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Western support for Ukraine grows, Russia warns of ‘lightning-fast’ response 

With the West calling for Russia's defeat in Ukraine, the Kremlin is lashing out and warning that Europe's security is at risk. The conflict is in its third month and the risk of an even larger war breaking out is growing.

(CN) — In London, the British foreign secretary called for a total defeat of Russia in Ukraine. In Canada, the parliament accused Russia of genocide. In Berlin, lawmakers overwhelmingly approved sending heavy weapons to Kyiv. In Washington, the U.S. president called on Congress to approve $33 billion in aid for Ukraine and asked Americans to stomach the economic cost of the war. 

With the war in Ukraine now in its third month, the United States and its Western allies are raising the stakes dramatically as their tone hardens against the Kremlin and the flow of weapons, volunteers and other aid to Ukraine grows. 

Only naturally, the tone in Moscow is getting more aggressive too. On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of a “lightning-fast” response to Western interference in Ukraine.       

Since a weekend visit to Kyiv by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, the war of words between the West and Russia has only gotten more intense and provocative. 

The most incendiary remarks came from Austin, who set out a goal to weaken Russia so badly that it will not be able to carry out another invasion. This statement stirred deep anxiety and anger in Moscow, which has for years accused the U.S. of seeking to bring Russia to its knees as part of American aims to dominate the world. 

On Wednesday night, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss added more fuel to the fire by delivering a speech calling on NATO to deliver warplanes to Ukraine and to expand the Western military alliance’s reach into Asia. 

In a keynote speech at the Mansion House in London, Truss said the West must “double down” in its support for Kyiv and ensure that Russian troops are driven out everywhere in Ukraine, which in theory would mean taking back areas held by Russian-backed separatists since 2014 and reclaiming Crimea.  

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 following the U.S.-backed “Maidan Revolution,” which led to the overthrow of a pro-Russian Ukrainian president. Crimea has deep historical ties to Russia and it has long been the base for its Black Sea Fleet. Following the 2014 annexation, Russia was placed under heavy Western sanctions and kicked out of the Group of Eight.      

“We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine,” Truss said as she urged NATO to deliver more arms to Ukraine, as reported by the BBC.  

“Heavy weapons, tanks, airplanes – digging deep into our inventories, ramping up production. We need to do all of this,” she said. “The war in Ukraine is our war – it is everyone's war … because Ukraine's victory is a strategic imperative for all of us.”  

She called on NATO to send more arms to other West-leaning countries that could face Russian aggression – such as Moldova and Georgia – and said the Western military alliance needs to expand into Asia.  

“NATO must have a global outlook, ready to tackle global threats,” Truss said, as reported by Politico. “We need to preempt threats in the Indo-Pacific, working with allies like Japan and Australia to ensure that the Pacific is protected. We must ensure that democracies like Taiwan are able to defend themselves.” 

The tone from Moscow has become equally bellicose against the West.  

“If someone intends to intervene on what is happening from the outside and creates unacceptable strategic threats for us, then they should know that our response to oncoming strikes will be swift, lightning fast,” Putin said in remarks to lawmakers in St. Petersburg.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while he addresses the Russian Federal Assembly’s Council of Legislators at the Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. (Alexander Demyanchuk, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

“We have all the tools for this, ones that no one can brag about, and we won’t brag – we will use them if needed – and I want everyone to know this. All the decisions have been made in this regard,” Putin said, likely referring to Russia’s arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. Russia and the U.S. possess similar stockpiles of nuclear weapons, which are by far the largest in the world, according to the Federation of American Scientists.   

On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the arms shipments to Ukraine threatened the continent’s peace. 

“The tendency to pump weapons, including heavy weapons into Ukraine, these are the actions that threaten the security of the continent, provoke instability,” he told reporters.

But the West isn’t backing down.

On Thursday, Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, made a historic shift in policy by approving the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine. The vote was 586 in favor, 100 against and seven abstentions. The far-right Alternative for Germany opposed the measure with its most senior lawmaker, Tino Chrupalla, arguing Germany will prolong the war and that it “could make us party to a nuclear war,” according to Deutsche Welle, a German state news broadcaster. Germany’s Left party, with roots in East Germany’s Communist Party, also opposed the move.  

Nils Schmid, a member of the ruling Social Democratic party, argued that Ukraine needs the weapons to help end the war faster. He said Putin must not be allowed to win the war.

“This is why we support Ukraine with everything we have at our disposal, politically, diplomatically, economically and of course, in a very measured way, militarily,” he said. 

Canada’s parliament, the House of Commons, stepped up its pressure on Russia too by voting unanimously on Wednesday to label Russia’s attacks in Ukraine as “genocide.” Earlier this month, Biden also accused Russia of genocide. 

On Thursday, Biden asked Congress for a massive $33 billion military aid package to help Ukraine, the largest funding request to come from the White House since the Russian invasion began. 

“The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen,” Biden said. “We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country, or we stand by as Russians continue their atrocities and aggression on Ukraine.”  

As the bellicose rhetoric ratchets up, the war in Ukraine appears to be entering a new bloody and dangerous phase as Ukrainian troops come under intense attack in the battle over Donbas, ceding some ground, and Kyiv says it has a right to attack targets inside Russia. Meanwhile, tensions are mounting over Moldova, a small country sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. 

Russian sources allege Polish troops are being prepared to enter western Ukraine as peacekeepers and say Ukrainian, Romanian and Moldovan troops are being moved toward Transnistria, a pro-Russian region that broke away from Moldova in the early 1990s after fears were stoked back then that Moldova might become part of Romania.  

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union. 

Follow @cainburdeau
Categories / Government, International, Politics

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