US, EU: Warnings about Russia’s troop buildup not alarmism
Washington, Feb 7 (EFE).- The top diplomats of the United States and the European Union said here Monday that their warnings about Russia’s buildup of troops in areas along its border with Ukraine are not alarmism but mere statements of fact.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Josep Borrell, met at a EU-US Energy Council gathering Monday in Washington and said they are offering a unified front in the face of Moscow’s aggressive behavior.
“This is not alarmism. This is simply the facts,” Blinken said. “And the facts are … that we’ve seen over the last few months a massing of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders.”
The current buildup is “not happening in a vacuum,” the US’s top diplomat said. “It’s happening in the context of what Russia already did in 2014 in invading Ukraine, seizing Crimea, creating a conflict in the Donbas that continues to this day.”
The US and other Western countries imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 after Moscow formally annexed Crimea, where a majority had voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.
Borrell echoed Blinken’s remarks, saying “140,000 troops massed in the border is not to go to have tea.”
“Certainly we are living – to my understanding – the most dangerous moment for the security in Europe after the end of the Cold War,” the senior EU official said.
Blinken and Borrell both said there is still space for achieving a lowering of Russia’s troop levels on the border via diplomacy, but the US secretary of state warned Russia of the crippling consequences of an invasion of Ukraine.
“We’ve developed a high-impact, quick-action response that would inflict massive costs on the Russian economy and financial system, including sanctions and significant export controls that would have a long-term effect in denying Russia the technology that it needs in key sectors,” Blinken said of the US government’s preparations. “And we’re working closely with the EU as they prepare complementary actions.”
The meeting occurred amid speculation that Moscow could retaliate against potentially harsh Western sanctions by cutting off the flow of natural gas to Europe in the winter months.
In that regard, the EU has been working in recent weeks on diversifying its sources of energy and gas amid an eventual conflict scenario.
“That’s why our immediate priority to diversify the sources of energy, in particular the gas flows, to avoid supply disruption from our main supplier, who is Russia, and to ensure that the world energy markets will be liquid, competitive, and well-supplied,” Borrell said, referring to ongoing talks with Norway, Qatar, Azerbaijan and Algeria, among other countries.
“Keep in mind that for Europe, our dependency from gas is about 95 percent of our consumption, oil 97 percent, coal 70 percent. These figures are a good indicator of the need of shifting our energy mix to renewables.”
In opening remarks prior to the meeting, the European commissioner for energy, Kadri Simson, said the EU also is looking to “sustain strong US LNG exports to Europe in the coming months.”
According to the latest US military and intelligence assessments cited Saturday by The Washington Post, a potential, large-scale Russian invasion would leave up to 50,000 civilians dead or wounded, cause as many as 5 million refugees to flee Ukraine and “decapitate the government in Kyiv in two days.”
Moscow, which wants a commitment by the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization to pull troops from former Soviet republics in Eastern Europe and assurances that Ukraine will never be admitted to the alliance (demands rejected by the US and its allies), has repeatedly said it has no plans to invade Ukraine. EFE