Joe Biden has been holding talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin over the past month in a bid to ease the buildup of military presence at the border with Ukraine. An estimated 104,000 soldiers have been deployed to the area, sparking fears Moscow might be plotting to make a move to integrate additional areas from the Eastern European county. But Ambassador to Russia Sir Tony Brenton dismissed the US President’s attempts to make Putin deescalate as he warned the threat of further sanctions is of “very limited magnitude.”
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned last month of “massive consequences” if Russia fails to stand back.
Asked about what “consequences” the US might be considering, Sir Tony told LBC: “What he means is substantial economic sanctions.
“What he does not mean, and what Biden has explicitly excluded, is military involvement in any fighting that takes place.
“It’s a threat of very limited magnitude because Russia has been subject to lots of economic sanctions already and they’ve had no effect at all on Russian policy.”
He continued: “That said, I don’t think Russia actually want to invade Ukraine.
“I think what’s going on is saying to the Americans in a way that’s designed to get the Americans’ attention that they really want some attention paid to their security concerns in the region.
“They really are concerned that if Ukraine joins NATO, that increased the military threat directly to them.
“And they want a deal with the United States and the wider West which will stop that, and will stop NATO expansion.”
Whether the United States and its European allies can make progress in the talks with Moscow is far from clear.
The Russian leader wants an end to NATO’s eastward expansion and security guarantees, demands the United States says are unacceptable.
But the senior US official, briefing reporters ahead of the talks, said there are some areas that present an opportunity for common ground.
They said: “Any discussion of those overlapping areas where we might be able to make progress would have to be reciprocal.
“Both sides would need to make essentially the same commitment.”