NATO on Standby as EU Readies 'Never-seen-before' Sanctions if Russia Invades Ukraine

Tensions in Ukraine have been climbing for months after the Kremlin massed some 100,000 troops near its border, in what Western countries see as preparation for war to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO

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Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman in a dugout on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Gorlivka, Donetsk, on Sunday.
Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman in a dugout on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Gorlivka, Donetsk, on Sunday.Credit: by Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP

NATO allies are putting forces on standby and reinforcing NATO deployments in eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday, in reaction to Russia's military build-up at Ukraine's borders.

"I welcome allies contributing additional forces to NATO," Stoltenberg said in a statement. "NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the alliance." Ukraine is not in NATO, but some of its neighbors, including Poland, are.

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As NATO builds up its forces in East Europe, Denmark's foreign minister also said on Monday that The European Union is ready to impose "never-seen-before" economic sanctions if Russia attacks Ukraine.

Tensions in Ukraine have been climbing for months after the Kremlin massed some 100,000 troops near Ukraine's border, a dramatic buildup the West says is preparation for war to prevent Ukraine from joining the NATO security alliance.

"Russia should know, (President Vladimir) Putin should know that the price of using provocations and military forces to change borders in Europe will be very, very high... We are ready to undertake the most severe sanctions, also more severe than in 2014," Jeppe Kofod told reporters said, declining to stay what sectors would be targeted.

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod arrives at a Foreign Affairs Council meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, on Monday.Credit: JOHN THYS / AFP

The EU, along with the United States, imposed economic sanctions on Russia in July 2014, targeting its energy, banking and defense sectors, after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula.

U.S. Senate Democrats have unveiled a bill to potentially punish Russian officials, military leaders and banking institutions.

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has urged Europe and the United States to think carefully when considering sanctions, highlighting challenges in agreeing on a joint approach.

In contrast, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said that everything was on the table.

But he also pointed to Austria's dependency on Russia for 40% of its gas, adding, when asked about potential sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, that sanctioning something that is not yet operative is not a credible threat.

"We are here to do everything we can so that war does not break out," Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said.

For now, the EU does not plan to withdraw diplomats' families from Ukraine, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after Washington announced such a move.

"We are not going to do the same thing because we don't know any specific reasons. But (U.S.) Secretary (of State Antony) Blinken will inform us," Borrell told reporters as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts.

The British Embassy in Ukraine said on Monday some of its staff and dependents were being withdrawn from Kyiv.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied planning to invade, but the Russian military already took a chunk of Ukrainian territory when it seized Crimea and backed separatist forces who took control of large parts of eastern Ukraine eight years ago.

The top U.S. and Russian diplomats made no major breakthrough at talks on Ukraine on Friday but agreed to keep talking to try to resolve the crisis.

"Negotiations are going on", Borrell said, adding he saw no reason to leave Ukraine "unless Secretary Blinken gives us an information that justifies a move".

A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea, last week
A Ukrainian serviceman is seen on the front line near the village of Travneve in Donetsk region, Ukraine, earlier this months
Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, last Saturday
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A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea, last weekCredit: AP
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A Ukrainian serviceman is seen on the front line near the village of Travneve in Donetsk region, Ukraine, earlier this monthsCredit: GLEB GARANICH/ REUTERS
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Members of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces train in a city park in Kyiv, Ukraine, last SaturdayCredit: Efrem Lukatsky /AP

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