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Europe is drawing up plans to hit Russia with new sanctions amid demands for a swift response after Vladimir Putin threatened to use nuclear weapons in his war with Ukraine.

The Russian dictator announced a major escalation on Wednesday, including the mobilization of 300,000. Russian reservists and a warning that he will use “all means” at his disposal to win. “This is not a bluff,” Putin said.

The condemnation among Western allies was immediate. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called Putin’s plan a sign of “desperation”, while French President Emmanuel Macron said the Russian leader was committing a “new mistake.” Speaking at the United Nations in New York, US President Joe Biden said Putin’s threats should “freeze the blood.”

“Well, Putin is showing his weakness now because you can see that he plans to mobilize less trained, less experienced, less motivated personnel. And he wants to start a referendum on the sovereign Ukrainian soil, said the President of the European Commission. Ursula von der Leyen told CNN in an interview Wednesday. “I think this again requires sanctions on our part.”

Backstage in Brussels, European Commission officials were already quietly working on proposals for a new package of sanctions against Moscow. Putin’s intervention on Wednesday strengthened calls for new funds.

“Putin wants us to be scared, he wants us to split our unity when we think about the nuclear,” said Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu. “The most important thing is to communicate by doing. We must immediately increase military aid to Ukraine. We must increase the sanctions immediately. “

Four diplomats said the European Commission is ready to share the sanctions plan with EU countries as early as Friday. Measures under consideration include reducing the price of Russian oil as proposed by the G7, bringing in more people linked to the Kremlin, and a new crackdown on the luxury goods trade with Russia.

Putin’s war has waned in recent weeks after the Ukrainian counteroffensive has proved surprisingly successful. Armed with the precision weapons of the Western allies, Ukrainian forces regained tracts in the north of the country. This has left Putin facing humiliation, and Western allies believe this is what prompted his decision to escalate in Wednesday’s speech.

The reaction of Western military leaders was a display of collective peace. A spokesman for Biden’s national security council said there was no need to change policy yet.

One Western European diplomat put it this way: “Mobilization is a sign of weakness. I do not expect a qualitative shift in the West’s response; we will continue to support Ukraine ”.

“This speech was designed to have an impact that it should not,” said Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks.

“Nothing should change in the West’s reaction,” said POLITICO in a telephone interview, adding that support for Ukraine should continue.

Military analysts agreed: “I don’t think it will, and I don’t think it should change support for Ukraine,” said Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a leading researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

No change

Officials noted that Russia’s announcements do not necessarily reflect reality.

“So far, we have not seen any changes in the nuclear posture, nuclear readiness,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Reuters. Russia’s mobilization efforts, according to the head of NATO, “will take a long time.”

It is not known, however, whether Putin’s speech will affect the types of weapons systems that Western allies are ready to provide to Ukraine.

“I still believe there will be some reluctance – with the Ukrainian military doing as well as it is now – to escalate,” said Seth G. Jones, director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

According to Jones, there will likely be a desire to continue to supply weapons, training, and intelligence “in the foreseeable future.”

But, he said, “it is not currently clear to what extent NATO countries will be willing to provide more sophisticated types of weapons systems.”

Ryan Heath, Clea Caulcutt and Suzanne Lynch co-wrote the New York coverage. Leonie Kijewski and Stuart Lau contributed to the reports from Brussels.

CORRECTION: The previous version of this article was incorrect when Vladimir Putin announced the partial mobilization of Russian reservists. It happened on Wednesday.

This article is part of POLITICO Pro

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