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1 Jan, 2022 11:52

Biden told to scare Russia with new sanctions

Russia hawks ask US White House to launch ‘diplomatic counteroffensive’ against Moscow
Biden told to scare Russia with new sanctions

A group of American think tank lobbyists, academics, and former officials has claimed that President Joe Biden can forestall a potential Russian attack on Ukraine by threatening Moscow with “major and painful” sanctions.

The 24, who include former US national security officials and diplomats, and are all known to have hostile views towards Russia, have urged the West to “widen its political counteroffensive” against Moscow.

“We believe the United States should, in closest consultation with its NATO allies and with Ukraine, take immediate steps to affect the Kremlin’s cost-benefit calculations before the Russian leadership opts for further military escalation,” they wrote in a statement published by the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO lobby group, which is banned in Russia.

“Such a response would include a package of major and painful sanctions that would be applied immediately if Russia assaults Ukraine,” the statement read. “Ideally, the outline of these sanctions would be communicated now to Moscow, so that the Kremlin has a clear understanding of the magnitude of the economic hit it will face.”

Participants include former American envoys to Russia Michael McFaul and Alexander Vershbow, and former ambassadors to Ukraine Steven Pifer and John Hersbt. Veteran US officials Strobe Talbott and Kurt Volker also signed the statement, as did author and political scientist Francis Fukuyama.

The statement was published shortly after the Russian and US presidents spoke by phone on Thursday. It was their second conversation after the leaders met via video link on December 7, when they attempted to defuse tensions over Ukraine.

In recent months, Western officials and media have accused Moscow of amassing troops and military hardware with the potential intention of invading its neighbor. The authors of the statement reiterated this claim, arguing Russia was likely “setting the stage for launching a major conventional assault” against Ukraine. They urged NATO to bolster Kiev’s defense capabilities with supplies of Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, as well as radar equipment. Many of them work for arms industry funded think tanks, which are financially sponsored by the manufacturers of the weapons they advocate.

Moscow has repeatedly denied that it is planning any action against Ukraine. At the same time, President Vladimir Putin has said that he sees the continued expansion of the Western military bloc eastward as a threat. Last month, Russia proposed to both the US and NATO treaties that would ban the movement of Western military infrastructure closer to its borders and effectively bar Ukraine from joining the organization.

NATO has taken a hardline stance on the terms, but highlighted the importance of maintaining dialogue with Moscow and publicly said it seeks de-escalation. The US-Russian and NATO-Russian talks are scheduled for this month.