NATO and the United States warned on Tuesday that Russia would regret any new military aggression against Ukraine. The Western military alliance met to deliberate over Moscow’s possible motives for assembling troops near the Ukrainian border.
President Vladimir Putin in response said that Russia would be forced to act if the US-led NATO placed missiles in Ukraine that could hit Moscow within minutes.
Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that now plans on joining the European Union and NATO, has turned into the main crisis between the West and Russia as relations have deteriorated to their worst level in the three decades since the Cold War ended.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the media, “There will be a high price to pay for Russia if they once again use force against the independence of the nation Ukraine”.
Reflecting similar sentiments, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Stoltenberg said, “Any escalatory actions by Russia would be a great concern to the United States…, and any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences.”
Tensions have been escalating for weeks, with Ukraine, Russia, and NATO all staging military exercises while hurling accusations over which side is the aggressor.
The Kremlin leader said, “If some kind of strike systems appear on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be 7-10 minutes, and five minutes in the case of a hypersonic weapon being deployed. Just imagine”.
He pointed out Russia’s latest testing of a hypersonic weapon he shared could fly at nine times the speed of sound saying, “What are we to do in such a scenario? We will have to then create something similar in relation to those who threaten us in that way. And we can do that now”.
EU and other Western leaders are engaged in a geopolitical tug-of-war with Russia for influence in Ukraine and two other ex-Soviet republics, Moldova and Georgia, through cooperation, trade, and protection arrangements.
Foreign ministers from NATO commenced two days of talks in the Latvian capital Riga to discuss what they describe as the growing Russian threat, with Blinken scheduled to brief his 29 alliance counterparts on Washington’s intelligence assessment.
While speaking at a news conference with his Latvian counterpart, Blinken, said he will have more to share on Wednesday regarding how to respond to Russia after holding talks with NATO allies.
He added, “We will be consulting closely with…allies and partners in the days ahead…about whether there are other steps that we should take as an alliance to strengthen our defenses, strengthen our resilience, strengthen our capacity”.
Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmygal accused Russia of attempting to topple the elected government in Kyiv. Russia denied the accusations, following Ukraine’s president’s revelation of what he termed as a coup attempt last week.
Shmygal also said that Ukraine would seek more weapons from the US which is precisely the course of action that Putin has warned against.
Back in 2014, the Kremlin annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine and then supported rebels fighting government troops in the east of the country. According to Kyiv, that conflict killed 14,000 people and is still simmering.
As per Western officials, Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders in May totaled 100,000, the highest number of troops since its Crimea takeover. Ukraine says there are over 90,000 there as of now.
Moscow has dismissed Ukrainian suggestions that Russia is preparing for an attack and said that it does not threaten anyone and defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it deemed necessary.
Britain and Germany also mirrored NATO warnings.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said, “We will stand with our fellow democracies against Russia’s malign activity”.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, “NATO’s support for Ukraine is unbroken…Russia would have to pay a high price for any sort of aggression.”