19 February 2022

Harris warns Russia of unprecedented sanctions if it invades Ukraine

19 February 2022

US vice-president Kamala Harris has warned Russia that it will face “unprecedented” financial costs if it invades Ukraine, and predicted that such an attack would draw European allies closer to the United States.

Ms Harris spoke at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany the day after US President Joe Biden said he is “convinced” that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade the neighbouring country.

Ms Harris told delegates: “Let me be clear, I can say with absolute certainty: If Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States, together with our allies and partners, will impose significant, and unprecedented economic costs.”

She aimed to make the case to a largely European audience that the West has “strength through unity” and that an invasion would likely lead to an even bigger Nato footprint on Russia’s doorstep.

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, and pro-Russia separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the country’s east for almost eight years. The US and the European Union previously sanctioned Russia over its seizure of Crimea.

Western fears of an invasion have escalated in recent months as Russia amassed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders.

Ms Harris said the Biden administration, along with its allies, had sought to engage with Moscow in good faith to find a diplomatic resolution, but this was not met by the Kremlin in good faith.

Ms Harris warned Russia about devastating economic consequences if it should invade Ukraine (AP) (AP)

“Russia continues to say it is ready to talk while at the same time it narrows the avenues for diplomacy,” she said. “Their actions simply do not match their words.”

Ms Harris credited European allies for speaking with a largely unified voice as the latest Ukraine crisis has unfolded.

The US vice-president said Republicans and Democrats in Washington – who rarely agree on many major issues – have largely reached the same page on the necessity of confronting Mr Putin.

“We came together and are now speaking with a unified voice,” Ms Harris said.

Meanwhile, one of the EU’s top officials said Moscow will have its access to financial markets and hi-tech goods limited under Western sanctions being prepared in the event of an attack on Ukraine.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen also addressed the Munich Security Conference (Michael Probst/AP) (AP)

Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive commission, told the Munich Security Conference: “The Kremlin’s dangerous thinking, which comes straight out of a dark past, may cost Russia a prosperous future.”

She said the EU has developed a “robust and comprehensive package” of financial sanctions with the US, UK and Canada.

“In case that Russia strikes, we will limit the access to financial markets for the Russian economy and (impose) export controls that will stop the possibility for Russia to modernise and diversify its economy,” she added.

“We have a lot of hi-tech goods where we have a global dominance, and that are absolutely necessary for Russia and cannot be replaced easily.”

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