue to see worrying signs of a Russian escalation,” according to AFP.
“But at the same time, we have been very clear about building deterrence, building defense and making clear to Russia that if it chooses a path of renewed aggression, it will face major consequences,” he said after meeting his counterparts from the Australian, Indian and Japanese “Quadruple Security Dialogue” (Quad) coalition in Melbourne.
Blinken stressed that the United States “prefers to resolve differences” with Russia “diplomatically.”
“We made every effort to engage in dialogue with Russia,” he added.
He pointed out that Washington continues to reduce the number of employees at its embassy in Ukraine.
Blinken’s announcement comes as US President Joe Biden has called on his citizens to leave Ukraine immediately.
In turn, Joe Biden called on his citizens to leave Ukraine immediately, warning of a possible major conflict with Moscow in the event of a confrontation on the ground between US and Russian forces, despite diplomatic efforts being made in recent weeks.
In an interview with NBC News, he said, “American citizens should leave. They should leave now.”
“We are dealing with one of the largest armies in the world,” Biden added, referring to the Russian military, stressing that “this is a very different situation, and things can quickly get crazy.”
He reiterated that he would not, under any circumstances, send troops to the field in Ukraine, even to evacuate Americans in the event of a Russian invasion of the country.
Western leaders have been warning for weeks that Russia is preparing to escalate the eight-year conflict in eastern Ukraine after massing about 100,000 troops around the former Soviet state.
Russia and Belarus launched joint military exercises on Thursday that raised tension and made a breakthrough in diplomatic efforts by NATO leaders to prevent an invasion of Ukraine.
Hours before Biden’s statements, the US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield, called on Beijing Thursday to “encourage the Russians” to make the right choices in the crisis over Ukraine, prompting an immediate response from her Chinese counterpart Zhang Jun, who called on her to “stop fueling tension.”