Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Russia’s “playbook” for an invasion of Ukraine is making progress, although he said there is still an opportunity for diplomacy to avert a war.
“As we’ve described it, everything that precedes the actual invasion seems to be happening,” Blinken said on DailyExpertNews’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Ukraine’s defense ministry on Saturday reported more than 100 ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine and said the shelling continued on Sunday, while Russian troops remain in Belarus to continue military exercises that were said to have ended.
Blinken told DailyExpertNews’s Dana Bash that he was concerned that the extension of the exercises was another sign that Russia was setting the stage to invade, following “false flag” operations this week and the accumulation of more than 150,000 Russian troops along the border. border with Ukraine.
“Now they are justifying the continuation of ‘exercises’ that they said would now end, the indefinite continuation of those exercises without quotes about the situation in eastern Ukraine – a situation they have created by ramping up tensions, said Blinken.
Still, Blinken said the US would continue to try to find a final diplomatic way. He said President Joe Biden is willing to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin “at any time, in any form” if it will help prevent a war, and said the Biden administration will continue to take all possible steps to Persuade Moscow not to invade Ukraine.
“We believe President Putin has made the decision, but until the tanks are really rolling and the planes are flying, we will take every opportunity and every minute we have to see if diplomacy can still stop President Putin from doing this.” continue,” Blinken said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was in Germany on Saturday where he met Vice President Kamala Harris at the Munich security conference. Zelensky said he urged the US and Europe not to delay introducing sanctions against Russia, arguing that they would not help Ukraine if they were called in after an invasion had already begun.
Blinken said on Sunday that the US would not reveal the sanctions in advance because that would “allow Russia to try to make plans against them”.
“The primary purpose of the sanctions is to deter Russia from going to war,” he said. “Once you trigger them, that deterrent is gone and until the last minute, as long as we can try to deter this, we’re going to try.”
Blinken said that if Putin goes ahead with an invasion, the US and NATO have been clear that they will be “really, very hard on him and Russia”.
Asked if Putin could bluff, Blinken said: “There’s always a chance, but every indication we’ve seen, every move he’s made has followed the game we’ve mapped out for the world for the United States. Security Council, he follows the script almost to the letter.”
“Everything we see suggests that this is dead serious, that we are on the brink of invasion,” he added.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö told Bash in a separate interview that Putin “has behaved in a way that is very difficult to predict”.
“It’s very difficult to say and define what the other person really is, deep down. But so far I would say that he has behaved in a way that is very difficult to predict, but could also be intentional, namely to behave that way, because that brings confusion in the environment,” Niinistö said.
Blinken is meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Europe later this week in what would be another round of diplomatic talks that have been going on for weeks as Russian troops remain en masse at the border with Ukraine. But Blinken said the meeting would be called off in the event of an invasion.
“It all depends on what Russia does in the coming days,” he said. “If it doesn’t invade, I’ll be there.”