As tension between Russia and Ukraine escalates, the US has urged the Kremlin to show restraint, and to resolve the issue through peaceful negotiation. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of a summit of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Stockholm on Thursday to discuss the current political situation in eastern Ukraine. Reports suggest that foreign ministers of 57 member-countries of the group arrived in the Swedish capital to discuss key regional security issues.
During their meeting, Blinken informed Lavrov that the US and Europe were worried about build-up of Russian troops near the Russia-Ukraine border. He made it clear that Moscow would face "serious consequences", if it got involved in an armed conflict with Kiev.
Defense experts are of the opinion that the US State Secretary has sent a strong message to Russia that the Western nations would help Ukraine take on Russia, if necessary. It may be noted that Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Kiev in 2014 brought the former Soviet Republic closer to Europe and the US. Although Moscow considers Kiev's cordial ties with Europe as a serious threat to its national security, the Kremlin has made no aggressive move against Kiev in the last seven years.
However, things have changed in recent times, as the Vladimir Putin Administration has expressed serious concern over the expansion of NATO in Europe. As the NATO plans to offer membership to Ukraine and Georgia, Moscow has started sending forces to the border areas. The Kremlin recently admitted that the probability of a fresh conflict in eastern Ukraine remains high because of "aggressive" rhetoric from Kiev and due to provocative actions by its neighbor.
Interestingly, Moscow has denied the claim that it was planning an invasion. Instead, it has accused Ukraine of building up its own forces in the eastern part of the country, where the Ukrainian forces have got involved in a battle against Russian-backed separatists. Ahead of his meeting with Blinken, Lavrov warned of the "nightmare scenario of a possible military confrontation" between the two neighboring countries.
The announcement of the European Council, the executive arm of the European Union (EU), to give EUR 31 million (USD 35 million) to the Ukrainian Armed Forces in security aid has also irked Moscow. However, Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba has claimed that the money would be spent on medicine, engineering, demining, logistics and cybersecurity, stressing: "We highly appreciate this step which reaffirms the strategic Ukraine-EU relations." Ukraine has also requested the EU and NATO allies to impose economic sanctions on Russia in order to deter Kremlin from launching a new military offensive on Ukraine. Experts believe that the scenario has already become complicated in the region, and it is difficult for the US to normalize the situation through peaceful talks with Russia.