LIVERPOOL, England (AP) – The Group of Seven Economic Powers on Sunday called on Russia to “defuse” its military build-up near the Ukrainian border, warning that an invasion would have “massive consequences” and inflict severe economic suffering on Moscow.
Foreign Ministers of the United States, Great Britain and the rest of the G-7, joined by the European Union’s foreign affairs chief, issued a joint statement declaring themselves “united in our condemnation of the strengthening Russian military and aggressive rhetoric towards Ukraine “.
The G-7 called on Russia to “defuse the escalation, pursue diplomatic channels and respect its international commitments on the transparency of military activities”, and praised Ukraine’s “restraint”.
“Any use of force to change borders is strictly prohibited by international law. Russia should not doubt that a new military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and a high cost in response, ”the statement said.
Russia’s movement of arms and troops to the border region dominated weekend talks between foreign ministers from wealthy G-7 democracies in the English city of Liverpool.
The United States and its allies fear this build-up may be the precursor to an invasion and have pledged to impose heavy sanctions on the Russian economy if it does.
Moscow denies that it intends to attack Ukraine and accuses Kiev of its own allegedly aggressive designs.
British Foreign Minister Liz Truss, host of the conference, said the G-7 was sending a “powerful signal to our adversaries and to our allies”.
The statement promised a “common and comprehensive response” but did not contain any details. Truss said the G-7 “is considering all options” when it comes to economic sanctions. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “we are prepared to take the kind of steps we have refrained from in the past” if Russia does not back down. .
The United States and its allies have played down discussions of a military response to defend Ukraine, with efforts focusing on tough sanctions that would hit the Russian economy, rather than individuals.
In the United States, reporters on Saturday asked President Joe Biden about the possibility of sending combat troops to Ukraine, and he said the idea had never been considered. “Are you ready to send American troops to war and go to Ukraine to fight the Russians on the battlefield?” he said.
Biden, who spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on a video call last week, said he made it clear that in the event of an invasion, “the economic consequences to his economy are going to be devastating. Devastating.”
Truss said Biden made it clear to Putin that the United States’ position “carries the support of the G-7 countries as a whole.” And that should be of great concern to Vladimir Putin.
China‘s bodybuilding in the Indo-Pacific region and the troubled Iran nuclear deal were also on the agenda of the meeting of top diplomats from UK, US, Canada, France. , Germany, Italy and Japan at the Liverpool Dockside Museum. .
Obtaining a unified response to global crises from the G-7, a group of countries with divergent interests, has often proved difficult.
Germany plans to get gas from Russia soon via the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which bypasses Ukraine – although Blinken said it was difficult to see the pipeline become operational “if Russia renewed its aggression against Ukraine, if it takes further measures “.
“So I think President Putin has to take that into account as well, as he reflects on what he’s going to do next,” he said.
Britain, which is not dependent on Russian gas, has also criticized the pipeline – but faces tough questions over London’s financial district and property market, two hubs for Russian money.
British banking and financial authorities have long been criticized for allegedly turning a blind eye to ill-gotten gains.
Truss insisted that Britain has “very strict anti-corruption and anti-money laundering rules,” but also suggested that Russian money and Russian gas are expensive.
“We cannot have short-term economic gains at the expense of our long-term freedom and democracy,” she said.
G-7 countries are also increasingly concerned about China’s growing economic and technological dominance, especially in developing countries. The G-7 has launched a “Build a Better World” initiative to provide developing countries with financing for large infrastructure projects as an alternative to money from China which the West says often comes with strings attached. .
Truss, who also invited ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to the Liverpool meeting, said the G-7 was “concerned about China’s coercive economic policies.”
“What we have defined is a positive agenda to ensure that countries have alternative sources of investment, alternative sources of trade,” she said. “And that we make sure we respect – and ensure that others respect – the international rules-based system” for trade.
However, a unified stance towards China continues to prove elusive, with the United States and Britain generally being more hawkish than other members of the G-7.