U.S. ambassador to NATO on Russia-Ukraine tensions, economic sanctions

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said the United States and its allies continue to signal to Russia that they are ready to respond to an escalation, including by imposing “massive economic sanctions and consequences.”

“We’re looking at all the possibilities,” she told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble on Thursday.

Asked whether sanctions are limited in their effectiveness, Smith said there was “no indication yet” that Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided what to do with the troops he has deployed. to the border with Ukraine.

“We are trying to sharpen the election for President Putin while weighing his options here,” she added.

The growing military presence at the border has sparked fears of a war between Moscow and Kiev. Negotiations with the United States and other Western powers have not made much progress, and the possibility of imposing sanctions has not pressured Russia to de-escalate the situation.

Ukraine’s former president Petro Poroshenko has previously told CNBC that sanctions against Nord Stream 2 would make Russia weaker and deter Putin from attacking. Nord Stream 2 is a pipeline project that would bypass Ukraine while transporting gas from Russia to Europe.

The Kremlin has denied that it plans to invade Ukraine in what would be a repeat of its illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea in 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a screen speaking during his annual press conference in the Moscow Manege on December 23, 2021 in Moscow, Russia.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Separately, Smith said the decision to send 3,000 U.S. troops closer to Ukraine was made in part to reassure allies in the region and serve as a deterrent.

Asked if it could be seen as provocative for Russia, she pointed out that the numbers are very different, estimating that around 127,000 soldiers are stationed around Ukraine’s border.

“I really think we are comparing apples and oranges,” she said, adding that US troops should not enter Ukraine and will not be permanently relocated to Central and Eastern Europe.

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