US threats Russia if invades Ukraine, as NATO meets

RIGA – The United States on Tuesday intimidated Russia for “serious reactions” if it plans to invade Ukraine, as NATO ministers sought to counter a military build-up by Moscow on its neighbour’s border.

The long-scheduled meeting of NATO top diplomats in Latvia’s capital Riga comes at a volatile moment along the bloc’s eastern flank as allies also grapple with a migrant crisis the West says is fuelled by Kremlin-backed Belarus.

Western countries spearheaded by the United States worry that Moscow could be planning an incursion into Ukraine after accusing the Kremlin of massing tens of thousands of troops and heavy armour close to the frontier.

“Any escalatory actions by Russia would be of great concern to the United States…and any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told journalists ahead of the meeting.  “We have seen Russia’s playbook many times over.” Moscow, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists fighting Kiev, has strongly denied it is plotting an attack and blames NATO for fuelling tensions. Emergency measures must be taken to control smuggling, money-laundering: PM Imran Khan

NATO diplomats say the bloc remains uncertain of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions — but ministers will discuss contingency plans should Russia invade.  The US-led alliance is looking to show the Kremlin it faces severe costs if it threatens Ukraine, while stopping short of provoking Moscow into further aggression.

Officials expect talks on additional support for Ukraine’s military and potentially strengthening NATO forces arrayed along its eastern wing. 

But they point out that NATO-aspirant Ukraine — which will have its foreign minister arriving for day two of the meeting on Wednesday — is not covered by the alliance’s collective defence pact. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to “show transparency, reduce tensions and de-escalate.”