White House officials said that the United States had finalized sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine after NATO and Russia met for “make or break” talks on the Ukraine crisis that ended without Russia’s commitments on de-escalation.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told reporters on Wednesday, Jan. 12, that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration has not committed to de-escalating the situation on the Ukrainian border after two rounds of diplomatic talks this week, CNN reported.
Sherman said that the four-hour meeting in Brussels ended on Wednesday with a “sober challenge from the NATO allies to Russia” as the international community is choosing a diplomacy path by offering opportunities for Moscow to de-escalate the situation on the border with Ukraine.
Sherman made clear the United States and its Western allies have not known Putin’s aims after the diplomatic talks, with more than 100,000 Russian troops positioned on the Ukrainian border.
The U.S. acknowledged it remains unclear if Russia intends to use the talks as a pretext to claim that diplomacy cannot work.
In their statements on Wednesday, Russian officials warned that they could resort to military action if political efforts fail. One day earlier, the Russian military conducted live-fire exercises along the border.
Sherman said that the U.S. has finalized sanctions options following the talks.
“When live-fire exercises are reported this morning. What is this about?” Is this about invasion? Is this about intimidation? Is this about trying to be subversive? I don’t know. But it is not conducive to getting diplomatic solutions,” the diplomat said.
Asked if Russia had made any commitments to de-escalate, Sherman said that, “There was no commitment to de-escalation,” and that, “Nor was there a statement that there would not be.”
During Wednesday’s talks, Sherman said that the U.S. and its NATO allies made it clear again that Russia’s demand Ukraine never be permitted to join NATO was a non-starter.
Russian deputy defense minister Alexander Fomin also sounded pessimistic about the talks, saying NATO was ignoring Russia’s proposals to de-escalate, warning that it could lead to conflicts.
“The Russian side has repeatedly proposed to the alliance to take measures to de-escalate the situation,” Fomin said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “On the part of the alliance, Russian initiatives were ignored. This creates prerequisites for incidents and conflicts, undermines the foundations of security.”
After the talks on Wednesday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko also warned that Moscow would resort to military measures if the political course fails to fend off threats to its security, CNN reported, citing Russian state media RIA Novosti.
“We have a set of legal military-technical measures that we will apply if we feel a real threat to (our) security, and we already feel (it), if our territory is considered as an object for targeted strike weapons,” Grushko said. “Of course, we cannot agree with this. We will take all necessary measures to fend off the threat by military means if it does not work out with political means.”
According to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, their meeting over the situation in Ukraine was “not an easy discussion” but NATO allies and Russia “expressed the need to resume dialogue.”
“There are significant differences between NATO allies and Russia on these issues. Our differences will not be easy to bridge but it is a positive sign that all NATO allies and Russia sat down around the same table and engaged on substantial topics,” he said.
A White House official said the sanctions measures from President Joe Biden’s administration are ready to be issued when Russian tanks cross the Ukraine border.
“The final package will depend upon exactly what scenario we are facing,” the official said. “But we are no longer at the point where we have just a memo that lays out options. We have concrete actions that we are ready to hit the return key on.”