He said the way forward in Russia’s military buildup – the country currently has nearly 100,000 troops stationed near the border with Ukraine, raising concern among the United States and its allies who fear an invasion similar to the 2014 one – was entirely up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Look, I can’t tell you if it [an invasion is] “Probably or not,” Blinken said. I can tell you this: We are committed to dialogue and diplomacy to see if we can resolve these challenges peacefully. This is by far the preferred path, it is by far the most responsible path. But on the other hand, we are ready to deal very firmly with Russia if it chooses confrontation.”
Blinken stressed that progress must be reciprocal, with both sides taking steps to address the other’s concerns, but added that it was difficult to see progress “with a gun pointed at Ukraine’s head”. He said any actions taken would be in coordination with NATO allies, although President Joe Biden at the time unilaterally ruled out sending US troops to the disputed region.
He also said the possible consequences of a Russian invasion would include “things we haven’t done in the past” to counter past aggression from Moscow, such as economic and financial measures.
“I won’t telegram the details, but I think Russia has a good idea of the kinds of things it might face if it renews its aggression,” he said.
The foreign minister noted that it was Putin’s actions that created the crisis he claims to be facing. For example, Blinken said, in 2014, about 25 percent of Ukrainians supported the country’s entry into NATO. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, that number has skyrocketed. Also, after 2014, NATO felt compelled to put more equipment and troops closer to Russia.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Blinken said this crisis wasn’t just about Ukraine, which was part of the Soviet Union until it was dissolved in 1991.
“This is even bigger than Ukraine,” he said. This goes into some basic principles of international relations that ensure peace and security. The principle that a nation cannot simply change the borders of another nation by force. The principle that one nation cannot dictate to another its choices and with whom it will participate. The principle that we cannot have states exercising spheres of influence to subjugate their neighbours. That must be a relic of the past.”