Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) have warned Russia that it faces “massive consequences” and “severe” costs if it launches a military attack on Ukraine.
The warning came on December 12 during a G7 meeting in the English city of Liverpool where delegates said they were united in their condemnation of Russia’s military buildup near its border with Ukraine. The G7 ministers called on Moscow to de-escalate the situation.
“Russia should be in no doubt that further military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and severe cost in response,” said the G7, which groups together Britain, Germany, France, the United States, Italy, Canada, and Japan.
“We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the right of any sovereign state to determine its own future,” it said.
U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that Russia could be planning a multi-front offensive on Ukraine as early as 2022 involving up to 175,000 troops.
The Kremlin denies it plans to invade other parts of Ukraine. It claims the West is gripped by “Russophobia.” Moscow also says the expansion of NATO threatens Russia and has contravened assurances given to it when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Russia seized and illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in early 2014. Fighting in eastern Ukraine since April 2014 between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists has also killed more than 13,200 people.
A statement released by the Russian Embassy in London late on December 11 said Britain’s frequent use of the phrase “Russian aggression” during the Liverpool meeting was misleading and designed to create a cause for the G7 to rally behind.
“Russia has made numerous offers to NATO on ways to decrease tensions,” the Russian Embassy said. “The G7 forum could be an opportunity to discuss them, but so far we hear nothing but aggressive slogans.”
Russia has said the growing NATO embrace of neighboring Ukraine — and what Moscow sees as the possibility of NATO missiles in Ukraine targeted against Russia – is a “red line” it will not allow NATO to cross.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded legally binding security guarantees that NATO will not expand further east or place its weapons close to Russian territory.
But Washington has repeatedly said no country can veto Ukraine’s NATO hopes.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said on December 12 that Putin has requested an in-person meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden. It said there were “serious conceptual differences” on what Moscow regards as its “red lines” internationally.
There was no immediate confirmation from the White House of such a request.
Biden on December 11 reiterated his warning that Russia would face devastating economic consequences if it invades Ukraine.
Biden, who spoke with Putin in a videoconference on December 7, said he “made it absolutely clear…that if he moves on Ukraine, the economic consequences for his economy are going to be devastating, devastating.”
Russia’s standing in the world, Biden said, would change “markedly” in the event of an incursion, he said, speaking in Wilmington, Delaware.
At a summit in Switzerland in June, Putin described Ukrainian membership of NATO as a “red line” for Moscow, and reports suggest he has since described possible NATO infrastructure there similarly.
Ministers at the G7 meeting on December 12 were also discussing China’s increased military activity in the Indo-Pacific region and negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving a deal to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions.