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Top US, EU Diplomats Hold Ukraine Talks01/20 06:12

   

   BERLIN (AP) -- Top American and European diplomats are meeting in Berlin on 
Thursday as the allies seek to project a united front to Russia over concerns 
that it may be planning an invasion of Ukraine.

   Russia has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine, and U.S. 
President Joe Biden said Wednesday he thinks Moscow will invade. He warned 
Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country would pay a "dear price" in 
lives lost and a possible cutoff from the global banking system if it does.

   Against that backdrop, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks 
Thursday with diplomats from Germany, France and Britain -- a so-called Quad 
meeting. A day earlier, he met Ukraine's president in Kyiv to discuss the 
threat.

   Russia has denied it is planning an invasion and has, in turn, accused the 
West of plotting "provocations" in Ukraine, citing the delivery of weapons to 
the country by British military transport planes in recent days.

   The U.S. and its NATO allies face a difficult task on the Ukraine crisis. 
Biden has said he is not planning to send combat troops in the case of a 
further Russian invasion. But he could pursue a range of less dramatic yet 
still risky military options, including supporting a post-invasion Ukrainian 
resistance.

   The rationale for not directly joining a Russia-Ukraine war is simple. The 
United States has no treaty obligation to Ukraine, and war with Russia would be 
an enormous gamble. But doing too little has its risks, too.

   The challenges of keeping the United States and its NATO allies united in 
their response to Russia were on display Wednesday, when Biden warned Russia 
against any invasion but also said a "minor incursion" would elicit a lesser 
response. He later sought to clarify that he was referring to a non-military 
action, such as a cyberattack -- but the remark elicited a barrage of criticism 
at home that he was not being tough enough on Russia and raised the specter of 
possible divisions abroad.

   In explaining the remark, Biden said "it's very important that we keep 
everyone in NATO on the same page."

   Blinken, the top American diplomat, is set to deliver a speech on the 
Ukraine crisis later Thursday in the German capital before flying on to Geneva, 
where he will meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday.

   In his speech to the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, Blinken will 
elaborate on the American position on Ukraine, the broader historical context 
of the current crisis, and the need for allies to present a unified front to 
confront Russia's aggression and violations of international norms, U.S. 
officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't 
authorized to publicly preview Blinken's speech.

   Blinken is also expected to address the Russian people to outline the costs 
that their country will pay should it move ahead with an invasion, they said.

   While the meeting in Berlin will focus primarily on Ukraine, the ongoing 
talks over reviving a deal aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear program will also 
be discussed, according to the officials.

   Following his meeting with Bilnken this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr 
Zelenskyy is scheduled to arrive Thursday in Poland, which has long supported 
Ukraine's efforts to move closer to the democratic Western world.

 
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