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U.S. warns Russia of 'massive consequences' if it chooses conflict over diplomacy

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U.S. warns Russia of 'massive consequences' if it chooses conflict over diplomacy
Victoria Nuland, under secretary of State for Political Affairs, warned Russia that there will be 'massive consequences' if it doesn't de-escalate the situation at the Ukrainian border. Pool File Photo by Alex Brandon/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Amid a week of several high-level de-escalation talks on Russia's aggression toward Ukraine, the Biden administration on Tuesday threatened the Kremlin with "massive consequences" not seen before if it continues to tread down the path of confrontation and not that of diplomacy and dialogue.

The warning came during a week in which the United States is participating in three sets of diplomatic talks centered on diplomatically resolving the crisis currently threatening Ukraine and security in Europe.

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According to estimates, Russia has amassed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine's eastern border, sparking fears it may further invade its neighbor after annexing Crimea from it in 2014.

Meanwhile, Russia worries that Ukraine may join NATO, which it says would pose a security threat.

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The talks kicked off Monday, which Victoria Nuland, the under secretary of state for Political Affairs, said allowed the two sides to exchange views and was "constructive and worth doing" despite Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stating afterward that it produced no real cause for optimism.

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"We have demonstrated our commitment to diplomacy by putting preliminary ideas on the table, including with regard to military transparency, risk reduction measures and exercises. And, as you know, the United States has long been interested in discussing arms control with the Russians, including both strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons," she told reporters in Washington, D.C., during a press conference. "And we reiterated those interests in having deeper discussions on these topics when we met with Russia yesterday in Geneva."

However, the United States also made clear that progression can only be made through de-escalation, meaning Russia is now given the choice of whether to seek diplomacy or confrontation "and the massive consequences that that will bring," she said.

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"If the Russian government further invades Ukraine, further destabilizes Ukraine, we are ready and aligned with our allies and our partners to impose severe costs," she said. "We will respond with massive economic measures, including those that have not been used before, and will inflict very significant costs on Russia's economy and its financial system."

"It is Russia that created this crisis out of whole cloth," she said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Atlanta that it was too early to tell whether Russia was serious about seeking diplomacy or if they will use the talks as pretext to complain that diplomacy can't work and proceed with its destabilizing actives.

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She said that the Biden administration has been clear with Russia that the relationship between Ukraine and NATO are for NATO, Ukraine and the defensive military alliances 30 members and no other nation.

"We raised some preliminary ideas about a range of issues we're willing to have a conversation about, such as the placement of missiles in Europe or making reciprocal limits on military exercises," she said. "But ultimately, it's up to the Russians to determine about whether they're going to take a serious approach to it or not."

In Russia, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded to Psaki in a video posted to Twitter saying that she must not be aware of what happened in Geneva the day prior.

Moscow, she said, has made its wants known and they are waiting on a response from Washington, specifically for NATO to stop courting further membership as well as not deploy offensive strike weapons near Kremlin territory and for the U.S. military to leave NATO member states that joined the alliance after Moscow and NATO signed the Founding Act of 1997 in which both sides agreed to not consider the other as an adversary.

"The ball has not yet reached our half of the field," she said. "It is still in the U.S. court."

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In Kyiv, foreign affairs minister Dmytro Kuleba said he spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and that the two sides remained "united" in seeking de-escalation through "diplomacy and strength."

"We keep working closely together to deter further Russia aggression," he tweeted.

In a readout of the call from the State Department, Blinken told his Ukrainian counterpart that if Russia chooses conflict, the United States and its allies are prepared to "impose enormous costs" on Russia's economy, reinforce NATO's presence in frontline allies states and increase defensive assistance to Ukraine.

The Pentagon on Tuesday told reporters it has not seen any decrease in Russia's military at the Ukraine border.

"What I can tell you with confidence is we have not seen any decreases. They continue to have a sizeable, forced posture, right to the east, to the north and even to the south," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

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