Russia, which has massed thousands of soldiers on the Ukrainian border, is taking the risk of reviving the specter of the Cold War, the United States warned on Thursday.
In the aftermath of Joe Biden's controversial remarks, Washington threatened Moscow with reprisals in the event of an incursion, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday to try to find a diplomatic way out of crisis.
Any violation by Russia of Ukraine's territorial sovereignty "would take us back to a much more dangerous and unstable time, when this continent was split in two, (…) with the threat of all-out war hovering over the everyone's head," said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The diplomat made this parallel from Berlin, a city cut in two by a wall for nearly 30 years, where he held talks with his European allies on Thursday on the eve of a crucial meeting in Geneva with the Russians.
Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops to the Ukrainian border, raising fears of an invasion.
Playing firmness, Antony Blinken judged that the possible entry of Russian soldiers would constitute "a very clear aggression by Ukraine" and this "it does not matter whether it is a single or a thousand soldiers" , in an interview with the ZDF television channel, according to the translation of his remarks into German.
While denying any planned attack, the Kremlin insists that de-escalation requires written guarantees for its security.
No “Yalta 2”
Blinken and the western allies of the United States showed their firmness in return.
“Any” crossing of the Ukrainian border by Russia would lead to a “rapid and severe” reaction from the United States, warned Antony Blinken.
To show the unity of Westerners, the head of German diplomacy, Annalena Baerbock, assured that the United States and their allies would not hesitate to act even if reprisals were to have "economic consequences" for the 'Europe.
His French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, also present in Berlin, warned the Russians against any desire to forge a "Yalta 2", a new division of spheres of influence between East and West, nearly 77 years after the conference that shaped post-World War II Europe.
Same tone in London, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that a Russian incursion into Ukraine, whatever its scale, would be “a disaster for the world”.
Biden corrects the shot
“Minor incursions” do not exist, added Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in response to a controversial remark made by his American counterpart Joe Biden before the latter clarified his statements on Thursday.
The American leader assured that any entry of Russian troops into Ukraine would be considered an "invasion" which "will lead to a severe and coordinated economic response", saying he had been "absolutely clear" with Vladimir Putin.
Antony Blinken still hopes to find a diplomatic way out of the tensions.
A previous round of talks last week in Europe had only made it possible to note the gap separating Moscow and the West.
The diplomat will not present "no document" during his meeting on Friday in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"We have to see where we stand and whether there are still opportunities to pursue diplomacy," he said, noting that some Russian demands were "clearly, absolutely doomed to fail," such as the engagement never to enlarge NATO to Ukraine.
In addition to a treaty banning any enlargement of the Atlantic Alliance to Ukraine but also to Georgia, another former Soviet republic, Russia is demanding that the Americans and their allies give up organizing military maneuvers and deployments in Eastern Europe.
Moscow has made clear that its demands are non-negotiable, and the United States has deemed them essentially unacceptable.
Ukraine: Biden criticized for his fatalism on a probable “minor incursion” by the Russians
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