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Biden admin threatens harsh sanctions against Russia if it invades Ukraine

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The Biden administration warned on Wednesday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would trigger xe2x80x9chigh impactxe2x80x9d U.S. sanctions that would surpass any previously imposed on Moscow.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking in the Latvian capital of Riga after meeting with his NATO counterparts, said Russiaxe2x80x99s large-scale troop buildup on Ukrainexe2x80x99s border and other pressure tactics resembled steps Moscow took before it invaded Ukraine in 2014 and seized the Crimean peninsula.

xe2x80x9cNow, wexe2x80x99ve seen this playbook before in 2014, when Russia last invaded Ukraine. Then as now they significantly increased combat forces along the border. Then as now they intensified disinformation to paint Ukraine as the aggressor to justify pre-planned military action,xe2x80x9d Blinken said.

But it remained unclear if Russian President Vladimir Putin planned to order an invasion, Blinken told reporters.

xe2x80x9cNow, we donxe2x80x99t know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade,” he said. “We do know that hexe2x80x99s putting in place the capacity to do so in short order should he so decide. So despite uncertainty about intentions, and time, we must prepare for all contingencies while working to see to it that Russia reverses course.”

CIA Director William Burns recently traveled to Moscow to convey Washingtonxe2x80x99s concerns, to urge a return to diplomacy to resolve the conflict between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukraine government, and to make clear xe2x80x9cthe severe consequences should Russia follow the path of confrontation in military action,xe2x80x9d Blinken said.

xe2x80x9cWexe2x80x99ve made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high impact economic measures that we have refrained from pursuing in the past,xe2x80x9d Blinken said.

Russia has deployed tens of thousands of combat troops on Ukrainexe2x80x99s border but has denied any aggressive plans toward Ukraine, saying it is only responding to what it calls provocative actions by Ukraine and NATO countries.

Blinken said the U.S. is urging Russia to reverse its troop buildup, pull back heavy weapons and recommit to the diplomatic process set up to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

xe2x80x9cThatxe2x80x99s how we can turn back from a crisis that will have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences for our bilateral relations with Moscow, for Russiaxe2x80x99s relations with Europe and for international peace and security,xe2x80x9d Blinken said.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier that Russia would face serious political and economic consequences if it invades Ukraine.xc2xa0

The head of Ukrainexe2x80x99s military intelligence saidxc2xa0recently that Russia had more than 92,000 troops massed around Ukrainexe2x80x99s borders and was preparing for an attack by the end of January or beginning of February.

Ukraine, which wants to join the NATO military alliance, received deliveries of U.S. ammunition and Javelin missiles earlier this year, prompting criticism from Moscow.

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Dan De Lucexc2xa0is a reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit.xc2xa0

Abigail Williams is a producer and reporter for NBC News covering the State Department.

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