Russia on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of US sanctions against President Vladimir Putin, one of several proposed responses if Russian forces invade neighboring Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that such sanctions would not be politically painful, but would be “catastrophic”.
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned of “serious” and “enormous” consequences for Putin – including personal sanctions against Putin – if Russian leaders mobilize an estimated 127,000 troops ready to strike along the Ukrainian border. Huh.
“I have already made it clear to President Putin that if he moves to Ukraine, there will be serious consequences, including significant economic sanctions, and I feel obliged to increase my presence, NATO’s presence. Eastern Front, Poland, Romania, etc.,” Biden said, “if he proceeds with all those forces, it will be the biggest offensive since World War II. It will change the world.”
He also emphasized that none of the 8,500 US troops put on high alert this week would be moved to Ukrainian territory, and would be deployed as part of a NATO operation, not a single US operation. He did not say when he might decide to order those soldiers into the theatre.
Biden said the US has a “sacred obligation” to help NATO allies facing threats. Ukraine is not a member of NATO – although it wants to be. However, neighboring Russia sees potential NATO membership as a threat and has demanded that the security alliance bar Ukraine from membership. Putin has said he has no intention of invading Ukraine but sees NATO’s eastward expansion as a threat.
“And I’ve spoken with every single one of our NATO allies … virtually, and we’re all on the same page,” Biden said. “We must make it clear that there is no reason for any member of NATO to worry whether we – NATO – will come to their rescue.”
Efforts to resolve the situation included talks last week between Russia, the United States, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Russia is awaiting a written response to its proposals, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told lawmakers on Wednesday that if “the West continues its aggressive course, Moscow will retaliate as necessary.”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky used a televised address on Tuesday to urge peace at home.
“There are no rose-colored glasses, no childish illusions, everything is not simple. … But there is hope,” said Zelensky. “Protect your body from viruses, your mind from lies, your heart from panic.”
Zelensky said plans were being made for him to meet with the leaders of Russia, Germany and France. Officials of the four countries were to hold talks in Paris on Wednesday.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday he would seek clarification on Russia’s intentions during Friday’s phone call with Putin.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday in response to a VOA question that the Russian military had grown “consistently” but not “dramatically.”
“We have seen a steady accumulation of combat power by the Russians in the western part of their country around the borders of Ukraine and Belarus,” Kirby said.
Earlier in the day, the United States warned Russia that it would face sharper and far more dire economic consequences if it invaded Ukraine than when Moscow occupied Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.
“We are prepared to implement massive sanctions that were not considered in 2014,” a national security official told reporters in Washington. “It means that the gradation of the past is over. And this time, we’ll start at the top of the escalation ladder and stay there.”
The security official, speaking anonymously, said that the United States is “also prepared to implement new export controls” to stifle the Russian economy.
“We use them to block the export of products from Russia,” the official said. “And the reason they’re working is that if you… step back and look at the global dominance of US-origin software technology, the export control options that we’re considering with our allies and partners have a lot to do with them.” That would significantly affect Putin’s strategic ambitions to industrialize the economy, and it would undermine the areas that are important to him, whether in artificial intelligence, quantum computing, or defense or aerospace or other key areas. “
The United States and its allies imposed less severe economic sanctions against Moscow following the Crimean takeover, but they ultimately proved ineffective, and the peninsula remains under Russian control.
Russia’s demand to ban Ukraine from NATO has been rejected by the West, with leaders saying they would not give Moscow veto power, belonging to a 30-nation military alliance set up to counter Soviet aggression after World War II. Will give
VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell and VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report. Some information for this report has been received from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.