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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday dodged a question about whether there was “any scenario” in which U.S. troops would be deployed to defend Ukraine, saying that U.S. and European allies are looking at “practical and important” responses to Russian aggression in the region.
Blinken responded that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is preparing “massive consequences” for Russia if a “single additional Russian force” enters Ukraine.
“One of the things that we’ve been very clear about,” he said, “besides the massive economic financial consequences that would befall Russia if it further commits aggression against Ukraine, is the ongoing continued buildup of defense capacity in Ukraine and equally continuing to build up NATO’s defensive capacities, including on the so-called Eastern flank, the countries near Russia.
“The alliance is looking at very practical and important measures that it would take in the event of further Russian aggression,” he said.
Blinken told reporters Friday that he made clear to Russian Foreign Minister Sergie Lavrov during their in-person meeting last week that Russia has a choice when it comes to avoiding conflict with the U.S. and NATO.
“You can choose the path of diplomacy that can lead to peace and security or the path that will lead only to conflict, severe consequences, and international condemnation,” Blinken said.
President Biden in early December ruled out sending U.S. troops to Ukraine to help fight Russia in the event of a Russian invasion, which officials say appears imminent.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said earlier this month that there are about 200 Florida National Guard soldiers who are currently in Ukraine on a rotating basis dating back to 2015 to advise and train Ukrainian soldiers, and that the mission is expected to continue while officials monitor the situation on the ground.
Kirby wouldn’t say whether the U.S. military would withdraw in the event of a Russian invasion, but he said “force protection remains paramount in our minds” and “we will make all the appropriate and proper decisions to make sure our people are safe in any event.”
The U.S. delivered its first shipments of promised “lethal aid” to Ukraine Friday night, including around 200,000 pounds of ammunition and weapons for frontline defenders. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv hailed the shipment – delivered by airplane – as part of $2.7 billion of investments made in Ukraine.
The embassy also said the shipment “demonstrates the U.S. commitment to helping Ukraine bolster its defenses in the face of growing Russian aggression.”
Fox News’ Peter Aitken and Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.