U.S. prepares for escalation as NATO-Russia talks end with no Ukraine resolution

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov attend security talks at the United States Mission in Geneva, Switzerland January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY


WASHINGTON – U.S. representatives and NATO members Thursday emerged from several days of high-stakes discussions with top Russian officials with warnings that the situation along the Ukraine border is getting worse.

“The drumbeat of war is sounding loud and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill,” U.S. diplomatic official Michael Carpenter said of the discussions with Moscow.

Moscow’s intentions remain unclear, he added, after the talks in Europe wrapped up.

“There are close to 100,000 troops on the Russian side of its border with Ukraine. Their presence and the live-fire measures being carried out are raising many questions about Moscow’s intention,” he said, adding that the U.S. had seen advanced weaponry, artillery systems, electronic warfare systems and ammunition also staged along the border.

“That begs a lot of questions about what Russia’s intentions are. So we have to take this very seriously and we have to prepare for the eventualities that there could be an escalation,” said Carpenter, who acts as the permanent representative of the U.S. to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In Washington, national security advisor Jake Sullivan said American intelligence agencies have determined that Russia is “laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating a pretext for an invasion – including through sabotage activities and information operations – by accusing Ukraine of preparing an imminent attack on Russian troops in Eastern Ukraine.”

“We saw this playbook in 2014, and they are preparing this playbook again,” Sullivan told reporters at the White House, adding that the United States is “ready either way.”

For months, Kyiv has warned the U.S. and European allies that tens of thousands of Russian troops were massing along its eastern border. The buildup has evoked shades of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, which sparked an international uproar and triggered a series of sanctions on Moscow.

The Kremlin has previously denied that it was preparing for an invasion.

Ukrainian Military Forces servicemen, walks on a trench on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near to Avdiivka, Donetsk, southeastern Ukraine, on January 9, 2022.

Anatolii Stepanov | AFP | Getty Images

Wendy Sherman, the U.S. deputy secretary of State, held talks with her Russian counterpart on Monday in Geneva.

Sherman said that in her discussions with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, which lasted for nearly eight hours, she conveyed the severe economic consequences the Biden administration was prepared to take against Moscow.

“We are very ready and aligned with our partners and allies to impose those severe costs,” Sherman told reporters on a conference call following her meeting with Ryabkov on Monday.

“Those sanctions will include key financial institutions, export controls that target key industries, enhancements of NATO force posture on…

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