Blinken says US prepared for Russian diplomacy or ‘aggression’ on Ukraine – Reuters
‘So far we have only seen an escalation from Moscow. This is a pivotal moment: we are ready for whatever has to happen’
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday and that Washington was ready either for diplomacy or “aggression” from Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will speak on Saturday as Western countries warned that a war in Ukraine could break out at any moment.
Blinken told reporters in Fiji that while Russian President Vladimir Putin was genuinely interested in resolving the escalating impasse through diplomacy, Washington was ready to play its part but would impose swift economic sanctions if Moscow invaded.
“I continue to hope that he will not choose the path of further aggression and that he will choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue,” Blinken told a news conference after meeting with leaders of the Pacific islands. “But if he doesn’t, we’re ready.”
Tensions have steadily risen, with the United States and its allies urging its citizens to leave Ukraine, warning that Moscow could invade at any moment. Russia has repeatedly disputed Washington’s version of events, saying it massed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border to maintain its own security against aggression from NATO allies.
“If President Putin decides to take military action, we will quickly impose severe economic sanctions in coordination with our allies and partners around the world,” Blinken said. “We will strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, we will strengthen our allies on the eastern flank of NATO.”
He said he would ask Lavrov about Russia’s response to US proposals to resolve the crisis.
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“So far we have only seen an escalation from Moscow. This is a pivotal moment: we are ready for whatever has to happen.
Asked about a report that the United States would evacuate its embassy in Kiev amid warnings of an impending Russian invasion, Blinken said he would have more to say about the embassy in the coming hours.