U.S. vows to hold Russia accountable for “consequences” of its actions

U.S. Secretary of State John Blinken said Russia’s alleged malicious activities against the United States will have “costs and consequences.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN, Blinken said that when the U.S. chooses, “we will take the necessary steps to defend our interests.

He said Western allies “have a shared commitment” to “stay awake” to Moscow’s actions and to hold the Kremlin accountable.

The chief U.S. diplomat said U.S. officials are “considering” what sanctions or actions Washington plans to take against Moscow and consulting with other NATO countries.

“When we can do that in a coordinated way, we’re stronger,” he said.

While the U.S. and Russia quickly agreed to extend a nuclear arms control agreement that will expire shortly after President Joe Biden‘s inauguration, the U.S. has accused Russia of other actions, including allegedly offering a bounty for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, interfering in the November election Biden won and hacking into U.S. computer systems.

Blinken’s remarks in an interview with CNN echoed those of Biden, who has taken a tougher stance on Russia than his predecessor Trump.

Two weeks ago, Biden said in an interview with ABC that he considers Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer.

“The price he’s going to pay, well, you’ll see it soon,” Biden said in the interview, while adding that Biden wants to be able to “walk and chew gum and work together where it’s in our mutual interest.”

“That’s why I extended the (nuclear arms reduction) agreement with them. Just as he’s doing that.” He was clearly referring to Putin’s election meddling efforts. “But it was overwhelming, and we reduced the prospect of a nuclear exchange for the good of humanity.”

Russia denies interfering in the U.S. election and has denied orchestrating a hack that used U.S. tech company Sunwind to infiltrate U.S. government networks. In addition, it has rebuffed reports that it offered bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan or tried to poison Russian opposition leader Navalny.

U.S. intelligence analysis has concluded that Putin likely directed a campaign of election meddling to try to help Trump win a second four-year term in the White House.

It is unclear what action Biden might consider against Russia; however, he could invoke any of several punitive measures, including freezing the U.S. assets of any entity found to have interfered directly or indirectly in the U.S. election or in “cyber-enabled” activities from abroad that threaten U.S. national security.

In addition, a 1991 law allows the President of the United States to prohibit U.S. banks from making loans to a country that has used chemical weapons, as in the Navalny case.