Russian actions against Ukraine put principles of int'l peace at stake: Blinken

It wouldn't be 'surprise' if Russia instigates incident to make military intervention, says US secretary of state

2022-01-20 22:51:30


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that Russian moves towards Ukraine pose risk against the principles of international peace.

Noting that Russia escalated its threat toward Ukraine in the past few days, Blinken said: "It has repeatedly turned away from agreements that have kept the peace across the continent for decades. And it continues to take aim at NATO ... and at the governing principles of international peace and security that we all have a stake in defending."

His remarks came during his address to the Germany-based Atlantic Bridge, a non-profit association that serves to strengthen German-American ties.

Those principles, which were established in the wake of two world wars and the Cold War, reject the right of one country to change the borders of another by force, he said.

"To allow Russia to violate those principles with impunity would drag us all back to a much more dangerous and unstable time," he continued, adding that it would also send a message to the other countries that these principles are expendable.

"If Russia invades and occupies Ukraine, what's next?" he said. "Certainly, Russia's efforts to turn its neighbors into puppet states, control their activities, and crack down on any spark of democratic expression will intensify."

Once the principles of sovereignty and self-determination are thrown out, that would embolden some regimes to do whatever it takes to get what they want, including "shutting down another country's internet, cutting off heating oil in the dead of winter, or sending in tanks -- all tactics Russia has used against other countries in recent years," he said.

It is 'bigger' than just conflict between 2 countries

Blinken underlined that the crisis in Ukraine has global consequences, saying it is "bigger than" a conflict between two countries.

"That is why the United States and our partners in Europe have been so focused on what's happening in Ukraine," he said. "It's bigger than a conflict between two countries, and it's bigger than between Russia and NATO."

"It's a crisis with global consequences. And it requires global attention and action," he urged.

It may seem like "a distant regional dispute or yet another example of Russian bullying," he said, and added: "But at stake are principles that have made the world safer and more stable for decades."

Russia can instigate incident then intervene

Blinken warned that Russia could instigate an incident to excuse its intervention in Ukraine.

"No one should be surprised if Russia instigates a provocation or incident, then tries to use it to justify military intervention, hoping that by the time the world realizes the ruse, it'll be too late," the secretary said.

Responding to Moscow's claims that Ukraine somehow poses a threat to its security, he asked: "Whose troops are surrounding whom? Which country has claimed another's territory through force?"

He added that the US and its European allies have repeatedly reached out to Russia with offers of diplomacy, however, the gestures of good faith have been rebuffed.

"Because, in truth, this crisis is not primarily about weapons or military bases. It's about the sovereignty and self-determination of Ukraine and other post-Soviet states," he said. "And at its core, it's about Russia's rejection of a post-Cold War Europe that is whole and free."

The campaign to destabilize Ukraine "has been relentless," he said, and the human toll of renewed aggression by Russia "would be many magnitudes higher than what we've seen to date."

"This is not only about a possible invasion and war. It's about whether Ukraine has a right to exist as a sovereign nation. It's about whether Ukraine has a right to be a democracy," Blinken continued.

He underlined that Russian President Vladimir Putin already showed his "true intentions" by describing Ukraine as "a not real country" several times.

Russia benefits from peace provided by NATO

Blinken said NATO has not "any aggressive" intent toward Russia, and called Moscow's effort to show the alliance as a problem is "absurd."

"To the contrary, efforts by NATO to engage Russia has been rejected," he said. "It's also worth noting that, though Russia is not a member of NATO .... it, too, has benefited from the peace and stability that NATO has made possible."

However, Russia could not meet its responsibilities under the Helsinki Final Act, Vienna Document, and Budapest Memorandum which was signed by the country, he said.

Blinken added that the US and European countries are also open to discussing Russia's security concerns and how they would be addressed in a reciprocal way.

"But we will not treat the principles of sovereignty or territorial integrity as negotiable," he said.

Blinken also said resolving this conflict will not be "done quickly," and he will not expect to solve it in Geneva tomorrow.

But, a mutual understanding can be advanced and "combined with de-escalation of Russia's military build-up on Ukraine's borders, can turn us away from this crisis in the weeks ahead."

The US, with its European allies, has been warning that Russia is setting the stage for an invasion of Ukraine and has pre-positioned over 100,000 troops on its border with the former Soviet republic alongside significant artillery and tank deployments. Moscow has denied preparing for a military offensive, saying its troops are there for regular exercises.