House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., is leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to Ukraine on Tuesday amid heightened concerns that Russia is about to launch an invasion of the country, a congressional source told The Hill.
A spokesperson for Meek’s office, however, would not comment on the matter, citing security protocols about discussing congressional delegations.
As the tension on the Ukraine-Russia border escalates, the State Department is scaling down its embassy staff in Kyiv, and the Pentagon is readying 8,500 troops for deployment.
In addition, the administration has stepped up the delivery of defensive military assistance to Kyiv, according to The Hill.
There also have been increased travel warnings issued, with the State Department saying that the U.S."will not be in a position to evacuate U.S. citizens in such a contingency [of Russian military action in Ukraine], so U.S. citizens currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly, including by availing themselves of commercial options should they choose to leave the country."
Meeks on Monday expressed his backing for the administration's handling of the crisis, issuing a statement that "I strongly support the diplomatic path set forth by the Biden Administration in the attempt to lower the temperature on the Russian-Ukrainian border. Russia maintaining the military threat aimed directly at Kyiv & our NATO Allies is not a peaceful negotiating tactic."
He added that "the additional troop deployments the President is considering would send a strong signal of support to our Allies and deterrence to Moscow. Such a deployment would, of course, be about deterrence, not war, which would require Congressional authorization."
A State Department official said that "this is such a particularly sensitive time in that region, and we know that Congress is very interested, and quite frankly we're relying on Congress to stay with us on the messaging and making sure that they have what they need in that regard," The Hill reported.
Legislators have made two earlier trips to Ukraine during the current crisis. Last week, a bipartisan Senate delegation went to Kyiv, and House Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations Chairman Ruben Gallego last month led a bipartisan House delegation.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken also visited Kyiv last week and then traveled to Berlin to coordinate with European allies. He also met with Russia’s foreign minister in Geneva in an attempt to de-escalate tensions.
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