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Ahead of US-Russia meet, Biden administration issues fresh warnings to Kremlin

Russian troops entered Kazakhstan on Thursday

joe-biden-unga-twitter US President Joe Biden addressing the United Nations General Assembly | UN

Ahead of a meeting between US and Russian officials in Switzerland, the Biden administration has issued new, forceful warnings to Russia on penalties it may face if it goes ahead with threats to invade Ukraine. Reports claimed that US officials raised the possibility of incremental shifts in decisions about America's future strategic posture in Europe. But they also said Russia would be hit with debilitating sanctions should it intervene in Ukraine. The officials said the administration would be open to discussions with Russia on curtailing possible future deployments of offensive missiles in Ukraine and putting limits on US and NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe. Yet, they said Russia will be hit hard with economic sanctions should it intervene in Ukraine.

In addition to direct sanctions on Russian entities, those penalties could include significant restrictions on products exported from the US to Russia and potentially foreign-made products subject to US jurisdiction. The comments came as senior US and Russian officials prepare to meet in Switzerland on Monday amid heightened tensions over Ukraine.

Russia's decision to send paratroopers into Kazakhstan, where a crackdown on violent anti-government protests has left dozens dead, injects additional uncertainty into upcoming talks over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. The question is whether the unrest in Kazakhstan has changed the calculations of Russian President Vladimir Putin as he weighs his options in Ukraine. Some say Putin may not want to engage in two conflicts at the same time, while others say Russia has the military capacity to do both and he will decide separately on whether to attack Ukraine.

The instability in Kazakhstan may even add new urgency to Putin's desire to shore up Russia's power in the region. Both Kazakhstan and Ukraine are former Soviet republics that Putin has sought to keep under Moscow's influence, but so far with vastly different results.

Ukraine, an aspiring democracy that has turned decisively toward the West, has been locked in deadly conflict with Russia since Putin seized Crimea in 2014 and backed an insurgency in the eastern Donbas region. Kazakhstan, meanwhile, has been ruled in the three decades since the Soviet collapse by autocrats who have maintained close security and political ties with Russia.

Russian troops entered Kazakhstan on Thursday after Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev invoked the help of a Russia-led military alliance.  The following day, with Russian troops helping to restore control over the airport and guarding government buildings, he ordered his forces to shoot to kill any protesters who don't surrender.

That led to Washington and Moscow exchanging new barbs on the eve of a week of meetings over Ukraine that begins with talks between senior US and Russian officials in Geneva on Monday.

-Inputs from PTI

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