At a news conference a few days ago, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was asked whether the Biden administration had a “red line” in Ukraine, a point beyond which Russian aggression toward the country would incite a dramatic American response.
Mr. Blinken wouldn’t bite. “The U.S. has real concerns about Russia’s unusual military activity on the border with Ukraine,” he said, with notable understatement. No red line was drawn. The State Department spokesman batted aside a similar question on Tuesday, saying only that “any escalatory or aggressive actions would be of great concern.”
U.S. officials often avoid questions about red lines, which when crossed can damage their credibility if they do not act. But in the case of Russia — which has been moving the estimated 90,000 troops it has on its border with Ukraine in ways that officials say might presage an invasion — the Biden administration has been conspicuously vague about when, and how, it might come to Ukraine’s defense.
At the same time, U.S. officials are hammering out steps with partner countries to punish any Russian provocations, including new economic sanctions.
“We have administration officials in Europe trying to work towards coordinating what those economic measures would be,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a Russia expert with the Center for a New American Security who advised the Biden transition team. She said such action could include sanctions on Russian banks and energy producers and the country’s sovereign debt.
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