The United States and Britain threatened new sanctions against Russia on Sunday, as Washington and its NATO allies stepped up diplomatic efforts to dissuade Moscow from invading Ukraine.
“We are going to announce at the end of this week enhanced sanctions legislation so that we can hit a wide range of Russian interests of importance to the Kremlin,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News.
In Washington, Democratic and Republican congressmen signaled that they are close to reaching an agreement on a bill that provides harsh economic sanctions against Russia.
Influential Democratic Senator Bob Menendez promised on CNN channel “serious consequences” for Moscow if it invades Ukraine, and his Republican colleague Jim Risch spoke of a “devastating price” for Vladimir Putin.
– ‘Equitable relations’ –
Tensions are at a maximum between Moscow and the West over Ukraine, on whose borders Russia has concentrated tens of thousands of soldiers and heavy weapons.
Among the battery of sanctions mentioned, the United Kingdom and the United States plan to target the strategic Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, or even Russian access to transactions in dollars, the main currency of international trade.
Faced with these new threats, Moscow demanded to be treated on equal terms by Washington.
“We want good, equitable, mutually respectful relations with the United States, as with all countries in the world,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russia’s Channel 1.
– “Legitimate interests” –
Russia “does not want to be left in a position” where its security “is violated on a daily basis”, as would happen if Ukraine were to join NATO, Lavrov continued.
Moscow will continue to seek “legally binding guarantees” that take into account Russia’s “legitimate interests,” he added.
In addition, it will soon send to NATO and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) countries “an official request that urges them to say how they plan to implement their commitment not to strengthen their security to the detriment of the safety of others.”
Faced with the threat of an invasion, Kiev asked Moscow on Sunday to withdraw its troops deployed along the border between the two countries and to continue the dialogue with the Westerners if it “seriously” wants a de-escalation of tensions.
– ‘Selfish purposes’ –
Russia has been accused, since the end of 2021, of having concentrated close to 100,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian border with the aim of attacking the neighboring country. Moscow denies having any bellicose intention, but demands written guarantees to safeguard its security, such as that the Atlantic Alliance does not admit new members, especially Ukraine.
It is a key demand that the United States rejected this week in writing, although it left the door open for negotiations, and the Kremlin has indicated that it wants to give itself time to analyze the situation.
On Sunday, the head of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, assured once again that Russia “does not want a war” with Ukraine, and accused Westerners of exacerbating tensions for “their own selfish purposes.”
The number three of the United States Department of State, Victoria Nuland, said for her part that there were no signs of de-escalation on the part of Putin.
“On the contrary, he has moved more troops since we encouraged him to de-escalate” tensions, he told CBS on Sunday.
– Deployment of troops –
Several Western countries have announced in recent days the sending of soldiers to Eastern Europe, including the United States (which has already put 8,500 soldiers on alert to reinforce NATO) and France, which wants to deploy “several hundred” soldiers in Romania.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will propose next week that NATO deploy troops to respond to increased “Russian hostility” towards Ukraine. The announcement was greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Ukrainian authorities have called on Westerners to remain “steadfast and vigilant” in negotiations with Russia but to avoid sowing “panic” about an imminent invasion.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will travel to Kiev this week. Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand, whose country provides military assistance to Ukraine, arrived there on Sunday for a two-day visit.
Anand announced that Canada on Sunday moved its military troops in western Ukraine west of the Dniepr River.