U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Berlin for consultations with key allies Thursday about the situation along the Russia-Ukraine border as he prepares for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Blinken is meeting with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Minister for Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly, before delivering an address about the crisis in Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden said at a news conference Wednesday that he thinks Russia will invade Ukraine, reiterating warnings to Russian leader Vladimir Putin that such actions would be met with consequences such as economic sanctions.
Russia has denied it has intentions of invading Ukraine, and is seeking security guarantees such as Ukraine not joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Blinken is due to discuss the situation with Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, the third stop in a quickly arranged trip during which he has expressed a strong U.S. preference for finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
WATCH: VOA interviews Sec. Blinken
Blinken delivered that message Wednesday in Kyiv, telling VOA that the United States and its allies will respond “forcefully and resolutely” to further Russian military aggression against Ukraine but hopes Moscow will pursue a diplomatic path.
“We’ve offered Russia a clear choice, a choice between pursuing dialogue and diplomacy on the one hand, or confrontation and consequences on the other hand,” Blinken said during an interview with VOA Eastern Europe Bureau Chief Myroslava Gongadze.
Earlier at a joint news conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Blinken said “Russia has ratcheted up its threats and amassed nearly 100,000 forces on Ukraine’s border, which it could double on relatively short order.” Blinken added that U.S. material assistance deliveries to Ukraine were ongoing, with more scheduled “in the coming weeks.”
“Should Russia carry through with any aggressive intent and renew its aggression and invade Ukraine, we will provide additional material beyond” what’s already in the pipeline, said Blinken.
Kuleba said a “strong Ukraine is the best tool to deter Russia,” adding it is critical to tell Russia “every single day” that it will face “very strong sanctions” should Moscow choose further aggression against its neighbor.
A senior State Department official told reporters Wednesday the White House last month approved $200 million in additional defensive security aid to Ukraine.
Grateful for US’s political & security support. Count on enhancing economic & financial cooperation. I’m sure there will be no decision about Ukraine without Ukraine,” wrote Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a tweet.
Earlier on Wednesday, Blinken reiterated U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in a meeting with Zelenskiy, adding, “It is up to Ukrainians and no one else to decide their own future and the future of this country.”
The buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine’s eastern border has raised concern Moscow is planning military action against its neighbor, which was once part of the Russia-led Soviet Union. Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
Blinken’s trip follows talks in Geneva last week between Russian and U.S. officials aimed at settling differences over Ukraine and other security issues. No progress was reported.
VOA’s Eastern Europe Chief Myroslava Gongadze reported from Kyiv, Ukraine. VOA’s State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching reported from Washington. VOA’s Chris Hannas and the Ukrainian service contributed to the report. Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.