BERLIN — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Thursday that there would be a “swift and severe” response from the United States and its allies if Russia sent military forces to Ukraine.
Blinken’s comments in Berlin appeared to be another effort to clear up any confusion over the position of the United States and its NATO allies after US President Joe Biden was heavily criticized for saying that a “minor incursion from Russia would elicit a lesser response.
“If Russian military forces cross the Ukrainian border and commit further acts of aggression against Ukraine, this will prompt a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our allies and partners,” Blinken said during the briefing. a press conference with his German counterpart.
Blinken later accused Russia of threatening the foundations of the world order with its buildup of around 100,000 troops near Ukraine. He said Russia faced a concerted and harsh global response if it invaded.
The stern warning was issued in Berlin, the city that symbolized the Cold War split between East and West, as Blinken prepares to meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday in an attempt to high stakes to ease tensions that seem likely to fail.
“These are difficult issues that we face, and solving them won’t happen quickly,” Blinken said. “I certainly don’t expect us to solve them tomorrow in Geneva.”
He said Russia’s actions towards Ukraine are an attempt to subvert international norms and are just the latest in a series of violations by Moscow of numerous treaties, agreements and other commitments it has made to uphold. the sovereignty and territory of other countries.
“Letting Russia violate these principles with impunity would take us all back to a much more dangerous and unstable time, when this continent – and this city – was split in two, separated by no man’s land patrolled by soldiers, with the threat of ‘an all-out war that weighs heavily on everyone’s life,” Blinken told an audience at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences. “It would also send a message to others around the world that these principles are enduring.”
“We will not treat the principles of sovereignty or territorial integrity as negotiable,” he said, adding that the situation is “bigger than a conflict between two countries, and bigger than a clash between the Russia and NATO This is a crisis with global consequences, and it requires global attention and action.
The speech came after Blinken and senior diplomats from Britain, France and Germany met in Berlin to project a united front over fears that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine. The day before, he had met the Ukrainian president in Kiev.
Biden said Wednesday he believed Moscow would invade and warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country would pay a “heavy price” in lost lives and a possible shutdown of the global banking system if it did.
But Biden also sparked consternation among allies after saying the response to a Russian invasion “depends on what it does”. “It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up arguing about what to do and what not to do and so on,” he said.
Biden said Thursday that “Russia has a long history of using measures other than overt military action to carry out aggression – paramilitary tactics, so-called gray area attacks and actions by Russian soldiers not wearing uniforms. Russians”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was among those who expressed concern over Biden’s “minor incursion” remark.
“We want to remind the big powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just like there are no minor victims and little grief over the loss of loved ones,” he tweeted.
Blinken took pains Thursday to emphasize that the United States and its partners stand together, noting that American diplomats have held more than 100 meetings with allies in recent weeks “to ensure that we speak and act as one. voice as far as Russia is concerned”.
“This unity gives us strength, a strength which I might add that Russia does not have and cannot match,” he said. “That’s why we build voluntary alliances and partnerships in the first place. This is also why Russia recklessly seeks to divide us.
Russia denies planning an invasion and, in turn, has accused the West of plotting “provocations” in Ukraine, citing the delivery of weapons to the country by British military transports in recent days.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed that Ukrainian and Western talk of an impending Russian attack was a “cover to organize their own large-scale provocations, including those of a military character”.
Russia wants binding security guarantees, including a permanent ban on Ukraine’s NATO membership, which Kyiv aspires to, and the withdrawal of most US and allied military presence in Eastern Europe. ‘East.
The United States and its European partners say they are ready to consider some less dramatic gestures, but that Russian demands are out of the question and that Putin knows they are non-starters. This, Blinken said, is proof of Putin’s ulterior motive.
“So far, our good faith gestures have been pushed back – because, in truth, this crisis is not primarily about weapons or military bases,” he said. “It’s about the sovereignty and self-determination of Ukraine and other post-Soviet states. And at its core, it is about Russia’s rejection of a post-Cold War Europe that is whole and free.
Russia on Thursday announced extensive naval maneuvers through February, some apparently in the Black Sea, involving more than 140 warships and more than 60 aircraft. Separately, the Spanish Defense Minister said the country was sending two warships to the Black Sea with NATO approval.
Amid fears that Putin will not be moved by sanctions threats and that an invasion will not draw as strong an international response as the United States thinks, Blinken issued a direct appeal to the Russian people to opposes any intervention.
“You deserve to live in safety and dignity, like all people in the world, and no one – not Ukraine, not the United States, not NATO countries – seeks to jeopardize that. But what really threatens your security is an unnecessary war with your neighbors in Ukraine, with all the costs that come with it – and above all, for the young people who will risk or even give their lives,” he said.
The United States and its NATO allies face a difficult task regarding Ukraine. Biden has said he does not plan to send combat troops in the event of another Russian invasion. But he could pursue less dramatic but still risky military options, including supporting a post-invasion Ukrainian resistance.
The reason for not directly joining a Russian-Ukrainian war is simple. The United States has no treaty obligations to Ukraine, and a war with Russia would be a huge gamble. But doing too little also carries risks.
Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland, contributed.