Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday appealed for global unity to push back on Russian military threats against Ukraine, saying Moscow seeks to destabilize a “post-Cold War Europe that is whole, free and at peace.”
The secretary’s remarks come amid heightened fears in the U.S. and Europe that Russian President Vladimir Putin will launch an invasion against Ukraine.
The Biden administration has undertaken a fervent diplomatic push to prepare allies and partners in Europe to impose coordinated, economic sanctions if Russian troops move across the border, while seeking to provide an off-ramp to Moscow to pull back from the brink of open war.
“It’s a crisis with global consequences and it requires global attention and action,” Blinken said in remarks delivered from Berlin, where he is convening with European allies ahead of a high stakes meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday.
The secretary said that the U.S. prefers diplomacy with Russia to tamp down what he criticized as a “contrived crisis” and that the administration is appealing to the international community to “to make clear the cost to Russia if it seeks conflict, and to stand up for all the principles that protect all of us.”
“Once the principles of sovereignty and self-determination are thrown out,” the secretary continued, “you revert to a world in which the rules we shaped together over decades, erode and then vanish.”
Blinken’s appeal for global unity in the face of Russian aggression follows remarks from President Biden on Wednesday that Putin is likely to “move in” to Ukraine, where Moscow has positioned more than 100,000 troops on the border of the former Soviet state.
But the president said that differences remain among U.S. allies and partners on what a proportionate response looks like if Russia takes action short of a large-scale military invasion.
“There are differences in NATO as to what countries are willing to do depending on what happens,” Biden said during a press conference from the White House on Wednesday night, referring to member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement clarifying the president’s remarks, saying that the Russians have an “extensive playbook of aggression short of military action,” including cyber attacks and paramilitary tactics that could be met with a proportionate, reciprocal action by the U.S. and allies short of massive economic sanctions that are likely to reverberate on the economies of the U.S. and Europe.
Underscoring that point, the Treasury Department on Thursday announced sanctions on four Ukrainians that it says are connected to a disinformation operation headed by Russian intelligence services intended to destabilize Ukraine.
The White House has condemned what it says is a Russian campaign of disinformation and propaganda aimed at painting Ukraine as provoking conflict against Russia and creating a pretext for invasion.