Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Russia-Ukraine War

From a Wall Street Journal report:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken sat down with WSJ Editor in Chief Matt Murray at the WSJ CEO Council Summit to reflect on U.S. global concerns, most notably the country’s relationship with Ukraine and where things stand in its war with Russia as the one-year anniversary of the conflict draws near. Here is a condensed and edited excerpt of their conversation.

Matt Murray: We reported today that the U.S. has modified the Himars [rocket launchers the U.S. sent to Ukraine] a bit to prevent some long-range firing. How concerned in general are you about the escalation risk at this point?

Antony Blinken: Our focus is on continuing to do what we’ve been doing, which is to make sure that Ukraine has in its hands what it needs to defend itself, what it needs to push back against the Russian aggression, to take back territory that’s been seized from it since Feb. 24. To make sure as well that it has the support economically and on a humanitarian basis to withstand what’s happening to the country every single day.

Murray: Winter is now here. The Ukrainians obviously have made great gains. From here on out, what’s the Ukrainian objective ultimately in terms of territory?

Blinken: Let’s look at what Russia has been trying to do because that will also tell you where Ukraine is trying to go. First, Russia tried, in effect, to erase Ukraine’s identity as an independent country, to subsume it back into Russia. That was Putin’s self-described No. 1 objective. That’s failed, and it won’t succeed. Then, they engaged in a land grab to get as much as they could in eastern and southern Ukraine. That, too, is now failing. The current objective is to take the war to the Ukrainian people. Putin is directing his ire and his fire at Ukrainian civilians, trying to take out the energy infrastructure, to turn off the heat, the water, the lights. So, the primary challenge now for Ukraine is to resist that.

Murray: Is there still any off-ramp for the Russians?

Blinken: At some point this will end and it will end almost certainly with diplomacy, with a negotiation. But what I think we have to see is a just and durable peace, not a phony peace. One of the things that you can imagine is the Russians trying to find an off-ramp that would be a phony off-ramp, by which I mean, “Oh, let’s have a ceasefire, let’s just freeze things in place.” Never negotiate about the territory that they have seized and continue to hold. Rest. Refit. Regroup. Re-attack.

Murray: So you’re saying that’s not something the U.S. could really support?

Blinken: The point is this: Unless and until Russia demonstrates that it’s interested in meaningful diplomacy, it can’t go anywhere. If and when it does, we’ll be the first to be ready to help out.

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