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Secretary of State Blinken warns of severe response if a single Russian force enters Ukraine in an aggressive way

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before their meeting, in Geneva, Switzerland, January 21, 2022.
Alex Brandon | Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday reiterated his warning against a Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying any aggressive Russian interference would be met with a “severe” response.

“If a single additional Russian force goes into Ukraine in an aggressive way, as I said, that would trigger a swift, a severe and a united response from us and from Europe,” Blinken said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Russia has been amassing troops near its border with Ukraine, sparking Western concerns the Kremlin will launch an incursion into the Eastern European nation. An invasion could come as soon as within a month’s time, according to U.S. intelligence. Moscow, meanwhile, has said it has no plans to invade.

In an effort to deter the Kremlin, the Biden administration, along with its Western allies, have warned of harsh sanctions. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman previously said the sanctions look to target key Russian financial institutions and export controls on crucial industries.

The U.S. has stressed it will wait to impose sanctions, in an effort to strengthen the allies’ position.

“When it comes to sanctions, the purpose of those sanctions is to deter Russian aggression. And so if they are triggered now, you lose the deterrent effect,” he said.

Multiple high-stakes discussions have already taken place between U.S. and European officials and their Russian counterparts. The next steps are up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Blinken said.

“We’ve given Russia two paths. There’s a path of diplomacy and dialogue… But there’s also a path of its renewed aggression and massive consequences,” Blinken said. While a productive dialogue is the preferred step, Blinken said, the U.S. is continuing to build up its defense.

He later told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it’s “certainly possible” the Kremlin is just “going through the motions” of dialogue “and it won’t affect their ultimate decision about whether to invade or some other way intervene or not in Ukraine.”

–CNBC’s Amanda Macias contributed to this report.

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