Russia Threatens Retaliation on Demands01/26 06:06
Russia warned Wednesday it would quickly take "retaliatory measures" if the
U.S. and its allies reject its security demands and continue their "aggressive"
policies, ratcheting up pressure on the West amid concerns that Moscow is
planning to invade Ukraine.
MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia warned Wednesday it would quickly take "retaliatory
measures" if the U.S. and its allies reject its security demands and continue
their "aggressive" policies, ratcheting up pressure on the West amid concerns
that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine.
Russia has repeatedly denied it has any such designs, but the United States
and its NATO allies are worried because Russia has massed an estimated 100,000
troops near Ukraine's border and launched a series of war games in the region.
At the heart of the standoff are questions about Ukraine's future: Russia
has demanded guarantees that NATO will never admit the country and other
ex-Soviet nations as members and that the alliance will roll back troop
deployments in other former Soviet bloc countries. Some of these, like the
membership pledge, are nonstarters for NATO, creating a seemingly intractable
stalemate that many fear can only end in a war.
Speaking to lawmakers Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said
he and other top officials will advise President Vladimir Putin on the next
steps after receiving written replies from the United States to the demands.
Those answers are expected this week -- even though the U.S. and its allies
have already made clear they will reject the top Russian demands.
"If the West continues its aggressive course, Moscow will take the necessary
retaliatory measures," he said.
While Russia is currently waiting for the American reply, Lavrov indicated
it wouldn't wait forever: "We won't allow our proposals to be drowned in
endless discussions," he said.
Asked by lawmakers if Russia could expand military cooperation with Cuba,
Venezuela and Nicaragua, Lavrov responded that Moscow has close ties with those
countries. Earlier this month, Lavrov's deputy pointedly refused to rule out
the deployment of Russian military assets to Cuba and Venezuela -- far closer
to the U.S. than Ukraine -- if Moscow's security demands aren't met.
NATO said this week it was bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea
region and the U.S. ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert for potential
deployment to Europe. Western nations have also sent planeloads of weapons to
help Ukraine strengthen its defenses.
Amid the escalating tensions, Ukrainian officials have sought to calm nerves.
Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday that while the
concentration of Russian troops near Ukraine poses a threat, "their number is
now insufficient for a large-scale offensive."
"They are still missing some key military elements and systems to mount a
big, full-scale offensive," Kuleba told reporters.
As others have, he noted that causing alarm could be an end in itself.
Russia, he said, hopes to destabilize Ukraine by "spreading panic, raising
pressure on Ukraine's financial system and launching cyberattacks."
"President Putin would be happy to see that plan succeed so that he doesn't
even need to turn to military force to put Ukraine in a vulnerable position,"
His comments were latest from Ukrainian officials who have sought to
reassure their citizens. Speaking late Tuesday in the second televised speech
to the nation in as many days, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine was
"strong enough to keep everything under control and derail any attempts at
Several rounds of high-stakes diplomacy have failed to yield any
breakthroughs in the standoff, but another attempt was going forward Wednesday.
Presidential advisers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany are set to
meet in Paris to discuss ways to revive a stalled peace agreement for eastern
In 2014, following the ouster of a Kremlin-friendly president in Kyiv,
Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and threw its weight behind a
separatist insurgency in the country's eastern industrial heartland. Fighting
between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed over 14,000
people, and efforts to reach a settlement have stalled.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow expects a "good frank" talk
at the Paris meeting.
In addition to the military moves, the U.S. and its allies have threatened
sanctions like never before if Moscow sends its troops into Ukraine, but they
have given few details, saying it's best to keep Putin guessing.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters that Putin "continues to
build forces along Ukraine's border," and an attack "would be the largest
invasion since World War II. It would change the world." He warned that there
would be serious economic consequences for Putin, including personal sanctions,
in the event of an invasion.
Asked to comment on Biden's statement, Peskov pointed out that the Russian
president and other top officials don't have assets in the West but reaffirmed
that such U.S. sanctions would be "politically destructive" for bilateral ties.
Britain is also promising sanctions, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has
urged European nations to do more to support Ukraine.
The U.K. has sent anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, though it has ruled out
sending combat troops.
"We'll be legislating to toughen up our sanctions regime and make sure we
are fully able to hit both individuals and companies and banks in Russia in the
event of an incursion," she told the BBC. "What's important is that all of our
allies do the same."
Amid the soaring tensions, the U.S., Britain, Australia, Germany and Canada
have also moved to withdraw some of their diplomats and dependents from Kyiv.