The United States has threatened Russia with "serious consequences" if it launches any military action in neighboring Ukraine, despite the fact that Moscow has rejected Washington’s allegations of preparing to invade the country.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with NATO foreign ministers in the Latvian capital Riga on Tuesday where he accused Russia of preparing for an attack on Ukraine by building up troops at the northern and eastern Ukrainian border.
Blinken told reporters that "any renewed aggression would trigger serious consequences," according to Reuters.
"Any escalatory actions by Russia would be a great concern to the United States," he said at a news conference before the meeting in Riga.
"We will be consulting closely with NATO allies and partners in the days ahead ... about whether there are other steps that we should take as an alliance to strengthen our defenses, strengthen our resilience, strengthen our capacity,” he added.
US and NATO military officials have claimed that Russia could be contemplating such incursion, citing, what they call, "unusual" Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday also warned Russia against escalating any conflict in Ukraine.
"There will be a high price to pay for Russia if they once again use force against the independence of the nation," he said, according to Reuters.
The NATO ministers will “together send an unmistakable message to the Russian government: NATO’s support for Ukraine is unbroken and its independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty are not up for discussion,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, according to The Associated Press.
Maas added that “Russia would have to pay a high price for any form of aggression.”
“Honest and sustainable de-escalation steps, which can only go via the route of talks, are all the more important now. I will not tire of stressing that the door to such talks is still open to Russia,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow will act if the US-led NATO military alliance crosses its red lines in Ukraine.
Putin said the expansion of NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine was a red line he hoped would not be crossed.
The Russian leader further said Moscow would view the deployment of certain offensive missile capabilities on Ukrainian soil as a trigger.
Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused NATO of deploying a significant amount of military hardware near Russia's borders.
The top Russian diplomat said Moscow would respond to security threats from Western countries and Ukraine if necessary.
Russia has repeatedly said it was free to move its troops around within its own borders.
Washington and its allies have been harping on about, what they claim is, Moscow's ill-intentioned plans for Ukraine since 2014, when a wave of protests overthrew Ukraine's democratically-elected pro-Moscow government and replaced it with a Western-leaning administration.
A crisis followed after the majority of people in Ukraine's Donetsk and Lugansk regions refused to accept the new changes and took up arms against Ukrainian troops.
Kiev and the Western countries accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis. Moscow denies the allegations.