US President Joe Biden renewed his promise to Russia of “cruel and dangerous” consequences if it invaded Ukraine, at a time when Washington announced that it had received a written message from Moscow, while the latter denied sending it.
An American official announced that his country had received from Russia a written message containing the Kremlin’s notes on the written answer that Washington delivered to Moscow last week, which included its response to his security demands and requirements for resolving the Ukrainian crisis.
A spokesman for the US State Department said – yesterday, Monday – “We can confirm that we have received a written response from Russia,” without specifying the content of this response.
“We think it wouldn’t be worth negotiating publicly, so we’ll leave it to the Russians to talk about their response if they want to,” he added. “We remain committed to dialogue to resolve these issues and will continue to consult closely with our allies and partners, including Ukraine.”
For his part, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko denied – today, Tuesday – the authenticity of reports that Moscow sent the US side a written response to the proposals for security guarantees sent by Washington earlier. Grushko said – in statements to the Russian Sputnik news agency – that these news are incorrect.
The controversy over the message comes on the eve of an expected phone call between the foreign ministers of the two rival superpowers, the American Anthony Blinken and the Russian Sergey Lavrov.
The expected message is a response to the American response to a list of demands and requirements that Moscow handed to Washington in mid-December, to which the latter responded in writing last week.
In a related context, US President Joe Biden threatened Russia with severe and dangerous consequences if it invaded Ukraine. Biden said the United States and its allies would continue to engage in good faith in political efforts if Russia demonstrated a genuine willingness to engage in dialogue about addressing the West’s security concerns.
Biden added that Washington and its allies continue to prepare for any scenario that Russia will present in Ukraine, noting that the world must be ready to respond to any steps taken by Russia.
In turn, the United States asked family members of its government employees in Belarus to leave the country, and warned against travel there.
The US State Department attributed its decision to “unusual and alarming Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine,” and indicated that American citizens who are in Belarus or are considering travel to Belarus should realize that the situation is “unpredictable, and that there is escalating tension in the region.”
Since the end of last year, Kiev and its Western allies have accused Russia of mobilizing up to 100,000 soldiers on its border with its pro-Western neighbor, in preparation for the invasion of this country.
However, Moscow denies the existence of any such scheme, and at the same time demands written guarantees for its security, foremost among which is the pledge that Ukraine will never join NATO, and to stop the expansion of the alliance to the east.
In parallel with the American threats, Britain has also registered a movement, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to visit Ukraine today, Tuesday, as part of diplomatic efforts to deter a possible Russian invasion, and he appealed to Moscow to avoid entering into a conflict.
Johnson is due to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to talk about the massing of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers in and near Ukraine, which the West fears may be ready for an invasion.
The United States, the European Union and Britain say Russia has the capacity to take action against Ukraine, and Johnson has warned of disaster if Moscow does so.
Yesterday, Monday, the British government revealed a new sanctions regime that would enable it to impose sanctions on Russia in the event that Moscow decided to invade Ukraine.
Under the new plans, the sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans on Russian individuals and institutions of strategic importance, the British government assesses.
Sources in the British government indicated that the asset freeze may include Russian oil companies, as they are a major source of the Kremlin’s revenues, as they put it.
Yesterday, the United Nations Security Council witnessed a stormy session on the Ukrainian crisis, where the Russian delegate, Vassily Nebenzia, criticized what he described as the hysteria that the West has provoked towards Ukraine. He said the West’s accusations that Russia would invade Ukraine were dangerous and not based on any evidence.
For his part, the Chinese delegate to the United Nations stressed the need to abandon what he described as the “Cold War mentality” in dealing with the Ukraine file.
On the other hand, the US delegate, Linda Thomas Greenfield, said that the situation in eastern Europe is urgent and dangerous, and called on the members of the Security Council to protect the security and peace of a member state of the United Nations, in reference to Ukraine. She expressed her hope that Russia would pursue diplomacy, not military escalation.
The diplomatic movement and the threat of sanctions against Russia are accompanied by military action on the ground, as the US Department of Defense said – yesterday, Monday – that it is in active discussions with allies in Eastern Europe regarding a possible deployment of US forces on the eastern side of NATO.
The Pentagon said any decisions about new troop movements would be independent of the roughly 8,500-strong force in the United States, which was put on alert last week for a possible reinforcement of NATO’s rapid reaction force.
Washington’s move comes to reassure NATO allies in the face of Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine.
And the US military last week put about 8,500 soldiers inside the United States on alert to be ready to be deployed in Europe, which aims largely to mobilize the ranks of the NATO rapid response force if the alliance calls them to serve.