A senior US official said a large-scale cyberattack on Ukraine on Friday was a “tried and true part of the Russian playbook”, as Washington stepped up warnings that Moscow was making money. subject to a possible invasion of a neighboring country.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Victoria Nuland, the US secretary of state for political affairs, stopped short of blaming Russia for the cyberattack on dozens of Ukrainian government websites. But she says the episode is part of a familiar and unsettling pattern of action from Moscow.
“I am not ready to share anything about attribution at this time. I am simply saying that this is a tried and true part of the Russian playbook, as you know, worldwide,” Nuland said.
“In the past, Russian special forces have done this to destabilize governments, to test their own capabilities, to undermine the sense of trust the governments they have. So anything is possible here,” she added.
Nuland’s comments come on a day when the White House stepped up warnings that Russia was preparing for a military attack in Ukraine. They include a request that Moscow is seeking to create a pretext for war by deploying special forces in eastern Ukraine to conduct “false flag operations” to carry out “destructive actions against Russia’s own proxies.” “.
Allegations to at the end of a week of talks between the US, NATO and Russian officials to defuse the crisis, which Moscow dismissed as “unsuccessful”, raising fears that an invasion is now more likely.
The United States said that if Russia attacked Ukraine, it would face major retaliation from the United States and its allies in Europe, including economic and financial sanctions on a much larger scale. with Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Biden administration officials said the United States was prepared to roll out sanctions if needed, and their scope would depend on the nature of Russia’s aggression.
“I will not preview 18 different scenarios. . . I am simply saying that our commitment and our conversation with our allies around inflicting pain very quickly, should Russia take this action in any way,” Nuland said. .
However, she added that from the US perspective, the door to a diplomatic solution remains open and Washington is working on written responses to Russian officials.
“We want to keep talking,” Nuland said. “We believe that should be done on a reciprocal basis – namely that they will have grievances but we also have concerns.”
So far, the US has offered to discuss arms control and limit military exercises in the region but has rejected Russia’s demands to withdraw troops from some countries or ban them from participating in the alliance. Minh Nato.
“We believe we can de-escalate and we can make some progress on some of these issues through diplomacy,” Nuland said. “We hope and expect that with some of the ideas that we come up with, Moscow will stay at the table, but that’s Putin’s choice.”
“All we’ve done so far is listen to each other,” she added. “We have not started conversations where we will have to try to reach agreements, especially if they want these agreements to come into force. So we will need more time.”
Nuland, who served as the senior State Department official responsible for Europe during Barack Obama’s presidency, sought to dismiss concerns that some European nations would resist the sanctions. more forceful because of economic and political concerns, saying that negotiations with the allies were “very rich and very complete.” And the United States had “a very good picture of what we could do.” “.
“Remember that this is an act of aggression in Europe, and this is changing the map of Europe. So, you know, none of us want to ask our citizens or our companies to make sacrifices, but sometimes national and international security requires it,” she said.
However, Nuland said the US is trying to “understand” how exposed European countries are to sanctions, to “build that package as much as we can and everyone is willing to do.” presently”. She also suggested that the US and European sanctions may not be “identical”.
“Sometimes there are things that Europe can do harder for us and sometimes the opposite,” she said.