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Diplomats Ordered to Evacuate Ukraine, But Is the Order Premature?

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

As a Russian invasion of Ukraine looks increasingly likely, many countries are ordering their diplomatic staffers to evacuate embassies. Among those are U.S. allies Australia and the United Kingdom.

“Officials say there have been no specific threats to British diplomats, but about half of the staff working in Kyiv will return to the UK,” reports the BBC. “The embassy moves were described as precautionary, and nothing specific is thought to have occurred in the past 24 hours to have triggered the decisions of the US and UK.”

The BBC also notes that European Union (EU) diplomatic staff will remain in Ukraine for the time being.

Australia’s ABC reports that authorities are advising all Aussies to leave Ukraine:

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said the advice was updated on Monday evening to “do not travel” and warned that the government’s ability to offer consular assistance could be affected by any change to the security situation on the ground.

“Australians in Ukraine should leave now by commercial means, where safe to do so, noting that flight availability could change or be suspended at short notice,” the spokesperson said.

The U.S. State Department has also escalated Ukraine to “Level 4: Do Not Travel,” and has authorized voluntary departure for embassy staff and mandatory departure for family members of diplomats.

However, the Biden administration is reprising its performance in Afghanistan, telling citizens that it’s not in a position to help Americans leave. In other words, American citizens are on their own.

Axios notes that “officials declined to offer estimates of how many family members will be evacuated or how many Americans remain in Ukraine, citing a lack of accurate data,” which continues to make Ukraine sound like reruns of Afghanistan.

Related: War for Ukraine? Eastern Europe May Receive 1,000s of US Troops

Additionally, Israel is looking at ways to evacuate Jewish people in Ukraine. The Israeli government has contingency plans at the ready for evacuating Jews from any nation, and they are preparing to do so in Ukraine if the need arises.

The Times of Israel reports that “representatives of various government offices and groups met on Sunday to discuss such an eventuality, among them the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Minister, Defense Ministry, Diaspora Affairs Ministry and the Jewish Agency.”

“The report said some 75,000 people living in eastern Ukraine are believed eligible for Israeli citizenship,” the Times continues.

But is all of this premature? A spokesman for the Ukraine Foreign Ministry thinks so.

A statement from Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry begins with:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs took note of the U.S. Department of State decision ordering the departure of family members of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv personnel, as well as authorizing voluntary departure of some U.S. Government employees.

While respecting the right of foreign nations to decide on safety and security of their diplomatic missions, we consider that this step by the U.S. is premature and stems from excessive caution. There were no radical changes in the security situation lately: the threat of new waves of Russian aggression remains present since 2014, and Russia’s build-up of the military capacity along Ukraine’s borders started last April.

The statement goes on to encourage governments to exercise calm in the face of Russia’s efforts to destabilize the nation and goes on to thank Ukraine’s allies, particularly the U.S., for their support.

The Biden administration is contemplating sending thousands of troops to Eastern Europe, while NATO allies are also preparing troops, fighter jets, and ships to address any need to come to the defense of Ukraine.

So are the evacuations premature? Ukraine may tell us so, but in this case, it’s probably better to get out earlier rather than later — mainly because God knows we can’t stomach a full-blown repeat of the evacuation of Afghanistan.