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The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine’s announcement advising American citizens to consider departing Ukraine is leading experts in global affairs to warn against a disastrous pullout along the likes of the Afghanistan withdrawal last year.
The embassy stated on its website Wednesday the security situation “continues to be unpredictable… and can deteriorate with little notice,” urging citizens “to consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options.” It came after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Americans in the country “should leave now,” without citing any official ordered evacuation plan in the works at the White House.
The State Department ordered families of U.S. Embassy personnel to begin evacuating the country early this week. The UK, Canada, and Australia all followed with similar steps to draw down the embassy.
David Kramer, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, told Fox News the State Department’s move is prudent, following the debacle in Afghanistan.
Ukrainian soldiers use a launcher with U.S. Javelin missiles during military exercises in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. (Ukrainian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
“They were scrambling at the very last minute to get U.S. Embassy personnel out, as well as other Americans and Afghans who had supported and worked with the United States,” he said. “They want nothing close to resemble what happened in Afghanistan.”
Kramer said all airports were still functioning somewhat normally, and commercial flights have been leaving from Ukraine so Americans and others who wanted to leave could do so.
The U.S. Embassy has also been providing repatriation loans for citizens who cannot afford to purchase a commercial plane ticket to the United States.
A Russia-backed separatist rebels’ unit walks to take its position at the new line of contact outside Petrivske, Ukraine, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)
“The administration is really leaning forward in encouraging people to leave because they simply don’t want more headlines about how the administration failed a second time and left Americans stranded,” said Nathan Sales, acting former ambassador-at-Large and coordinator for counterterrorism, noting the chaotic Afghanistan exit.
“Part of the reason the White House is calling for Americans to leave now is because the administration is feeling snake-bitten by Afghanistan. The president told us that he was going to stay in country until we got every single American out. Obviously, that didn’t happen, and we still have hundreds, maybe thousands of American citizens stranded behind enemy lines in Afghanistan.”
With the ambassador to Ukraine vacant, it is important the administration is doing what it can to make sure it maintains a representation in Ukraine, Kramer said.
“The administration so far has failed to nominate a person to be the ambassador to Ukraine. There have been some nominations held up in the U.S. Senate. This is not one of those cases. It is not an ideal situation to be in,” he noted.
President Biden has not yet nominated anyone to the position. Marie Yovanovitch was the last Senate-confirmed ambassador in Kyiv.
Sales said there’s only one person who knows what’s going to happen next: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sales advised that it’s time to stop playing defense. “We have enormous leverage that we could use to show Russia that any invasion of Ukraine would be catastrophic for the Russian economy. We need to start taking those steps now rather than waiting and hoping that he doesn’t send attacks across the border.”
Kramer expected action not in the “next 24, 48, or even 72 hours” but in a few weeks.