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.
Blinken and his NATO counterparts are discussing concerns about Russia’s military build-up during a NATO ministerial meeting in Riga. Blinken said he would have a lot more to say on the topic after those consultations.
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.
On Tuesday in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his military may be forced to respond to the Western-led expansion of Ukraine’s military infrastructure if “red lines” were crossed by NATO.
“If some kind of strike systems appear on the territory of Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow will be 7-10 minutes, and five minutes in the case of a hypersonic weapon being deployed. Just imagine,” said Putin.
“We will have to then create something similar in relation to those who threaten us in that way. And we can do that now,” Putin added.
The Russian leader noted his military had just successfully tested a new sea-based hypersonic missile that would be in service at the beginning of next year.
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 U.S., 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.”
In response to a question from VOA, Blinken said he and Latvian Foreign Minister Rinkevics focused “on the actions unfortunately Belarus has been taking both in terms of repressing its own people and their democratic aspirations as well as using migration as a weapon to try to sow division and destabilization in Europe.”
“We are in close coordination with the European Union preparing all U.N. sanctions,” Blinken told reporters.
Another focus of 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.