U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Russia against taking any “escalatory actions” toward Ukraine, saying Tuesday that “any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences.”
Speaking to reporters alongside Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics during a visit to Riga, Blinken said the United States is “very concerned” about Russian troop movements along the border with Ukraine.
Concerns about Russia’s military build-up are due to be discussed later Tuesday and Wednesday during a NATO ministerial meeting in Riga. Blinken said he would have a lot more to say on the topic after those consultations with NATO allies.
Ahead of the ministerial talks, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to reduce tensions in the region, saying the military buildup is “unprovoked and unexplained.”
“Any future Russian aggression against Ukraine would come at a high price and have serious political and economic consequences for Russia,” Stoltenberg said Monday.
The talks in Riga also come as NATO members Latvia, Lithuania and Poland deal with a border crisis with neighboring Belarus.
The European Union accuses Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of enticing thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, to travel to Belarus and try to cross into Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in order to destabilize the European Union. The EU says Lukashenko is retaliating for sanctions it imposed against his government.
Blinken said Tuesday the United States, in coordination with the EU, is preparing additional sanctions against Belarus for what he called “its ongoing attacks on democracy, on human rights, on international norms.”
“As long as the regime in Belarus refuses to respect its international commitments, undermines peace and security in Europe, continues to repress and abuse its own people who are simply seeking to live in freedom, we will continue to put pressure on the regime and we will not lessen our calls for accountability,” Blinken said.
Another main focus of work at the NATO ministerial meeting is updating what the group calls its Strategic Concept, which was last changed a decade ago.
Stoltenberg said it is important to revisit the strategic document given the changed nature of the threats NATO faces, what he called a “more dangerous world.”
“We see the behavior of Russia, we see cyber, we see terrorist threats, we see proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Stoltenberg said. “And we see the security consequences of China which is now becoming more and more a global power.”
Blinken is scheduled to travel Wednesday to Sweden to meet with fellow ministers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and to discuss bilateral ties with Swedish officials.
Some information for this report came from Reuters.
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