West to warn Putin in trio of summits

* Unprecedented trio of NATO, G7 and EU summits in one day

* A show of unity by military, economic and diplomatic powers

* NATO to agree on further troops for its eastern flank

* EU divided on energy sanctions, to address energy crunch

By John Chalmers

BRUSSELS, March 24 (Reuters) – Western nations will warn Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that his country will pay “ruinous” costs for invading Ukraine during an unprecedented one-day trio of NATO, G7 and EU summits that will be attended by US President Joe Biden.

The hectic day of summitry to maintain Western unity will kick off at the transatlantic defence alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, where leaders will agree to ramp up military forces on Europe’s eastern flank.

Alarmed by the prospect that Russia might escalate the war with its neighbour after a grinding month-long conflict, the 30 nations of NATO will also agree to send Kyiv equipment to defend against biological, chemical and nuclear attacks.

The resolve to punish Moscow with massive sanctions will be underlined by an emergency meeting of the G7 advanced economies, including Japan. Then, with a summit of the 27-nation European Union, countries representing more than half of the world’s gross domestic product will have met in one day.

“We must ensure that the decision to invade a sovereign independent country is understood to be a strategic failure that carries with it ruinous costs for Putin and Russia,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the EU parliament on Wednesday.

Russia’s assault on Ukraine has killed thousands and driven almost a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes, according to United Nations data, including more than 3.5 million who have fled the country.

Putin says his forces are engaged in a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will address both the NATO and EU summits by video-conference.

He has pleaded, without success, for NATO to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but Western allies have imposed sweeping sanctions against Russia and provided weapons and aid worth billions of dollars for Ukraine’s defence.

EASTERN FLANK

NATO has sharply increased its presence on the eastern borders of the alliance, with some 40,000 troops spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the leaders would discuss deploying four new combat units in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia .

“I expect leaders will agree to strengthen NATO’s posture in all domains, with major increases in the eastern part of the alliance. On land, in the air and at sea,” he told a news conference on Wednesday ahead of the summit.

Washington said Biden and his European counterparts would announce new sanctions against Russia and measures to tighten existing sanctions. However, EU diplomats played down expectations of major new sanctions.

EU measures taken so far include freezing Russian central bank assets, but some member states are resisting calls to target Russian energy exports as they are heavily reliant on them.

“I don’t expect any big announcements or decisions,” one EU diplomat said. “Its more about taking stock and looking towards the future to see where further lines of action would lie.”

EU leaders are expected to agree at their two-day summit to jointly buy gas, as they seek to cut reliance on Russian fuels and build a buffer against supply shocks.

Brussels is also aiming to strike a deal with Biden to secure additional US liquefied natural gas supplies for the next two winters.

“The consequences of this war on Europe´s security architecture will be far-reaching,” the president of the EU’s executive, Ursula von der Leyen, aid on Wednesday. “And I am not just talking about security in military terms. But also energy security, and even food security are at stake.” (Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Kate Abnett, Sabine Siebold and Jan Strupczewski Editing by Gareth Jones)

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