Russia to face pressure at UN over Ukraine crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States sought to step up pressure on Russia over Ukraine on Sunday, vowing to put Moscow on the defensive at the UN Security Council as Capitol lawmakers said they were about to agree on ‘the mother of all sanctions’.

The US ambassador to the United Nations said the Security Council would press Russia in a session on Monday to discuss its troop buildup near Ukraine and growing fears it was planning an invasion.

Any formal action by the council is extremely unlikely given Russia’s veto power and its ties to other council members, including China. But the United States’ referral of Russian troop reinforcements to the top United Nations body gives both sides a big step in their battle for world opinion.

“Our voices are united in calling on Russians to explain themselves,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said of the United States and the other council members on ABC’s “This Week” show on Sunday. “We walk into the room ready to listen to them, but we’re not going to be distracted by their propaganda.”

Russia’s muster of around 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine has brought increasingly loud warnings from the West that Moscow intends to invade. Russia demands that NATO promise never to allow Ukraine to join the alliance, and to stop the deployment of NATO weapons near Russian borders and to withdraw its forces from Eastern Europe East.

Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev on Sunday dismissed Western warnings of an invasion.

“Right now they are saying that Russia is threatening Ukraine – it’s completely ridiculous,” he told the official Tass news agency. “We don’t want war and we don’t need it at all.”

The United States and European Union countries say a Russian invasion would carry heavy penalties. On Sunday, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez, discussed the possibility of imposing certain sanctions preemptively.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are split on the possible sanctions timeline, with many GOP members pushing for the United States to impose tough sanctions immediately instead of waiting for Russia to send new troops to Ukraine.

“There are sanctions that could really happen right off the bat, because of what Russia has already done – cyberattacks on Ukraine, false flag operations, efforts to undermine the Ukrainian government internally,” Menendez said on CNN.

In the event of an invasion, the New Jersey Democrat said, Russia would face “the mother of all sanctions,” including actions against Russian banks that could severely undermine the Russian economy and increased lethal aid to the Ukrainian army.

The sanctions would apparently be much harsher than those imposed after Russia annexed Crimea to Ukraine in 2014. These sanctions have been considered ineffective.

Russia has long been unhappy with NATO granting membership to countries that were once part of the Soviet Union or were within its sphere of influence as members of the Warsaw Pact.

NATO “has already moved closer to Ukraine. They also want to drag this country there,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sunday, “although everyone understands that Ukraine is not ready and could not make any contribution to strengthening security. of NATO”.

Ukraine has sought NATO membership for years, but any prospect of membership seems remote as the country struggles to find political stability and tackle corruption.

Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and a member of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, suggested that Ukraine’s backsliding from its NATO aspirations could hasten a diplomatic solution to the current crisis.

If Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “decided that future NATO membership, if there should be one for Ukraine, and the issue of Russian occupation of Ukraine are two things to put on the table , I think we can move towards a solution to this,” Durbin said on NBC.

Ukraine has shown no signs of willingness to make concessions on possible alliance membership.

Lavrov also pointed to Russia’s assertion that NATO expansion is a threat, saying the alliance has engaged in offensive actions outside of its member nations.

“It’s hard to say it’s defensive. Don’t forget that they bombed Yugoslavia for almost three months, invaded Libya, violated the UN Security Council resolution, and how they behaved in Afghanistan,” he said.

The United States and NATO have formally rejected Russia’s demands for a halt to NATO expansion, although Washington has outlined areas where talks are possible, raising hopes there could be a way to avoid war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made no public remarks about the Western response. Lavrov said the West’s position left little chance of reaching an agreement, although he also said Russia did not want a war.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Christi C. Elwood