After a week of intensive diplomacy in a variety of international for a regarding Russia’s ongoing and unprovoked military build-up in and near Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is continuing diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis. On January 19, he met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv. And he is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on January 21.
Speaking at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv before his consultations with Ukrainian officials, Secretary Blinken warned that if Russia further invades Ukraine, basic principles that undergird the international system and are key to maintaining peace will be challenged: that one nation cannot change the borders of another by force; that one nation cannot dictate to another its choices; and that nations cannot exert spheres of influence to try to subjugate their neighbors.
“If we allow those principles to be violated with impunity, then we will open a very large Pandora’s box, and the entire world is watching,” Secretary Blinken said.
After meeting with Ukraine’s top leaders, Secretary Blinken held a press conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba. There he reiterated the United States’ “steadfast commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” That is why, he said, “We will continue our relentless diplomatic efforts to prevent renewed aggression and to promote dialogue and peace.”
At the same time, Secretary Blinken noted, “We continue to bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend itself and make clear the costs the United States and Europe will impose on Moscow if it rejects the diplomatic path . . . and proceeds with an unwarranted, unprovoked, unacceptable invasion or destabilization of Ukraine.”
Secretary Blinken emphasized that “the strength of our diplomacy, our deterrence, and any response to Moscow’s aggression demands unity –among our allies and partners, as well as within Ukraine . . . Ukrainians have to stick together, especially at this time.”
He noted that one of Russia’s longstanding goals “has been to try to sow divisions within Ukraine, to make it harder for Ukrainians to work together to realize their Euro-democratic ambitions . . . Don’t let Moscow divide you,” he said.
“As you stand up to efforts to divide, to intimidate, to threaten,” Secretary Blinken declared, “the United States stands with you resolutely in your right to make decisions for your own future, to shape that future as Ukrainians for Ukraine.”