Us, Allies Pledge Unity on Russia; to Do What Isn’t as Clear
WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) – President Joe Biden has galvanized European allies to guarantee that if Russia sends soldiers into Ukraine, severe actions will be taken. However, when it comes to what the US and Europe are willing to do, the allies don’t appear to be as united.
Military-wise, the US, Turkey, and the United Kingdom have stood out for giving or agreeing to deliver anti-tank missiles, armed drones, naval warships, and other weapons, as well as funding to help Ukraine improve its defenses. However, Germany, a crucial partner, appears to be opposed to any direct military aid, to the point where a British military airplane carrying weaponry to Ukraine went around German territory on Monday rather than taking the most direct path through it.
While Biden has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin of “economic consequences unlike any he’s ever seen” if Russia invades Ukraine, some major European allies have expressed reservations about imposing harsh economic sanctions that could harm some European economies or jeopardize the Russian natural gas that Europeans rely on to stay warm this winter.
Russian authorities have ignored the allies’ assurance of a united front against Russia after weeks of intense diplomacy. In actuality, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov argued, the US is in charge and the Europeans are just following orders.
And if talk of unity and threats of retaliation is making Putin reconsider, he isn’t showing it.
Russia has committed 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border, and US officials indicated on Tuesday that they believe Russia is capable of attacking. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on a hurried trip to Ukraine and Germany ahead of discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.
Leaders of the European Union believe Russia is attempting to foment dissension among the EU’s 27 members, the US, and NATO. They were congratulating themselves on avoiding that trap by the end of last week.
“The US didn’t play its game,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy leader, said. “Russia tried to split us apart.” They were unable to succeed.”
The lineup of Europeans behind US leadership has been a foreign policy achievement for the Biden administration, at least in words, as it led global partners in a disastrous departure from Afghanistan.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who flew to Kyiv with Republican and Democratic senators last weekend to speak with Ukrainian leaders, said the US work on securing European pledges against Russia if it invades will continue.
“Right now, the United States appears to be slightly more interested in adopting harsh global sanctions than Europe,” Murphy told reporters Monday. That’s “astonishing to me,” considering that Europe’s territorial integrity, not the United States, is at issue.
France, Germany, and others in the EU questioned US warnings that Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine could herald an impending invasion in October and November. Activating NATO’s crisis response planning system was initially resisted by France and Germany. They gave in, and it was turned on on Nov. 30.
Allies of the United States now appear to be determined to show that they agree with Biden. There is hardly any public opposition to the assurances of strong action.
A Russian invasion of Ukraine would very certainly prompt NATO allies adjacent to Russia’s borders, such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, to immediately beef up their defenses. Around 5,000 NATO troops and equipment are already stationed in those countries. One of Putin’s main grievances with the West is the presence of NATO nations along Russia’s borders.
Southeast European countries, particularly Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey, are being questioned about their willingness to host a NATO battle group of 1,000 troops and equipment in the Black Sea region.
Last Monday, Admiral Rob Bauer, the director of NATO’s military committee, said, “There are several nations who are interested in hosting such forces.”
Because Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it will not get military assistance from the organization if Russia invades.
The rhetoric from the European Union and individual European governments mirrors that of the White House and Americans: sending Putin’s army across the border into Ukraine would cost Russia significant economic and political repercussions.
No leaders are publicly debating the specifics of possible sanctions, claiming that doing so would be a mistake. The EU has a history of imposing sanctions on Russia in concert with the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and other allies.
The most publicized steps include Russia’s exclusion from the SWIFT banking system, which manages the global flow of money, as well as sanctions against Putin’s family, military and political groups, and Russian banks.
The British government has solidly backed the severe stance taken by the United States on Ukraine. Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss “wide–ranging economic measures” in the event of a Russian invasion, according to Johnson’s office.
However, there are concerns about how much economic damage the UK is ready to inflict on London’s financial center and housing market, which serve as major centers for Russian capital. Banks and financial regulators in the United Kingdom have long been accused of ignoring ill-gotten wealth.
After initially dismissing US concerns about Russia’s troop buildup, France’s cabinet minister for European affairs, Clément Beaune, recently stated that France is willing to back sanctions against Russia if necessary. He didn’t go into detail.
Germany, Europe’s largest economy, wields one of the most powerful economic weapons against Russia: the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would transport Russian natural gas directly to Germany and beyond.
Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, said on Monday that her country “would do everything” to ensure Ukraine’s security.
“Any further escalation will cost the Russian regime dearly – economically, politically, and strategically,” she said. “And we’re taking this extremely seriously.”
However, Germany’s government has offered conflicting signals on whether it will shut down the pipeline if Russia sends soldiers into Ukraine. As a result, Blinken has stepped in to reassure Germany, warning that if Russia invades, “it would be difficult to envision” gas flowing.