BERLIN, Jan 20 — Any further aggression by Russia would have “grave consequences”, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned today, as Berlin hosted crisis talks between the US and European allies on the threat of Russia invading Ukraine.

“We urge Russia to take steps towards de-escalation,” Baerbock told a press conference alongside her US counterpart Antony Blinken. 

“Any further aggressive stance, any further aggression, would have grave consequences,” she said. 

“Nothing less is at stake than the preservation of the European peace order.”

With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, fears are mounting that a major conflict could break out in Europe.

Blinken has embarked on a whirlwind tour of diplomacy to forge common ground with European allies, and is due to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.

US President Joe Biden earlier sparked controversy by appearing to indicate that a “minor incursion” by Russia might prompt a smaller response from NATO allies. The White House later downplayed the remark.

Speaking in Berlin, Blinken reiterated that Moscow would pay a high price for invading Ukraine.

“We have been very clear throughout,” he said. 

“If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border and commit new acts of aggression against Ukraine, that will be met with a swift severe response from the United States and our allies and partners.”

Baerbock added that the Western allies would not shy away from taking action, even if that included measures that “could have economic consequences for ourselves”.

The recently completed—but not yet certified—Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is due to double Russian gas supplies to Germany, has long been seen as a possible bargaining chip in the crisis.

Although Germany has previously insisted the pipeline was merely a commercial project and should not be halted for political reasons, Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently said “everything” was on the table.

Moscow insists it has no plans to invade Ukraine but has at the same time laid down a series of security demands—including a ban on Ukraine joining NATO—in exchange for de-escalation.

In London, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said any Russian incursion into Ukraine “would be a disaster for the world”. — AFP