Americans in Ukraine should 'get out' warns GOP lawmaker after classified briefing

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Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., warned that Americans should “get out” of Ukraine after sitting in on a classified congressional briefing on the rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine. 

“What happened inside of that briefing was top secret,” Zeldin told Martha MacCallum on “The Story.” “So there’s a lot that I can’t share. But what I would tell any Americans who are in Ukraine, they need to get out. It is an important [and] serious moment for their safety.”

U.S. Army soldiers from the 18th Airborne Division walk out to a C-17 aircraft as they deploy to Europe on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022 from Fort Bragg, N.C. 

U.S. Army soldiers from the 18th Airborne Division walk out to a C-17 aircraft as they deploy to Europe on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022 from Fort Bragg, N.C. 
(AP Photo/Chris Seward)

“Right now, there’s commercial air traffic that is going to be capable now, and there’s no way to guarantee the safety for them if this escalates,” added Zeldin. 

President Biden ordered 3,000 U.S. troops to Eastern Europe Wednesday to assist NATO allies, after having put 8,500 troops on “high alert” early last week. Russia has assembled more than 100,000 troops at Ukraine’s borders in recent weeks.

Zeldin went on to stress that words and policy matter, “especially for the president.”

He acknowledged that he and others have been critical of President Biden’s response to the situation,  recalling a press conference when President Biden referenced potential Russian aggression as a “minor incursion,” which Zeldin interpreted as “in a way giving the green light to Russia.” Zeldin also noted President Biden fast-tracking the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, waiving sanctions on it last year. 

Despite this criticism, Zeldin underscored the importance of bipartisanship on the issue.

“I want to see the Biden administration and our leaders in government to be successful here,” Zeldin said. 

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“Also, there are other countries in that region throughout Europe and the rest of the world who are engaged – they’re talking. By working together [multilaterally], you can ramp up pressure where you’re creating more of a deterrent effect,” he continued. “This is something that we’ve been talking about for a long time. But at this particular moment, if you did everything in ramping up a deterrent, Russia might still enter Ukraine, but you have to try.” 

An instructor trains members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces.

An instructor trains members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces.
(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

The New York lawmaker concluded by saying how there are many people who are focused on Ukraine’s border and not focused on America’s southern border. “We have to make sure that we are putting the highest priority on our own border. And there’s a whole lot of people that need to do some reflection because they’re caring a lot more about Ukraine’s border right now.”

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