Blinken Delivers Closing Argument In Rebuke of Russia
America’s top diplomat refuted Russia’s claims that it is acting in self-defense on the Ukrainian border.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday rejected Russia’s claims that it is a victim trying to protect itself in a biting speech that detailed Moscow’s wrongdoings.
Blinken delivered the harsh rebuke from Berlin, the second stop on a European tour that also included a visit to Ukraine, where Russia is massing military equipment and troops on the border. On Friday, America’s top diplomat will meet in Geneva with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, to attempt once again to find a diplomatic end to the crisis that began late last year.
“The United States and our European allies and partners have repeatedly reached out to Russia with offers of diplomacy…So far, our readiness to engage in good faith has been rebuffed because in truth this crisis is not primarily about weapons or military bases,” Blinken said at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “At its core, it’s about Russia’s rejection of a post-Cold War Europe that is whole, free, and at peace.”
The United States has promised crippling consequences if Russia launches an attack with some or all of the 100,000 troops it has massed on Ukraine’s border. President Joe Biden said Wednesday night that if Russia invades, the United States would send more troops to eastern NATO members such as Poland and Romania. And top officials have repeatedly promised to impose economic sanctions that would destroy Moscow’s economy.
But Russia claims the military buildup is for self-defense against NATO troops and weaponry stationed in eastern Europe In December, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said that he was considering a military response to NATO’s provocative actions and America’s support for Ukraine. He blamed heightened tensions on both the alliance and the United States.
“If our western counterparts continue a clearly aggressive line, we will undertake proportionate military-technical countermeasures and will respond firmly to unfriendly steps,” Putin said in televised remarks. “I’d like to stress that we are fully entitled to do that.”
Blinken called those claims “absurd,” adding that “NATO didn’t invade Georgia. NATO didn’t invade Ukraine. Russia did.” If Russia really did have security concerns, he argued, officials would have accepted repeated American overtures to discuss them.
The United States is not the only one calling foul on Russia’s cries. On Monday, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace criticized Russia for its “false narratives,” and said it’s an “outlandish notion” that NATO is threatening Russia.
Blinken also clapped back against Russian claims that it feels threatened by NATO troops and weapons in countries along its border. He listed multiple times that Russia broke various security commitments. While Moscow claims that NATO is surrounding and threatening its country, just 6 percent of Russia’s border touches countries in the alliance, Blinken said. Russia complains about the rotational force of about 5,000 NATO troops in Baltic countries and Poland, yet Russia sends 20 times as many troops to Ukraine’s border, Blinken said. Putin claims that NATO is stationing missiles too close to his territory, but Russia is the one who developed missiles that can reach most of Europe in violation of the INF Treaty.
“One country has repeatedly gone back on its commitments and ignored the very rules it agreed to, despite others working hard to bring it along at every step. That country is Russia,” he said.
Blinken closed with an appeal directly to the Russian people, reiterating that Putin is lying when he claims that Russia is under attack.
“You deserve to live with security and dignity…and no one – not Ukraine, not the United States, not NATO or its members – is seeking to jeopardize that,” he said. “What really risks your security is a pointless war with your neighbors in Ukraine.”
Though some experts have urged the United States to bring this argument to the United Nations, Blinken delivered the speech at the German Marshall Fund think tank in Berlin. While he was not speaking on the world stage, he did use the location to point out the historical consequences of one of Russia’s past oversteps into Berlin.
“It seems at times that President Putin wants to return to that era. We hope not, but if he chooses to do so he’ll be met with the same determination, the same unity, that past generations of leaders and citizens brought to bear to advance peace, to advance freedom,” he said.