The U.S. reasserted its intention to impose “swift, severe costs” on Russia if the Kremlin takes any aggressive acts, as Germany and France pushed forward a lagging diplomatic effort to restore peace in eastern Ukraine.
As diplomats met in Berlin on Thursday, Russia and Belarus began their largest joint military exercises in years — involving thousands of troops, armor, fighter aircraft and missile-defense systems. The maneuvers, scheduled to last until Feb. 20, take place near Ukraine’s border as well as NATO members Poland and Lithuania.
Moscow has repeatedly denied it plans an attack on Ukraine after the U.S. and its NATO allies warned a buildup of almost 130,000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border may be preparation for an invasion as soon as this month, including via Belarus from the north.
The former Soviet republic’s continuing conflict with Russia has cost the nation $280 billion in lost gross domestic product since 2014, according to a report by the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research. Russia’s annexation of Crimea eight years ago alone cost Ukraine as much as $8.3 billion annually, the research shows.
“Through a combination of a major loss of assets, diminished tax revenue, and a significant knock to the confidence in Ukraine’s economy, this has caused severe economic damage, directly affecting the lives of Ukrainians. Ukraine’s losses will have continued to mount since then,” Douglas McWilliams, CEBR’S deputy chairman and founder, said in the report.