US Secretary of State Antony Blinken threatened Moscow with heavy economic sanctions if President Vladimir Putin attacks Ukraine, insisting that “diplomacy is the only responsible way to resolve this potential crisis.”
Tensions over the accumulation of Russian troops along the border of Ukraine, whose government is trying to align itself with NATO and the West, have been a central theme of Blinken’s week-long trip to Europe and were one of the priorities of the agenda at his meeting with his NATO counterparts in Latvia on Wednesday.
“We do not know if President Putin has made the decision to invade. We know that he is putting in place the ability to do so in the short term if he so decides. We must prepare for all contingencies,” Blinken said.
Blinken added that the United States “made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond with determination, even with a series of high-impact economic measures that we have refrained from using in the past.”
He declined to provide details on the sanctions, but went on to say that “NATO is prepared to reinforce its defenses on the eastern flank,” without giving further details.
The military organization already has forces stationed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
Blinken also said he would urge Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to return to talks under the “Normandy” format, with the United States, France and Germany, when he meets with Russia’s top diplomat in Sweden on Thursday.
“Diplomacy is the only responsible way to resolve this potential crisis,” Blinken added.
However, Peter Dickinson, a Ukraine specialist at the Atlantic Council, told Euronews that “there is limited what NATO can actually bring to the table.”
“Obviously, Ukraine and Russia are aware that there is no real option for military involvement by NATO. So what we are really talking about are economic sanctions, maybe some political sanctions as well. But, fundamentally, it will be economic measures. the ones that would hopefully restrict Russia and make them think twice, “added Dickinson.
“Some have speculated that this may mean removing or restricting Russia’s access to things like the Swiss international banking system, which would have a major impact on the Russian economy. The question is whether these economic factors would be enough to deter Russia from anything. which many believe is a top foreign policy priority for President Putin, which is to reassert Russian authority over Ukraine, “he continued.
A 2015 peace deal brokered by France and Germany helped end large-scale battles in eastern Ukraine that erupted when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula the previous year.
But efforts to reach a political settlement have failed and sporadic skirmishes have continued along the tense line of contact.
While in Stockholm, on the sidelines of a ministerial-level meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Blinken will also hold talks with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Watch the full interview with the editor of Ukraine at the Atlantic Council, Peter Dickinson, in the video player above.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism