Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers are meeting in the northern English city of Liverpool to seek a united front against Russian aggression toward Ukraine.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is hosting the meeting with her G7 counterparts as the wealthy nations face growing tensions, not only with Russia, but also China and Iran.
“We need to defend ourselves against the growing threats from hostile actors," Truss said as she opened the meeting of foreign ministers from the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. “And we need to come together strongly to stand up to aggressors who are seeking to limit the bounds of freedom and democracy.”
Truss and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met late on December 10 and “expressed deep concern about a buildup of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border,” the British government said. The two politicians said “any incursion by Russia would be a strategic mistake for which there would be serious consequences.”
Blinken and new German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also met the same evening and agreed that “a strong response was needed should Moscow escalate,” the State Department said in a statement.
Ukraine is at the center of a crisis that triggered a flurry of diplomacy this week over a buildup of tens of thousands of Russian troops near Russia’s border with Ukraine and concerns that it may be a prelude to invasion.
Truss addressed the buildup in comments to reporters on December 10, saying a military move on Ukraine would be “a strategic mistake,” and echoed U.S. President Joe Biden in saying an invasion would be met with severe consequences for Moscow.
The situation led to a crisis call between Biden and President Vladimir Putin, who denied that Russia is planning to attack Ukraine and expressed Moscow’s demand for security guarantees against NATO’s expansion to the former Soviet republic.
During the call, Biden told Putin that Moscow will face "severe economic sanctions" should Russian troops launch an attack against Ukraine. Biden also called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy about the situation and held a conference call with the leaders of nine NATO members on the alliance’s eastern flank.
Zelenskiy has pressed the United States for NATO membership to help defend itself against Russia. The Kremlin has called NATO membership for Ukraine “a red line.”
While Biden said in June that Ukraine is far from ready for membership in the alliance, his administration has repeatedly stated that Russia does not have veto power over the country’s geopolitical orientation.
Truss warned before the meeting that “free democratic nations” must wean themselves off Russian gas and Russian money to preserve their independence. The issue has again come to the fore in Europe this year amid record-high natural gas prices.
Truss said she wanted to work with other countries “to make sure that free democratic nations are able to have an alternative to Russian gas supplies.”
Russia supplies Europe with about 35 percent of its natural gas needs, giving it leverage over nations. Some Western officials have accused Russia of using its energy dominance in Europe as a “weapon.”
Russia’s market share could potentially increase in the coming years as European gas production declines, analysts have said. Russia has recently completed Nord Stream 2, a new natural gas pipeline that will double exports to Germany.
The pipeline, which has yet to launch, runs under the Baltic Sea, circumventing Ukraine and depriving the country of about $2 billion in transit fees.
Many European nations oppose the project, which is backed by the German government. Truss met on the sidelines of the G7 meeting with Baerbock, whose Green Party previously spoke out against Nord Stream 2.
The diplomats will also discuss China’s increased military activity in the Indo-Pacific, efforts to vaccinate the world against the coronavirus, and negotiations in Vienna to try to revive the Iran nuclear deal.
Climate change, tensions in the western Balkans, Afghanistan and North Korea are also on the agenda.
The meeting of top diplomats from the United Kingdom., the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan is the final major event in Britain’s year as G7 president. Germany will take over the rotating G7 presidency next year.