LIVERPOOL, England — The Group of Seven leading industrial democracies warned Russia on Sunday of “massive consequences” and “severe cost” if it launches an attack on Ukraine, a day before President Biden’s top diplomat for Europe travels to Kyiv and Moscow to address the high-stakes standoff.
The statement, representing countries with a hawkish outlook on Russia, such as the United States and Britain, and more dovish ones, such as Italy and France, is the latest effort by the Biden administration to rally international support for Ukraine as U.S. intelligence finds that the Kremlin has planned out a potential multi-front offensive in Ukraine involving up to 175,000 troops. Russia has denied having any such plans.
“Any use of force to change borders is strictly prohibited under international law. Russia should be in no doubt that further military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and severe cost in response,” the G-7 statement said, calling on the Kremlin to “de-
escalate” and “pursue diplomatic channels.”
Projecting a united front against Russia has been a challenge for the Biden administration, as continental Europe interprets the threat from Russia in different and sometimes conflicting ways.
Last week, when Biden told reporters that the United States would be announcing a meeting between the United States, Russia and a select group of European allies to see if “accommodations” could be made with Moscow to resolve the crisis, it set off alarm bells in Eastern European capitals where a fear persists of Washington negotiating their region’s fate in their absence.
“Western capitals talking directly to Moscow, us not being at the table — this has ominous vibes from our 20th century history,” said a senior Eastern European official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.
Senior State Department officials have since clarified that no such announcement of a meeting of the kind Biden described was forthcoming. The White House also scrambled to set up a call on Thursday between Biden and Eastern European officials to provide assurances that nothing would be decided in meetings with Russian officials without their input on matters that affect them.
U.S. and European officials hailed the statement on Sunday as a sign of Western unity.
“What we have shown this weekend is that the world’s largest economies are united. We have sent a powerful signal to our adversaries,” said British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss during a news conference in Liverpool.
The statement, however, does not specify what type of costs Russia would face. The Biden administration has for weeks threatened harsh economic sanctions, but Moscow has worked to insulate its economy against U.S. Treasury Department actions. The most consequential economic penalties would come from U.S. allies with deeper economic ties to Russia, such as Germany, where the all-but-completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline will bring Russian natural gas to Europe.
Berlin, Paris and Rome have been more cautious with imposing economic sanctions on Moscow, to the chagrin of some in Washington, but a senior State Department official said that Western European capitals were increasingly seeing the gravity of the Russian threat.
“I think we’re having more and more convergence every day,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy.
Asked whether European leaders would be prepared to impose a series of national sanctions should Russia attack Ukraine, the official said: “I’m quite confident if that awful day comes, not only the countries that were in the room today, but a large number of democratic countries will join us in imposing costs.”
William Taylor, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said he believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin would probably not end up invading Ukraine but that the possibility is strong enough that it should be taken seriously.
“I think it’s 55-45, but 45 percent chance that there’s a major war in Europe? You have to take it seriously. You have to be prepared. You have to be ready,” Taylor said during a Sunday appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
Earlier in his appearance, Taylor said an invasion would be “very, very costly” for Russia because of the likelihood of economic sanctions, heavy troop losses and losing a pipeline to Germany.
On Monday, Karen Donfried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, travels to Ukraine and then Russia for meetings with senior government officials “to discuss Russia’s military buildup and to reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity,” the State Department said in a statement.
In seeking to allay the concerns of Eastern European countries, the State Department official said no major decisions on the future of European security would be decided until Donfried consults with Ukrainian officials in Kyiv.
Fenit Nirappil in Washington contributed to this report.