G7 finance ministers issue warning as tensions remain high

The 47th Group of Seven summit logo. /CFP

Editor's Note: Freddie Reidy is a freelance writer based in London. He studied history and history of art at the University of Kent, Canterbury, specializing in Russian history and international politics. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Finance ministers of the G7 on Monday issued a joint statement outlining the financial support Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States intend to offer Ukraine.

The statement of support, drafted to "underline our (the G7's) readiness to act swiftly and decisively to support the Ukrainian economy," was also coupled with a threat designed to counter hostilities.

"We are prepared to collectively impose economic and financial sanctions which will have massive and immediate consequences for the Russian economy."

Over the weekend, NATO leaders had warned that an incursion in the Donbas region in Ukraine was imminent, with the U.S. stating that aerial bombardments could commence "at any time." U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also announced the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Kyiv to Lviv toward Ukraine's western border due to the increased threat.

UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss also advised UK citizens in Ukraine to "leave now" while commercial flights were still in operation.

However, despite the presence of "130,000 Russian troops" on the border, as reported in some Western media, and increasing alarm among Western leaders, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed during a call on February 14 that not all diplomatic pathways had yet been exhausted.

These sentiments were echoed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said, "There's always a chance" when Russian President Vladimir Putin asked him about the prospect of securing a diplomatic agreement that would allay Russia's regional security concerns during a recent televised meeting.

If, as Lavrov says, "shaking up" the debate regarding Russia's concerns in the region has yielded "a willingness to enter into serious negations," Russia should embrace this "crucial window of opportunity as various parties are still striving for a diplomatic solution.

The statement from the G7 finance ministers indicates that they are prepared to impose collective economic and financial sanctions against Russia, February 14, 2021. /CFP

A failure to do so would indicate an inclination toward ulterior motives. Where Moscow has ratcheted up the pressure with troop deployments, NATO's economic package of sanctions also carries a significant threat.

Any sovereign state retains the right to challenge, through diplomatic means, military build-ups on their borders. That is true of Russian forces on Ukraine's border and NATOs deployed forces on Russia's. Moscow has the right to challenge such a presence but also the obligation to work within a diplomatic framework to come to a mutual understanding under international law.

The substance of such an undertaking will form the bedrock of what is widely seen as "final talks" against a febrile diplomatic backdrop.

With such tensions at the forefront of world leaders' minds, all efforts must be undertaken to ensure that sanctions, whether military or economic, are conveyed as deterrents to hostilities and not used as a diplomatic cudgel to secure concessions.

If economic and military security are the objectives, then all efforts must be undertaken to avoid open conflict that is bound to inflict the majority of suffering on ordinary Russian and Ukrainian citizens.

Conflicts begin quickly but are seldom resolved with any haste. For veterans of the Soviet Union and NATO, the shared experience of Afghanistan is a testament to that fact and should serve as a timely reminder of the grave risk and folly of conflict.