UK seeks unity at G7 meeting on Russia’s ‘malicious behavior’
Moscow denies that it intends to attack Ukraine and accuses Kiev of its own allegedly aggressive designs.
A senior US official who participated in Saturday’s talks said G-7 ministers were united in their “extreme concern” over developments on the Russian-Ukrainian border. The official said ministers wanted any Russian invasion of Ukraine to be met with a response that would entail “massive consequences and significant costs” on the part of the G-7.
The official did not say what those consequences might be, but said they would be implemented “very, very quickly” if Russia ignored the warnings to back down.
The United States and its allies have played down discussions of a military response to defend Ukraine, with efforts focusing on tough sanctions that would hit the Russian economy, rather than individuals.
In the United States, reporters on Saturday asked President Joe Biden about the possibility of sending combat troops to Ukraine, and he said the idea had never been considered. “Are you ready to send American troops to war and go to Ukraine to fight the Russians on the battlefield,” he said.
Biden said he made it clear to Putin that in the event of an invasion, “the economic consequences to his economy are going to be devastating. Devastating.”
European Union Foreign Chief Josep Borrell, who is also attending the two-day conference, said ministers were determined “to make Russia understand that anything that could represent an attack on Ukraine would have a high price “.
Obtaining a unified response from the G-7, a group of countries with divergent interests, has often proved difficult. Germany plans to get gas from Russia soon via the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which bypasses Ukraine. Britain, which is not dependent on Russian gas, generally takes a tougher line on the pipeline – but faces tough questions over London’s financial district and real estate market, both hubs for Russian money.
Truss said she wanted to work with other countries “to ensure that free democratic nations are able to have an alternative to Russian gas supplies.” She met on the sidelines of the rally with the new German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, a politician from the Greens ecologists who had previously opposed Nord Stream 2.
Along with efforts to agree on tough sanctions in the event of a Russian invasion, efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis appear to be gaining momentum. The State Department announced on Saturday that America’s top diplomat for Europe, Karen Donfried, will visit Kiev and Moscow next week “to strengthen the United States’ commitment to sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine ”and to seek a resolution. Donfried will travel to Brussels later to meet with NATO and European Union allies.
China’s bodybuilding in the Indo-Pacific region and the troubled Iran nuclear deal were also on the agenda for the weekend’s meeting at the Liverpool Dockside Museum.
The rally comes as negotiators gather in Vienna to try to revive an international deal aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Blinken met with German, French and British diplomats in Liverpool to discuss next steps regarding Iran, and the Biden administration’s special envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, also stopped in the city on the Vienna path.
Truss warned this week that the Vienna talks are “Iran’s last chance to re-sign” the deal, which aimed to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in return for easing economic sanctions.
Truss also invited ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to the Liverpool meeting, although many joined remotely due to the pandemic. Delegates and journalists face virus tests and mask warrants daily at the conference, as Britain sees more cases of the omicron virus variant, which scientists say will become the strain dominant in the UK over the next week.
Britain wants to work more closely with Asian countries as part of an “Indo-Pacific tilt” after the UK left the European Union to 27 countries last year, both to boost the British trade and to counterbalance Chinese rule.
Truss told his G-7 counterparts that democracies must fight “economic coercion” and “win the battle of technology” – both referred to Beijing’s growing influence around the world. The G-7 has launched a “Build a Better World” initiative to provide developing countries with finance for large infrastructure projects as an alternative to money from China which the West says often comes with strings attached. .
However, a unified stance towards China continues to prove elusive, with the United States and Britain generally being more hawkish than other members of the G-7.
The UK has chosen a setting steeped in British history and culture for the final meeting of its year as G-7 chair. The Liverpool docks, once a symbol of Britain’s global reach and economic might, have come to represent the post-industrial decline of the country, but now the area along the River Mersey is a prime example of 21st century urban renewal.
A museum dedicated to the city’s most famous sons, the Beatles Story Museum, served as the setting for the G-7 Ministers’ Dinner on Saturday night. Delegates were rocked by a band of covers from the Fab Four before eating a locally sourced meal in a recreation of Liverpool’s famous Cavern Club, where the band performed several of their first concerts.