© AP/Sarabeth Maney
Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
The US has some 18 "different scenarios" up its sleeve to react to any form of Russian attack on Ukraine, leading official Victoria Nuland has warned, promising to inflict "sharp pain" on Moscow should it make such a move. Nuland, who currently serves as undersecretary of state for political affairs in President Joe Biden's government, made the thinly veiled threat in an interview with the Financial Times published on Saturday. Nuland said:
"I'm not going to preview 18 different scenarios ... I would simply say that our commitment and the conversation that we have with our allies is around inflicting very sharp pain very fast, if Russia makes this move in any form."
Western media, as well as multiple US officials, have repeatedly warned of an imminent "invasion" of Ukraine by Moscow over the past few months. Washington and its allies have cited the movement of Russian troops within the country's vast Western territory as 'proof' of such plans. Moscow has consistently denied the allegations, insisting it has a right to carry out military maneuvers within its borders as it pleases.

Nuland failed to specify any of the multiple scenarios she hinted at in the interview. At the same time, the official said the US was still open to dialog with Moscow, while revealing that Washington has been working on a written response to the comprehensive security deal draft proposed by Russia.

Nuland said:
"We want to keep talking. We believe that it needs to be done on the basis of reciprocity - namely, they're going to have grievances but we have concerns, too."
The official also touched upon a massive cyberattack, reported by Ukrainian government agencies on Friday. While avoiding blaming Russia for the attack directly, she suggested Moscow might have had its hand in it, citing the allegations of involvement of state-backed "Russian hackers" in similar incidents worldwide.

On Saturday, Kiev said Belarus was responsible for the incident.

Nuland continued:
"I'm not ready to share anything on attribution at the moment. I would simply say that this is a tried and true part of the Russian playbook, as you know, all around the world. In the past, Russian operatives have done this to destabilize governments, to test their own capabilities, to undercut the sense of confidence of governments that they have gripes with. So anything is possible here."
Nuland is probably best-known in Russia for her involvement in the 2013-14 Maidan in Ukraine, which led to the establishment of an anti-Russian regime in Kiev. The violent events in the Ukrainian capital set the stage for an ongoing conflict between the government in Kiev and the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in the country's east. During the initial protests, Nuland was seen handing out cookies to demonstrators, with Moscow condemning her actions as direct interference with the crisis.