Source: Daily Mail
The United States today said its support for Lithuania is 'ironclad' and that any attack on the country would 'constitute an attack on all NATO members'.
It comes after Moscow threatened its neighbour with 'serious repercussions' for blocking EU-sanctioned goods from reaching the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
The US State Department said Washington would defend NATO member Lithuania if Russia decided to launch an assault on the country.
'We stand by our NATO allies and we stand by Lithuania,' US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday.
'Specifically, our commitment to NATO's Article Five - the premise that an attack on one would constitute an attack on all - that commitment on the part of the United States is ironclad,' he said.
Russia has vowed to retaliate against Lithuania with measures that 'will have a serious negative impact on the Lithuanian population' after the country blocked coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology from mainland Russia to Kaliningrad.
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov hit back and warned the West to stop talking about triggering NATO's Article 5 mutual defence clause in a standoff between Lithuania and Russia.
'I would like to warn Europeans against dangerous rhetorical games on the topic of conflict,' the Interfax news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying on Wednesday.
The Kremlin meanwhile said today that the EU sanctions that led Lithuania to block the transit of some goods to Kaliningrad were 'absolutely unacceptable', and that Moscow was working on retaliatory measures.
Lithuania has shut the route to steel and other ferrous metals, which it says it is required to do under EU sanctions that took effect on Saturday, imposed in response to Russia's decision to send its armed forces into Ukraine.
Kaliningrad is connected to the rest of Russia by a rail link through Lithuania, a member of the EU and NATO.
'We are convinced that the illegal sanctions adopted by the European Union are absolutely unacceptable in this situation,' Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said in a call with reporters, adding that countermeasures were being prepared.
But Peskov and Russian officials have remained tight-lipped about the exact nature of Moscow's response.
Earlier on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Russia's retaliation would not be exclusively diplomatic but also practical. She also did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said on Tuesday: 'Russia will certainly respond to such hostile actions. Relevant measures are being worked out in the interdepartmental format and will be taken in the near future.'
'Their consequences will have a serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania,' Patrushev, a former KGB spy, added.
Asked about Russia's statements, Price said, 'We aren't going to speculate on Russian sabre-rattling or Russian bluster and don't even want to give it additional airtime.'
Price added that the US welcomed the 'unprecedented economic measures' taken by Lithuania and other nations against Russia over its invasion.
It comes as retired Russian general Evgeny Buzhinsky urged Putin to send nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad.
The President's spokesman also weighed in, warning Moscow will never trust the West again following the move.
The Lithuanian government stressed in a written statement Tuesday that 'the transit of passengers and non-sanctioned goods to and from the Kaliningrad region through Lithuania continues uninterrupted,' and that the ban on the transit of sanctioned goods was merely part of the fourth package of EU sanctions against Russia.
Top Lithuanian officials decried Russia's reaction to the measure as an attempt by the Kremlin to wind up a propaganda campaign trying to create an image of a 'blockade' mainly for internal consumption.
'It's ironic to hear rhetoric about alleged violations of international treaties from a country which has violated possibly every single international treaty,' Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte told reporters.
'There is no Kaliningrad blockade,' Simonyte said. 'Lithuania is implementing EU sanctions.'