WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken stated on Wednesday that Russia’s intentions behind its newest navy buildup alongside Ukraine’s japanese border had been unclear, however that Moscow can be making a “serious mistake” by committing new aggression towards its embattled neighbor.
“We don’t have clarity into Moscow’s intentions, but we do know its playbook,” Mr. Blinken stated at a joint information convention on the State Department with Ukraine’s international minister, Dmytro Kuleba.
“Any escalatory or aggressive actions would be of great concern to the United States,” Mr. Blinken added.
He met together with his Ukrainian counterpart amid reviews of recent Russian navy deployments close to the border, elevating alarms in Kyiv and Washington once more after a enormous focus of Russian troops in the realm this spring.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry stated final week that about 90,000 Russian troops had been stationed close to its border. It was unclear what number of of them had been newly positioned; U.S. officers stated in May that as many as 80,000 Russian troops remained deployed in the realm even after Moscow introduced a partial pullback.
Biden administration officers have been attempting to defuse a potential new disaster. The C.I.A. director William J. Burns traveled to Moscow final week for a rare assembly with Kremlin officers.
The new tensions comply with a interval of relative calm in U.S.-Russia relations, throughout which Biden officers have sought to flee an escalating cycle of confrontation with the Kremlin and discover areas of cooperation with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
Mr. Blinken instructed that Russia may attempt to repeat its assault on elements of Ukraine, a former Soviet republic whose political management has turned towards the West in current years, infuriating Mr. Putin. After a largely pro-Western well-liked revolution overthrew the Ukrainian president in early 2014, Russian troops annexed the Crimean Peninsula and supported a pro-Russian separatist insurgency in japanese Ukraine that continues at this time.
“Our concern is that Russia may make the serious mistake of attempting to rehash what it undertook back in 2014, when it amassed forces along the border, crossed into sovereign Ukrainian territory and did so claiming falsely that it was provoked,” Mr. Blinken stated.
“The message we’re sending today, that I repeated to Dmytro, is that our commitment to Ukraine sovereignty — to its independence, to its territorial integrity, is ironclad,” he continued. “And the international community will see through any Russian effort to resort to its previous tactics.”
But Andrew S. Weiss, a Russia and Ukraine skilled on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned that Mr. Putin had appreciable leverage.
“Putin is a master at jerking our chain and throwing us off-balance,” stated Mr. Weiss, a veteran of a number of authorities nationwide safety posts. “He also likes reminding us that he has escalation dominance in the Ukraine conflict, and that he cares about this issue much more than Western leaders do. That makes things very dicey.”
Mr. Kuleba stated he appreciated U.S. assist for his nation, however he additionally renewed Ukraine’s complaints in regards to the newly accomplished Nord Stream 2 pure gasoline pipeline between Russia and Germany. Ukrainian officers say Nord Stream 2 might price their nation $2 billion in annual transit income generated by another pipeline that runs via its territory and makes it extra prone to power extortion by Russia.
The Biden administration publicly opposed Nord Stream 2 however dismayed Ukrainian officers by waiving key congressional sanctions on it this yr after concluding that the pipeline couldn’t be stopped with out a counterproductive struggle with Germany, if in any respect.
“What we see is that Russia is already using gas as a weapon,” stated Mr. Kuleba, echoing reviews of Russian manipulation of power provides at a time when Europe is brief on pure gasoline.
“When we speak about Nord Stream 2, I would like to emphasize Nord Stream 2 is not only a Ukrainian problem,” Mr. Kuleba stated. “It’s a European problem.”
Mr. Blinken was extra circumspect. Pressed on the query, he famous that Russia had weaponized power in the previous however stated that he would wait to see whether or not it made good on pledges to provide extra gasoline to Europe earlier than reaching a conclusion in this case. “We’re looking at that very, very carefully,” he stated.