NATO threatens Moscow with sanctions if Russian troops invade Ukraine

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has 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 build-up of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine, whose government seeks to align with NATO and the West, were the focus of Blinken’s week-long trip to Europe and were high on the agenda for his meeting with his NATO counterparts in Latvia on Wednesday.

“We don’t know if President Putin made the decision to invade. We know he is building the capacity to do it in the short term if he so chooses. We have to prepare for all eventualities, ”said Blinken.

Blinken added that the United States has “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.”

He declined to provide details on the sanctions, but went on to say that “NATO is ready to strengthen its defenses on the eastern flank”, without giving 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 resume talks in the “Norman” format, with the United States, France and Germany, when he meets with Russia’s top diplomat in Thursday. Sweden.

“Diplomacy is the only responsible way to resolve this potential crisis,” Blinken added.

However, Peter Dickinson, Ukraine specialist at the Atlantic Council, told Euronews that “what NATO can actually put on the table is limited”.

“Obviously, Ukraine and Russia are aware that there is no real option for any military involvement on the NATO side. So what we’re really talking about are economic sanctions, maybe political sanctions as well. But fundamentally, these will be economic measures that hopefully constrain Russia and make them think twice, ”Dickinson added.

“Some have speculated that this could mean removing or restricting Russia’s access to things like the international Swiss 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 something that many see as a fundamental priority of President Putin’s foreign policy, which is to reassert Russian authority over Ukraine, ”he said. he continued.

A 2015 peace deal brokered by France and Germany helped end the large-scale battles in eastern Ukraine that began when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula the year before.

But efforts to reach a political settlement failed, and sporadic skirmishes 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 meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Watch the full interview with Ukrainian Atlantic Council editor-in-chief Peter Dickinson in the video player above.

Christi C. Elwood