Blinken urges unity on Ukraine while presidents go off-message

20 January 2022

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kyiv on Jan. 19 as the first stop on a three-day trip to Europe. Blinken will be in Berlin on Jan. 20 and Geneva on Jan. 21, where he will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

 

In Kyiv, Blinken met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Blinken emphasized the need for unity  “among allies and partners as well as within Ukraine” in the face of the Russian military buildup, his press service reported. Furthermore, Blinken stated that Russia could double the number of troops on the border “in relatively short order.”

 

Kuleba emphasized Ukraine’s attempts at ensuring domestic stability, and that "Even before we reach to our arms, our efforts are focused on making sure that the situation in Ukraine stays stable and our financial system is strong and predictable," state.gov reported.

 

Blinken also met with U.S. embassy personnel to discuss contingency plans.

 

On the evening of Jan. 19, President Zelensky stated in a televised speech that, “the risk of war hasn’t increased.” . Furthermore, U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking with reporters on Jan. 19, stated that Putin had placed himself in a corner, and that he would probably have to attack Ukraine. However, Biden also said that the sanctions laid against Russia for a “small incursion” would probably be less than those related to a full scale invasion, nytimes.com reports. Biden also said that NATO allies would be split in their vision of a response to a small-scale offensive by the Russians.

 

Also, the politico.com news site reported on Jan. 19 that the State Department has allowed Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania to provide anti-armor missiles and other U.S.-made weapons to Ukraine. The U.S. will also begin the process of shipping USD 200 mln worth military equipment to Ukraine in coming days, the source said.

 

James Hydzik: The much-publicized meeting with the embassy staff could be an attempt to contrast the measured actions in Ukraine with the chaos in Afghanistan in 2021 when the U.S. military departed. However, the attempt at showing unity by Blinken as well as that of Kuleba received little help from the presidents of Ukraine and the U.S.

The presidents are right  - the ‘risk of war’ is zero for a country already at war. And it’s no surprise that NATO allies would be split on something such as Russia incorporating LNR and DNR. But one definite weakness for the allies is the ease with which the different actors and politicians can stray from the common message, even with the truth.

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