US, Europe Prepare for “Big and Tough” Sanctions If Russia Invades Ukraine

“I don’t want to use a public press call to talk about the particularly sensitive challenges President Biden will present to President Putin,” the official said. “But I would say that the United States is not seeking to find itself in a situation where the objective of our countermeasures is the direct use of American military force.”

A White House statement released later Monday after Biden held an appeal with his European counterparts, however, did not mention sanctions. The statement said Biden and the leaders of Italy, France, Germany and Britain agreed that diplomacy “is the only way forward to resolve the conflict in the Donbass through the implementation of the Minsk accords.” They also called on Russia to “defuse tensions” and “stressed their support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the statement said.

A British government spokesperson said Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged during the appeal that his country “will continue to use all economic and diplomatic tools at its disposal to prevent any Russian aggression against Ukraine”, and that European leaders were planning to speak again. with Biden after talks Tuesday with Putin.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday, and administration official Biden said the US president plans to meet with Zelensky himself “within days” l call with Putin.

Blinken spokesman said the secretary agreed with Zelensky on “the need for a peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the conflict” and the full restoration of “Ukrainian sovereignty over its internationally recognized borders, including Crimea. “.

The threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine has intensified over the past week, with The Washington Post first reporting last Friday that US intelligence officials suspect Moscow of planning a multi-front offensive involving up to to 175,000 soldiers that could take place early on. Next year.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have stepped up their warnings that Washington will retaliate if Moscow transfers its forces across the border to Ukraine, as it had previously done in 2014.

Blinken, speaking last Wednesday after a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance in Latvia, warned that the United States was “ready to impose high costs for further Russian aggression in Ukraine ”.

“We have made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a series of high impact economic measures that we have refrained from using in the past,” Blinken said.

Last Thursday, Blinken met his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe last Thursday in Sweden.

Following this session, Blinken told reporters at a press conference that he “expressed very clearly our deep concerns and our determination to hold Russia accountable for its actions, including our commitment to work with the European allies to impose serious costs and consequences on Russia if it takes further aggressive action against Ukraine.

Then, last Friday, Blinken again warned in an interview with Reuters that “there would be very serious consequences” if Russia “engages in further aggression against Ukraine”.

Biden, for his part, told reporters last Friday that he was in “constant contact” with the Ukrainian government and European allies of the United States, adding that Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan had also been ” widely engaged ”.

“What I’m doing is putting in place what I think is the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to move forward and do what people fear he will do, ”Biden said. . “But that’s at stake right now.”

Announcing the plans for the Biden-Putin appeal last Saturday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement that the president would “underscore US concerns over Russian military activity on the border. with Ukraine and reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Russia’s rhetoric has shifted in recent months from its long-standing demand that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO, to an objection to any NATO presence in Russia. US, British and Canadian troops are currently training Ukrainian forces at a site in the far west of the country.

“I think it’s interesting that the Russian line is changing,” British Ambassador to the United States Karen Piece told POLITICO. “Although when they went to Georgia in 2008, they did not use the ‘Georgia is getting too close to NATO’ argument. But they used it once there.

Arguing that NATO’s presence in Ukraine is a threat to Russia, Pierce said Putin “presents a narrative that he can use around the world if he wants to. … He has the capabilities there. But Putin usually has more than one plan at any given time. And he’s very good at composing and composing based on our response.

Paul McLeary and Emma Anderson contributed to this report.

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