The Group of Seven democratic economic powers on Sunday warned Russia to de-escalate its large-scale military buildup along the Ukrainian border or face what it characterized as “massive” economic consequences.
The G-7 foreign ministers, meeting in Liverpool, England, along with the European Union foreign affairs chief, said in a joint statement they were "united in our condemnation of Russia's military buildup and aggressive rhetoric towards Ukraine."
The diplomats, representing the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Britain, Italy and Japan, urged Moscow to "de-escalate, pursue diplomatic channels, and abide by its international commitments on transparency of military activities."
U.S. intelligence officials believe Russia, with 70,000 or more troops stationed on Ukraine’s eastern border, may be poised to attack its neighbor and one-time Soviet republic in early 2022, although Russian President Vladimir Putin is not believed to have made a decision to invade.
"Any use of force to change borders is strictly prohibited under international law. Russia should be in no doubt that further military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and severe cost in response," the G-7 statement said, echoing warnings U.S. President Joe Biden made to Putin in a virtual summit last week.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, the conference host, said the G-7 was "considering all options" when it came to economic sanctions.
Biden has ruled out a military response to any possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, just as former President Barack Obama, with Biden as his vice president, did when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.
Instead, Biden said, “The economic consequences for his economy are going to be devastating. Devastating."
Since 2014, the U.S. has, among other actions against Moscow, ejected Russia from the G-8, imposed sanctions, expelled diplomats and seized assets.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NBC’s “Meet the Press” show that with the new threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, “We are prepared to take the kinds of steps we've refrained from taking in the past that would have massive consequences for Russia.”
“I think what people need to understand is that Ukraine is important, and we are resolute in our commitment to its sovereignty, its territorial integrity,” Blinken said. “But there is something even bigger at stake here, and it's the basic rules of the road of the international system, rules that say that one country can't change the borders of another by force, one country can't dictate to another country its choices, its decisions, and its foreign policy, with whom it will associate.”
The top U.S. diplomat said, “One country can't exert a sphere of influence over others. That's what Russia is purporting to assert. And if we let that go with impunity, then the entire system that provides for stability, prevents war from breaking out is in danger. That's why this is so important.”
Putin has blamed the West for the crisis, as it refuses to rule out the possibility of admitting Ukraine as a member of the NATO military alliance formed in the aftermath of World War II, an advance of Western influence in Europe that Moscow opposes.