Russian officials on Thursday reacted to a report from The New York Times that said the US was warming to the idea of helping Ukraine strike Crimea despite the risk of a Russian escalation.
When asked about the report on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price didn’t deny its contents and said, “Crimea is Ukraine,” as the US hasn’t recognized Crimea as Russian since Russia took control of it in 2014.
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the US, responded to Price’s comments and the reports, likening the plans to potential “terrorist attacks” and warning of escalation.
“The State Department, through out-of-touch assertions that ‘Crimea is Ukraine’ and that the Armed Forces of Ukraine can use American weapons to protect their territory, is essentially pushing the Kiev regime to carry out terrorist attacks in Russia,” Antonov said, according to a press release from the Russian Embassy in the US.
“Hearing such remarks from Washington, the criminals in Kiev will once again feel complete permissiveness. The risks of conflict escalation will only increase,” he added.
Over in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the US delivering weapons for attacks on “Russian soil” was “extremely dangerous.” The Times report said that the Biden administration previously avoided supporting strikes on Crimea due to the risk of escalation, but that concern of Russia resorting to nuclear weapons has waned in Washington even though the risk clearly still exists.
“Naturally, the very discussion of the acceptability of supplying Ukraine with arms which would allow strikes to be delivered on Russian soil … is potentially extremely dangerous,” Peskov said. “This will mean taking the conflict to a whole new level which certainly will not bode well in terms of global European security.”
The US reasoning for being less concerned about escalation is based on the fact that Russia hasn’t used a nuclear weapon up to this point. But Moscow has shown a willingness to massively escalate the war in response to attacks on Crimea.
Russia didn’t start large-scale missile strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure until October, after the truck bombing of the Kerch Bridge, which connects Crimea to the Russian mainland. Since then, the bombardments have become routine, and millions of Ukrainians are struggling to power and heat their homes.