Stepping up diplomacy after talks with Russia ended in stalemate last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Kyiv on Wednesday before heading to Berlin to discuss “joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine” with German, British and French officials.
As fears of conflict rose, Britain said this week it had begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons, Canada’s foreign minister visited Ukraine and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock held talks in Moscow and Kyiv to try to ease tensions.
Baerbock warned that Moscow would suffer if it does attack its neighbor
Chancellor Olaf Scholz signaled that Berlin’s response might include stopping the Nord Stream 2 pipeline bringing gas to Germany.
Asked about the pipeline after meeting NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Scholz said it was “clear that there will be a high price to pay and that everything will have to be discussed should there be a military intervention in Ukraine”.
Scholz has previously said Germany is open to sanctions in the event of a Russian attack and that everything would be on the table. This would include Nord Stream 2, which has been built but has not yet secured approval to open.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after meeting Baerbock on Tuesday that the pipeline would increase European energy security when it is open, and that “attempts to politicise this project” would be counter-productive.
Russia denies plans to attack Ukraine but says it could take unspecified military action unless its demands – including a promise by the NATO alliance never to admit Kyiv – are met.
Read more: France, Germany seek talks with Russia
Tens of thousands of Russian troops remain near Ukraine’s borders and Moscow has also sent troops and military hardware to Belarus this week in preparation for drills with its close ally that have caused further concern in the West.
The tensions have helped push the Russian rouble down against the U.S. dollar and Russian stocks have fallen.
Reuters with additional input by GVS