United States warns of 'swift, severe, united' response to any Russian aggression on Ukraine

ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine reports on how sincere Russia's diplomatic strategy seems amid the heightened risks of a conflict with Ukraine

The United States has warned any form of Russian aggression against Ukraine will be met with a "swift, severe, united" response after a series of diplomatic meetings in Switzerland.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Russian counterpart foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, the latest in a series of senior diplomatic meetings aimed at defusing tensions.Mr Blinken warned any movement of troops into Ukrainian territory would be a "renewed invasion," referencing the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014.

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He added said "Russia has an extensive playbook short of military actions," like cyber attacks and espionage, which he said would also trigger some response from the US and its allies.Despite the strong words and seemingly intractable positions, Mr Blinken also said he believed the US and Russia were on a "clearer path to understanding each other’s positions" after the meeting ended.

Mr Lavrov called the talks "constructive and useful" and said that the US agreed to provide written responses to Russian demands on Ukraine and NATO next week.

That could at least delay any imminent aggression.

Mr Lavrov said he wouldn't go into detail on the contents of the pledge and said they needed to wait until they had received it, adding "I can’t say whether we are on the right track or not."

Mr Blinken said the US and its allies were ready for "either path" Russia takes - whether that is military invasion or diplomatic deescalation.

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The US was eager to emphasise any intrusion onto Ukrainian soil would trigger a response after President Joe Biden appeared to say a minor incursion would trigger a lesser response on Thursday.

He said: "It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion… but if they actually do what they are capable of doing it’s going to be a disaster for Russia.”

This was met with fury by the Ukrainian government and the White House was forced to issue a claficiation.

Earlier Mr Blinken warned that a stand-off over Ukraine is at a “critical moment” as the tensions reached their highest point.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says no negotiations involving Ukraine or Europe can take place without them

Ahead of their meeting Mr Blinken: "We don’t expect to resolve our differences here today. But I do hope and expect that we can test whether the path of diplomacy or dialogue remains open."

Mr Lavrov also said he believed the chance of a breakthrough was low.

With 100,000 Russian troops massed near the Ukrainian border, many fear Moscow is preparing to invade.

The US and its allies are scrambling to present a united front to hopefully prevent that or coordinate a response if they cannot.

Moscow has demanded concessions from NATO over the western alliance’s relationship with Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.

Ukraine has been reinforcing its border Credit: AP

Russia says Ukraine joining the defensive alliance would be a red line for them.

They argue they have been forced to move troops to the border in retaliation to western encroachment.

The west has refused to concede to Russia's demand around moving troops from the eastern most NATO countries and barring and more former Soviet Republics from joining.

They say joining NATO is a democratic choice made by individual countries and it is a defensive alliance.

Mr Blinken said NATO's "open-door" policy to membership would not be compromised.

Washington and its allies have repeatedly promised “severe” consequences such as tough economic sanctions – though not military action – against Russia if an invasion goes ahead.

Russian troops have been amassing at Ukraine's border Credit: AP

On Thursday in Berlin, Mr Blinken warned of a “swift, severe” response from the US and its allies if an invasion is launched, and the US treasury department slapped new sanctions on four Ukrainian officials.

Mr Blinken said the four were at the centre of a Kremlin effort that began in 2020 to damage Ukraine’s ability to “independently function”.

On Thursday, President Biden cautioned that any Russian troop movements across Ukraine’s border would constitute an invasion and that Moscow would “pay a heavy price” for such an action.

“I’ve been absolutely clear with President Putin,” Mr Biden said. “He has no misunderstanding: Any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.”