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US says it wants to be prepared in case Russia invades Ukraine; hopes to make aggression ‘very, very difficult’

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission. U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration says it wants to be prepared in case Russia invades Ukraine and the onus is on Moscow to change its behavior toward its neighbor, as warnings over a buildup of Russian troops near the border intensified on December 3. The White House rebutted Russian demands this week over the West’s relations with Ukraine by saying that “NATO decides who joins NATO, not Russia,” and added that U.S. security assistance to Ukraine remains under consideration. Administration spokeswoman Jen Psaki also said that the United States was ready to impose sanctions or take other punitive measures against Russia if it escalates its actions with respect to Ukraine. The White House declined to say whether military planning is among the moves being considered as part of a “comprehensive” set of measures for Ukraine. It also said it couldn’t tell what Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans were with respect to Ukraine but that Moscow had taken steps that could allow for an invasion. “That is why we want to be prepared and in an area we have expressed serious concern about,” Psaki said. Biden said hours earlier that he was readying initiatives to “make it very, very difficult” for Russia to escalate militarily against Ukraine, as Kyiv expressed fears of an attack next month amid a troop buildup in western Russia. The warning came after a Russian official suggested Biden and Putin would speak by video “within days” but possibly after the Russian leader’s scheduled trip next week to India. Psaki said the White House was preparing for a possible call with Putin to discuss the Ukrainian situation. “What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be the most comprehensive and meaningful set

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Russia’s Lavrov Warns Blinken Of Return To Military Confrontation “Nightmare”

Russia’s Lavrov Warns Blinken Of Return To Military Confrontation “Nightmare” On Friday top Ukraine officials continued sounding the alarm over what they believe is a large-scale mustering of Russian troops aimed at prepping an invasion of eastern Ukraine.  “Our intelligence analyses all scenarios, including the worst,” Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, told parliament on Friday. “It notes that the likelihood of a large-scale escalation from Russia exists. The most likely time to reach readiness for an escalation will be the end of January.” He said more than 94,000 Russian soldiers have massed across the border.  Thursday’s tense meeting in Stockholm, AFP via Getty Images The charge comes two days after Moscow turned the accusation around, saying that it’s actually Kiev that has now stationed half the entire national army in Donbass. The Kremlin called Ukraine’s rhetoric and actions “excessively inflamed and dangerous”, and suggested the flurry of ratcheting allegations this week are designed to provoke Russia. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said in Stockholm that Western allies have expressed “tremendous solidarity” to take action in the event of a Russian offensive in Ukraine. Given this atmosphere of escalating accusations and fears of direct confrontation, the Russian foreign ministry is urging immediate deconfliction. Likely there will be engagement between the Pentagon and Russian defense officials. Over a week ago, on Nov.23, the heads of the Russian and United States militaries held a rare phone call in efforts to deescalate the soaring tensions in eastern Europe. In his latest comments Friday, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov asserted that NATO is refusing calls to de-escalate the crisis:  “NATO refuses to consider our proposals on de-escalation of tensions and prevention of dangerous incidents,” Lavrov said, accusing the US-led bloc of rejecting constructive discussion. “On the contrary, the alliance’s military infrastructure is moving closer to Russia’s borders… The nightmarish scenario of

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