With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, fears are mounting that a major conflict could break out in Europe
The United States and its allies Thursday warned Moscow of grave consequences if “any” of the tens of thousands of troops massed on the border were to cross the border into Ukraine.
Following talks with Germany, France and Britain, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken underlined that Russia “cannot match” Western power’s resoluteness.
Separately in London, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Russia marching on Ukraine “on any scale whatever… would be a disaster not just for Ukraine but for Russia”.
Fears are mounting that a major conflict could break out in Europe.
Moscow insists it has no plans to invade but has at the same time laid down a series of demands — including a ban on Ukraine joining NATO — in exchange for de-escalation.
Upping the ante, Russia announced new naval drills that will see it deploy to the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Mediterranean “more than 140 warships and support vessels, more than 60 aircraft, 1,000 pieces of military equipment, and about 10,000 servicemen”.
Russia already held joint military drills Wednesday with forces of ex-Soviet republic Belarus, which also neighbours Ukraine.
– High price –
Hours before Blinken arrived in Berlin to coordinate the possible response to Russia, Biden sparked controversy as he appeared to indicate that a “minor incursion” might prompt a smaller reaction from NATO allies.
Blinken in Berlin clarified the comments, saying that “if any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border and commit new acts of aggression against Ukraine, that will be met with a swift, severe response from the United States and our allies and partners.”
“We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter.
With positions entrenched on both sides, a series of talks between Western and Russian officials in Geneva, Brussels and Vienna has failed to yield any breakthrough.
On the Russian wish list are measures that would limit military activities in the former Warsaw Pact and ex-Soviet countries that joined NATO after the Cold War.
Ukraine has been fighting Moscow-backed forces in two breakaway eastern regions since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.
Washington said Thursday it has approved requests from the Baltic nations to ship US-made weapons to Ukraine.
Kyiv has repeatedly pleaded with Germany to send armaments, a call that has so far been rebuffed.