WASHINGTON, MAR 7 (AGENCIES): The leaders of the United States, France, Germany and Britain vowed Monday to further punish Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, the White House said after video teleconference talks.
Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Boris Johnson “affirmed their determination to continue raising the costs on Russia for its unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine,” a US statement said. Western allies have maintained a unified front on sanctions against Russia over its assault on Ukraine, but cracks emerged Monday over the prospect of an embargo on Russian oil and gas imports — a move unpalatable to Germany, which is dependent on Russian gas.
Berlin’s statement after the meeting did not address sanctions, and focused on concerns over humanitarian aid to besieged areas, which the leaders also discussed.
Earlier Monday, Scholz said Russian energy imports were “essential” to Europeans’ daily lives, cautioning against banning Russian oil and gas as part of Western sanctions as it could put Europe’s energy security at risk.
Biden is under mounting pressure from US lawmakers to cut off the source of essential revenue for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government.
The United States, itself a top oil producer, imports little Russian crude and Biden has said “nothing is off the table” when asked if oil could be the next target.
But he has so far held back due to the risk of fracturing unity with Europeans and of fueling already galloping US inflation, which has knocked his standing among Americans.
US sends more troops to Europe
The United States is sending 500 more troops to Europe to boost NATO security, an official said Monday as the Pentagon determined Russia has committed nearly all its combat power stationed along the border into Ukraine.
With President Vladimir Putin intensifying operations, a senior US defense official also warned that Russian strikes on civilians were mounting and that Moscow was seeking to recruit foreign fighters, notably Syrians, for the war.
The United States has already deployed 12,000 additional soldiers to Europe this year, but President Joe Biden has stressed that US troops will not engage in a conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine. Over the weekend, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered an extra “500 US military personnel to locations in Europe to augment existing forces,” the defense official told reporters. “These additional forces are going to be positioned to respond to the current security environment in light of Russia’s renewed aggression against Ukraine, and to reinforce deterrence and defensive capabilities of NATO.”