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Blinken Factors in ‘Possibility of Escalation’ at Year Anniversary of War in Ukraine

February 25, 2023 by Kate Michael
Blinken Factors in ‘Possibility of Escalation’ at Year Anniversary of War in Ukraine
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken talks to journalists during a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu following their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

WASHINGTON — Despite not wanting “to broaden this war [in Ukraine] or create wider conflagration,” the United States does have to “factor in the possibility of escalation,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told The Atlantic during an interview closing in on the one-year anniversary of the conflict.

“We are in a fundamental competition to shape what comes next,” Blinken said. 

While resisting the Cold War label, he admitted that recent events may be reminiscent of the most tense moments of the Cold War, such as Russia suspending participation in New START, the last remaining nuclear arms control agreement.

“I don’t see it as a Cold War,” Blinken said. “I see … a war [of] standing up against aggression [to ensure] peace and security around the world.”

Intelligence was essential in the lead-up to the war and remains crucial as allies support Ukraine today. 

Blinken claimed the U.S. not only had “explicit information” about Russia’s thoughts and plans in advance of its aggression in Ukraine in 2022 but that for many months, the U.S. had been “working quietly to make sure Ukrainians had in their hands what they would need” to repel the invasion of Kyiv.

The U.S. helped Ukraine to walk a careful line between preparation for the Russian attack and raising public concerns that might harm the Ukrainian economy in those early days. And now, allies are focusing on getting Ukrainians “what they need in the months ahead to have the maximum effect possible” while also preventing Russia from “repeating the exercise” in the future.

But intelligence continues to tell Blinken that trouble may be brewing. 

The U.S. has “picked up information” over the last couple of months that China is considering “aiding and abetting the Russian war effort in Ukraine in a material way,” he said.

Fearful over the last year that Russia’s actions would “open a Pandora’s box” to other would-be aggressors, including China itself, Blinken said that just as the U.S. engaged in “intense diplomacy” with Russia to try to prevent the war from happening for many months before February 2021, the U.S. has warned China not to supply lethal aid to Russia and expand the crisis. 

“The last thing Putin needs is himself in a wider war,” Blinken said. “If Putin did something like that … brought NATO in … that’s the last thing he wants.”

China, for its part, has said Beijing would release a document as soon as next week explaining its position on the political settlement of the Ukraine conflict. 

“Our alliance is strong, solid and standing up to Russia,” Blinken said. 

Under President Biden’s direction, Blinken said the U.S. would continue to help Ukraine with security assistance and strategic support, but, “it’s also important that there be an end to the fighting in a way that is just and durable” … and that is negotiated and decided by the Ukrainians.

“[This war] is not about ideologies, it’s about an imperialist power trying to aggress another country,” Blinken said. “It was never about NATO enlargement or a threat to Russia’s security. It’s about Putin’s vision.”

Kate can be reached at Kate@thewellnews.com

  • Antony Blinken
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