OTTAWA—Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says Canada will join allies in imposing severe sanctions on Russian officials if the country takes further military action to compromise Ukrainian sovereignty.
Russia has positioned about 100,000 troops across Ukraine’s borders along with tanks and other heavy artillery, stoking fears across Europe of an invasion, but Russia has denied it intends to do that.
“The recently launched diplomatic process offers Russia two options: they can choose meaningful dialogue, or severe consequences,” Joly said in Brussels on Thursday where she was meeting with her European Union counterpart Josep Borrell.
“We of course, appreciate the EU’s collaboration on many deterrence measures, including economic ones. Canada will be ready to take additional measures, particularly with respect to the financial sector.”
On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden said he expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine but that he will pay a “dear price” for that.
Joly and Borrell were pressed about whether they agreed Biden’s remark that a “minor incursion” by Russia would lead to a lesser response. Biden attempted to clarify the comment, saying he was referring to non-military action such as a cyberattack and that if Russia launched a military attack “that changes everything.”
Borrell dismissed Biden’s phrasing as “nothing new” and said allies would respond in a way that would be “very costly for Russia.”
“If there is any kind of aggression against Ukraine … the warning of President Biden goes exactly the same direction in which we have been working,” said Borrell. “A threat is a threat.”
Joly referenced Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its fomenting of Russian separatist forces in Ukraine’s eastern region, when she replied: “Let me be clear, first, Russia is already in Ukraine. We’re talking about a real threat of a further invasion of Ukraine. So, in that sense, like my colleague just mentioned, a threat is a threat.”
Joly is to meet later Thursday with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, as she is wrapping her three-country tour that has included stops in Ukraine and France.
Joly had nothing new to say about whether Canada would answer the requests of Ukraine to supply weapons and military hardware. She said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is looking at “a range of options” that are based on the information she is gathering this week.
Joly’s trip is unfolding against a backdrop of other high-level meetings across Europe this week.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Berlin on Thursday for meetings with German, France and British officials, a group known as the Trans-Atlantic Quad that is playing a leading role in defusing the crisis.
Blinken has been invited to a meeting of the EU’s foreign affairs council early next week, said a EU spokesman.
By Mike Blanchfield