LIVERPOOL, England — The Group of Seven economic powers told Russia on Sunday to “de-escalate” its military buildup near the Ukrainian border, warning that an invasion would have “massive consequences” and inflict severe economic pain on Moscow.
G-7 foreign ministers, joined by the European Union’s foreign affairs chief, issued a joint statement declaring themselves “united in our condemnation of Russia’s military buildup and aggressive rhetoric towards Ukraine.”
The G-7 called on Russia to “de-escalate, pursue diplomatic channels, and abide by its international commitments on transparency of military activities,” and praised Ukraine’s “restraint.”
“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 statement said.
The U.S. and its NATO and G-7 allies worry that the movement of Russian troops and weapons to the border region could be a precursor to an invasion, and have vowed to inflict heavy sanctions on Russia’s economy if that happens.
Moscow denies having any plans to attack Ukraine and accuses Kyiv of its own allegedly aggressive designs.
A senior U.S. official who participated in the G-7 discussions said the ministers were united in their “extreme concern” about developments on the Russia-Ukraine border and agreed on the need for strong measures that could be implemented “very, very fast” if Russia did not heed warnings to back down.
The U.S. and its allies have played down talk of a military response to defend Ukraine, with efforts focusing on tough sanctions that would hit the Russian economy, rather than just individuals.
In the U.S., reporters asked President Joe Biden on Saturday about the possibility of sending combat troops to Ukraine, and he said that idea was never considered. “Are you ready to send American troops into war and go into Ukraine to fight Russians on the battlefield?” he said.
Biden said he has made it clear to Putin that in the event of an invasion, “the economic consequences for his economy are going to be devastating. Devastating.”
China’s muscle-flexing in the Indo-Pacific region and the ailing Iran nuclear deal were also on the agenda for the weekend meeting at the dockside Museum of Liverpool.
Getting a unified response from the G-7, a group of countries with disparate interests, has often proved tough.
Germany plans on getting gas from Russia soon through the contentious 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 about London’s financial district and property market, both hubs for Russian money.
U.K. bank and financial authorities have long been criticized for allegedly turning a blind eye to ill-gotten gains, but Truss insisted Britain has “very strong anti-corruption and anti-money laundering rules.”
G-7 nations are also increasingly concerned about China’s growing economic and technological dominance, especially in developing countries. The G-7 has launched a “Build Back Better World” initiative to offer developing nations funding for big infrastructure projects as an alternative to money from China that, the West argues, often comes with strings attached.
Truss said the G-7 was “concerned about the coercive economic policies of China.”
“And what we want to do is build the investment, reach the economic trade reach of like-minded, freedom loving democracies,” she said. “That is why we are stepping up our investment into low- and middle-income countries.”
A unified stance towards China continues to prove elusive, however, with the U.S. and Britain generally more hawkish than other G-7 members.
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