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Russia has two paths before it on Ukraine, says secretary Blinken

By Caribbean News Global fav

WASHINGTON, USA – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday, ahead of talks Monday in Geneva, in an interview with Jake Tapper of CNN State of the Union, announced, “there are two paths before us,” relative to Russa in Eastern Europe and Ukraine: “ There’s a path of dialogue and diplomacy to try to resolve some of these differences and avoid a confrontation. The other path is confrontation and massive consequences for Russia if it renews its aggression on Ukraine. We’re about to test the proposition about which path president Putin’s prepared to take.”

Secretary Blinken continued: “We have important conversations between us starting tomorrow, as well as at NATO, as well as at the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe.  We’re going to listen to Russia’s concerns. They’re going to have to listen to our concerns. If they are proceeding in good faith, we think we can make progress in addressing concerns on both sides that would reduce tensions and deal with improving security. We’ll do that in close coordination with European allies and partners. We’ve made very clear to Russia that there’s going to be nothing about Europe without Europe. But ultimately, this is up to president Putin to decide which path he’s going to follow.”

As to what’s on the table for consideration on Monday, here’s what I can say, said secretary Blinken: “ First, any progress that we’re going to make is going to have to happen on a reciprocal basis, by which I mean if the United States and Europe are taking steps to address some of Russia’s concerns, Russia will have to do the same thing. Second, nothing’s happening without Europe. And third, it’s hard to see making actual progress as opposed to talking in an atmosphere of escalation with a gun to Ukraine’s head. So if we’re actually going to make progress, we’re going to have to see de-escalation, Russia pulling back from the threat that it currently poses to Ukraine.

And, as to “why are we here”, secretary Blinken, said:

“We’re here because repeatedly over the last decade, Russia has committed acts of aggression against neighbours: Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine in 2014, and now the renewed threat about Ukraine today. Second, there are large principles at stake that go to the fundamentals of international peace and security: the principle that one country can’t change the borders of another by force, the principle that one country can’t dictate to another its foreign policy and the choices – and its choices including with whom it will associate, the principle that one country can’t exert a sphere of influence to subjugate its neighbours.

“All of that is on the table. That’s exactly why not only are we standing up, but we have rallied countries not just in Europe, but indeed beyond to make it clear to Russia that this aggression will not be accepted, will not be tolerated, will not stand, so that the choice is Russia. It’s also not about making concessions. It’s about seeing whether, in the context of dialogue and diplomacy, there are things that both sides, all sides can do to reduce tensions. We’ve done that in the past. We did it with the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty that unfortunately, Russia has violated and the previous administration pulled out of. We’ve done it in the context of the Conventional Forces in Europe agreements, including, for example, having confidence-building and transparency and other measures put in place on the way exercises take place. And those are certainly things that can be revisited if – if Russia is serious about doing it.”

What sanctions is the US willing to impose, and are US troops as part of a NATO or international force on the table?

“Well, first, when it comes to consequences, it’s not just us who has been saying this. The G7, the leading democratic economies in the world, made clear there would be massive consequences for renewed Russian aggression. So has the European Union, so has NATO. And we have been working very closely with all of these countries in recent weeks to elaborate those, to come to agreement on the steps that we would take together in the event of renewed Russian aggression, including things that we’ve not done in the past in the face of previous Russian aggression: economic, financial, other measures. I’m not going to telegraph the details, but I think Russia has a pretty good idea of the kinds of things it would face if it renews its aggression.

Second, we’ve made clear that we will continue to provide and supply Ukraine with defensive military equipment to be able to defend itself. And it’s also clear that in the event of further Russian aggression, NATO is going to have to further reinforce its eastern flank. And you know Jake, what’s interesting about all of this is that president Putin talks about lots of things he’s concerned about,” secretary Blinken added. Back in 2014, before Russia invaded Ukraine, 25 percent of Ukrainians supported Ukraine joining NATO. Now it’s about 60 percent. Similarly, after 2014, NATO felt compelled because of Russian aggression to put more forces and more equipment on its eastern flank close to Russia. So it’s president Putin’s actions that are precipitating what he says he doesn’t want.”

However, secretary Blinken noted there’s now an opportunity – if he takes it – through dialogue, through diplomacy to see if we can address any legitimate Russian concerns as well as address many concerns that the United States and Europe have over Russia’s conduct.

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said a few years ago that what he believes drives Putin is a desire to restore the old Soviet Union. Do you agree? Tapper inquired.

“ I think that’s right. I think that’s one of president Putin’s objectives, and it is to re-exert a sphere of influence over countries that previously were part of the Soviet Union. And as we’ve said, that’s unacceptable. We can’t go back to a world of spheres of influence. That was a recipe for instability, a recipe for conflict, a recipe that led to world wars. We’re not going back to that.

On the question of whether an invasion is likely – do you think an invasion of Ukraine is likely?, secretary Blinken, said:

“Look, I can’t tell you whether it’s likely or not. I can tell you this: We’re committed to dialogue and diplomacy to see if we can resolve these challenges peacefully. That is by far the preferable course; it’s by far the most responsible course. But equally, we’re prepared to deal very resolutely with Russia if it chooses confrontation if it chooses aggression. We’ll see. It is now up to president Putin to decide which path he wants to follow.  We’re prepared, again – he reiterated, starting this week to talk through all of this, to hear their concerns, for them to hear ours, to see if we can make progress.”

Read the full transcript here.



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