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Ukraine Crisis: Joe Biden Threatens Russia With Sanctions

The US President consults with the Europeans before the meeting with Vladimir Putin. The US is warning of a military escalation in Ukraine.

Ahead of a video summit planned for Tuesday between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the Ukraine crisis, the US threatened serious consequences in the event of a military escalation. A US government official said the costs would be very high if Russia opted for such an approach. 

Putin would then have to reckon with considerable economic countermeasures by both the Europeans and the United States

"To be clear, we do not know whether President Putin has made a decision on another military escalation in Ukraine. But we do know that he will provide the capacity for such an escalation should he so choose," he said Government officials continue. The US accuses Russia of deploying troops not far from the border with Ukraine. Russia rejects allegations of aggression and accuses Ukraine of having deployed more than 120,000 soldiers on the line to the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukraine warned again last Friday of the threat of attack.

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The US broadcaster CNN reported that the US government is considering sanctions against Putin's environment and the Russian energy sector. According to the report, a possible "nuclear option" would be the exclusion of Russia from the international bank payment system Swift. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the aim was 

to convey through diplomatic channels that this is the right moment for Russia to scale back its military build-up on the border with Ukraine

The security guarantees cannot be unilateral, that is obvious

Putin also wants to talk to Biden about mutual security guarantees at the summit, as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Interfax agency. Russia sees itself threatened by an expansion of NATO and wants, for example, to prevent the neighboring ex-Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia from joining the alliance. "The security guarantees cannot be unilateral, that is obvious," said Peskow.

Biden held discussions on Monday with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi. The heads of state and government have discussed their common concerns about "the Russian military armament on the border with Ukraine and the increasingly harsh rhetoric of Russia," said the White House.

They called on Russia to de-escalate and stressed that diplomacy was the only way to resolve the conflict. The British government announced that the five heads of state and government had agreed to exchange ideas again after Biden's talks with Putin.

On Monday evening, the chiefs of staff of the 30 NATO countries also held a special meeting to discuss the Russian troop movements not far from the Ukrainian border. According to information from the dpa news agency, the talks in the alliance's military committee were, among other things, about US information that Russia had made preparations for an attack on Ukraine.

Massive maneuvers instead of debate

There is an urgent need for communication in the Ukraine conflict. But the governments are relying on military action, the relationship between the USA and Russia is poisoned.

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John F. Kennedy made his famous peace speech during a period of the Cold War when the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union was dangerous. In it he said: 

We are both caught in a diabolical and dangerous cycle in which the suspicion of one side feeds the suspicion of the other and new weapons merely generate counter-weapons Only one thing can help against this: increased contact and communication

In the conflict over Ukraine, which is now coming to a head between the United States and Vladimir Putin's Russia, suspicion is also diabolical and dangerous. The Stockholm meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries reinforced rather than reduced it. One must now hope that the US President's video summit with the Kremlin ruler this Tuesday will ease the poisoned relationship. It should also put an end to the mutual mass expulsion of diplomats and the maintenance of the total breakdown of ties between NATO and Russia, which is unforgivable, especially in times of crisis.

Will there be a Russian attack on Ukraine in late January or early February? This is what General Kirilo Budanov, head of the Ukrainian military intelligence service, claims, and the American services also knowingly spread that they believe this to be possible. However, these are all claims for which there is no convincing evidence. It is true that the Russians have drawn a hundred thousand men together, but this is not a crushing superiority, because only about 40,000 soldiers are combat troops. The satellite photos also show an enormous bulk of tanks near Jelnja, a place 250 kilometers from the border. 

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Even the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has to admit: "We do not know whether President Putin has made an invasion decision." But one knows Putin's past and his usual script: He invents provocations as a pretext to strike.

Massive maneuvers on both sides

The Kremlin rulers harbor precisely the opposite fears. "The threat to our western borders is increasing," he announced recently. In doing so, he alluded to the possibility of an eastward expansion of NATO to Ukraine, operated by Kiev, and its inclusion in the "geopolitical game" of the West. Specifically, he also fears the recapture of the breakaway south-east Ukrainian Donbass region, which is ruled by pro-Russian separatists; the Ukrainian military has recently been bombarding them with Turkish combat drones.

For many reasons - not least because of its spectacular corruption - Ukraine currently has no prospect of joining NATO. However, Putin is concerned that their integration into the Western system is currently taking place without any formal NATO accession - through Western training of the army and, above all, through American arms deliveries - tons of ammunition, anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft missiles and helicopters. Putin considers them to be "threatening weapons systems". He is not threatening Ukraine, he asserts, but is only taking "appropriate military and technical measures" against increasing NATO activity in Ukraine and near the Russian border.

What is oppressive about all of this is that both sides rely entirely on military action in an effort to deter each other. Massive maneuvers on both sides, fleet movements, border flights by strategic bombers are the order of the day. But we urgently need to talk to each other.

A certain understanding of Russia could help

Of course, Putin's demand that America conclude specific agreements with him that prohibit the eastward expansion of the Atlantic Alliance and prohibit the stationing of weapons near the Russian border is unacceptable. Such determinations cannot be expected of any great power. But the West could show a certain understanding that Russia rejects further expansion of the western military area at the expense of its historical sphere of influence - and thus possibly appeasing Putin.

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An American author from the Carnegie Foundation recently put it in a pictorial way: "If the Ukraine were turned into an unsinkable aircraft carrier anchored under American control on the Russian border a few hundred miles from Moscow, this would not be more acceptable to the Kremlin than the other unsinkable aircraft carrier - Cuba - was for the White House almost sixty years ago. 

To which Dmitri Trenin of Carnegie Moscow commented: 

Every Russian president would try to prevent Ukraine from being anchored in this way by all means at his disposal

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