The US ambassador to the United Nations said the Security Council would confront Russia over its military threat against Ukraine as two senators predicted a vote as soon as this week on the “mother of all sanctions” against the Kremlin.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said the Security Council on Monday would press Russia on its massive troop buildup along Ukraine’s border and fears that an invasion is imminent.
“They know that they cannot block the meeting and I expect that, knowing what we’re dealing with, that they will make an attempt,” Thomas-Greenfield said on ABC News’ “This Week,” noting Russia’s veto power as one of the council’s permanent members.
“But the Security Council is unified, our voices are unified in calling for the Russians to explain themselves. We’re going to go into the room prepared to listen to them, but we’re not going to be distracted by their propaganda and we’re going to be prepared to respond to any disinformation that they attempt to spread during this meeting,” she said.
The US has warned that an attack on Ukraine would spark “severe” economic consequences for Russia but there has been disagreement about pre-emptive sanctions.
Those divisions may have been resolved as Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, floated the idea that some penalties may be imposed immediately to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There are some sanctions that really could take place up front because of what Russia’s already done — cyberattacks on Ukraine, false-flag operations, the efforts to undermine the Ukrainian government internally,” Menendez (D-NJ) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
In the event of an invasion, Menendez said the Kremlin would face “the mother of all sanctions” targeting Russian banks to cripple the country’s economy.
At the same time, US would step up supplying Ukraine with lethal aid.
”These are sanctions beyond any that we have ever levied before,” Menendez said.
Sen. James Risch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said a bipartisan group of senators are prepared to vote on the measures to deter Putin.
He said he didn’t think the Russian leader has made up his mind on invading Ukraine but warned the US must show strength and unity in the face of the threat.
“There’s a lot of us that believe that, if Putin sees weakness, if he sees bumbling, if he sees ineptitude, if he sees indecision, that he will take advantage of that. I don’t think he’s made a decision to do that yet,” Risch said on CNN, appearing alongside Menendez.
“What Bob and I and a coalition of bipartisan senators are attempting to do is to project the resolve that we have, as Americans, to see that he doesn’t do that, to provide the strength, to project the strength, and convince him that this would be a very, very bad idea, and it’s going to be extremely painful,” Risch (R-Idaho) said.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby also said Sunday that the US is weighing a level of sanctions that would go beyond anything Russia has ever seen.
Kirby was asked by “Fox News Sunday” host Dana Perino about the potential consequences Putin could face if he launches an invasion into Ukraine.
“I think we’ve been very clear with Mr. Putin about the economic consequences that could come his way and the way the Russian people should he further incur — invade inside Ukraine. And one of the things about sanctions is once you trip that, then the deterrent effect is lost,” he said.
“I think we’ve been very, very clear that we’re going to look at sanctions and economic consequences, the likes of which we have not looked at before even considering even as far back as 2014,” Kirby said, referring to Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
Despite Russia’s saber-rattling, Kirby said, “it doesn’t have to come to conflict.”
“We still believe there’s room and space for diplomacy and we’d like to see that be the solution here,” he added.
Russia on Sunday shrugged off claims that it was poised to invade its neighbor despite the presence of more than 100,000 troops along the border.
“At this time, they’re saying that Russia threatens Ukraine — that’s completely ridiculous,” Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council, said Sunday, according to the Russian news agency Tass.
Thomas-Greenfield was skeptical of Russia’s denial.
“You don’t amass 100,000 troops if you don’t have intentions to use them,” she said on ABC.
The ambassador said the Security Council meeting will give Russia another opportunity to find a diplomatic way out.
“We’ve made clear that we’re prepared to address our concerns, Ukrainian concerns and Russian concerns at the diplomatic table, but it cannot be done on the battlefield,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
With Post wires