NATO worries about Europe’s energy security in standoff with Russia

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LONDON/MOSCOW – Europe must diversify its energy supplies, the NATO chief said on Sunday, as Britain warned it was “highly likely” that Russia, the world’s biggest supplier of natural gas continent, seeks to invade Ukraine.

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Russia has massed some 120,000 troops near its neighbor and demanded that the Western defense alliance withdraw its troops and weapons from Eastern Europe and prevent Ukraine, a former Soviet state, from joining the western defense alliance.

US officials said Saturday that Russia’s military buildup had been expanded to include supplies to treat victims of any conflict. Across the Ukrainian border, residents trained as army reservists as the government rushed to prepare.

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Moscow denies any invasion plans but said on Sunday it would ask NATO to clarify whether it intended to implement key security commitments, after earlier saying the NATO response alliance to his demands did not go far enough.

“If they don’t intend to, then they should explain why,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state television. “This will be a key question in determining our future proposals.”

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The United States, which has threatened Russia with major new sanctions if it invades Ukraine, said it was awaiting a response from Moscow. He says NATO will not withdraw from Eastern Europe or exclude Ukraine, but he is ready to discuss topics such as arms control and confidence-building measures.

U.S. senators are close to agreeing sanctions legislation, the two lead senators working on the bill said on Sunday. The measures include targeting the most important Russian banks and Russian sovereign debt as well as offering more deadly assistance to Ukraine.

Some of the sanctions in the bill could take place before any invasion due to what Russia has already done, said one of the senators, Bob Mendendez, citing cyberattacks on Ukraine, false flag operations and efforts to undermine the Ukrainian government internally.

Washington has spent weeks trying to strike a deal with its European partners on a tough sanctions package, but the issue is divisive, with Germany calling for “caution”.

The European Union depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies and any interruption would worsen an existing energy crisis caused by a shortage.

“We are concerned about the energy situation in Europe as it demonstrates the vulnerability of being too dependent on a single supplier of natural gas and that is why NATO allies agree that we need to work and focus on supply diversification,” said the NATO Secretary General. says Jens Stoltenberg.

SANCTIONS PLANS

Britain said on Sunday it would expand the scope of its own possible sanctions in legislation this week to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We believe it is very likely that he is seeking to invade Ukraine. That is why we are doing everything we can through deterrence and diplomacy, to urge him to give up,” Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told BBC television.

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Truss, who is due to travel to both Ukraine and Russia in the next two weeks, told Sky News the legislation would allow Britain to hit a wider variety of targets “so there can’t be anyone who thinks he will be safe from these penalties.”

Asked if the new powers could include the ability to seize property in London, Truss replied: “Nothing is on the table.”

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The Center for American Progress, an American think tank, said Britain would face a challenge in uprooting wealthy Russians with ties to the London Kremlin given the close ties “between Russian money and the Conservative party in power in the United Kingdom, the press and its real estate and financial assets. industry.”

Asked about it, Truss said: “There is a real threat here to freedom and democracy in Europe. And that is more important than short-term economic gains, both for the UK but also for our European allies.

The Biden administration plans to spare ordinary Russians the brunt of U.S. export controls if Russia invades Ukraine, and to focus on targeting industrial sectors, a White House official said on Saturday. A senior trade official said earlier that ‘key people’ would face ‘massive penalties’.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to speak with Putin by phone next week. Stepping up diplomatic efforts after being criticized for not doing enough, he said he had ordered the military to prepare to help reinforce Europe’s borders.

Stoltenberg said NATO had no plans to deploy combat troops to non-NATO Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion, adding “We are focused on support.”

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