With the smell of war in the air over Europe, world leaders weathered the shock of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order to deploy troops to breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and they focus on producing as strong a reaction as possible.
Germany has taken the first big step by taking steps to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia – a lucrative deal long sought by Moscow but criticized by the United States for increasing dependence on the gas pipeline. Europe to Russian Energy Supply.
The West insisted that Putin’s bold moves in Ukraine violated countless international agreements and that since words of diplomacy had failed, it was time for action.
With Western powers having long made it clear that the fate of Ukraine was not worth a hot and direct military confrontation with Russia, and the potential for world war, sanctions were the only limited option to crystallize their anger.
“No lows too low, no lies too blatant, no red lines too red to cross,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said as she summed up the political disgust felt from Europe to North America and democracies hugging Russia’s borders in Asia like Japan and South Korea. .
However, Putin continued to destabilize the world with a strategy where confusion over the true extent of an invasion, which would automatically attract major sanctions, remained hazy and debatable.
Russia says it is sending what it considers ‘soldiers of peace’ to eastern Ukraine, but European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has stressed that it they were “troops” on sovereign Ukrainian territory.
“I wouldn’t call it a full-fledged invasion, but Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil,” Borrell said.
The latest developments were enough to force the 27-nation bloc into high alert mode, and EU foreign ministers will decide later on Tuesday how much to cut a first batch of sanctions.
It would probably stop long before the “massive” package threatened by the EU and Washington for a full military invasion of national territory that Kiev still controls.
“How we respond will define us for generations to come,” Simonyte said.
Too much too soon, however, could also harm the international response, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has said.
“There are a variety of sanction options that now need to be used in a targeted way, because we have to assume that we haven’t reached the peak of escalation yet,” he said.
A conflict could devastate Ukraine and cause huge economic damage across Europe, which relies heavily on Russian energy. But Asian nations are also worried.
President Moon Jae-in told his officials to prepare for the economic fallout in South Korea if the Ukraine crisis escalates and US-backed countries impose tough economic sanctions on Russia.
Hopes are dwindling as to the possibility of averting a major conflict. Putin’s directive came hours after he recognized Ukraine’s two breakaway regions, building up Russian military support and antagonizing Western leaders who view it as a violation of world order.
Putin blamed NATO for the current crisis and called the US-led alliance an existential threat to Russia.
The global condemnation came amid growing skirmishes in eastern parts of Ukraine that Western powers believe Russia could use as a pretext for an attack on democracy in the face of Europe that has defied Moscow’s attempts to bring it back into its orbit.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said there was no basis in international law for Putin to recognize Ukraine’s breakaway regions.
“We fear that this is a calculated act by President Putin to create a pretext for an invasion, which would be an overt act of aggression. We again call for urgent diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful solution,” Mahuta said in a statement.
Those in the saddle between Russia and the West were in an uncomfortable position.
NATO member Turkey, which has close ties with Ukraine and Russia, criticized Moscow’s decision to recognize the independence of eastern Ukraine’s regions.
“We consider this decision by Russia to be unacceptable,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “We reiterate our calls on the parties to respect common sense and international law.”
China, Russia’s traditional ally, issued a cautious note, urging restraint and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Washington could be much simpler. The White House issued an executive order aimed at restricting investment and trade in breakaway regions, and additional measures – likely sanctions – were to be announced on Tuesday. These sanctions are independent of what Washington has prepared in the event of a Russian invasion, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
With around 150,000 Russian troops massed on three sides of Ukraine, the United States warned that Moscow had already decided to invade. Yet President Joe Biden and Putin tentatively agreed to a meeting brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron in a last-ditch effort to avert war.
Foster Klug reported from Tokyo. AP reporters from around the world contributed.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine