National security ace Rebecca Grant wonders whether Anthony Blinken can defuse the Ukrainian crisis. The immediate answer seems to be maybe. But, we’re not holding our breath.
Ukraine just slammed US for pulling diplomatic families from Kiev
EU announced they aren’t pulling diplomats
Germany and France holding talks with Russia this week in Paris
Biden and Blinken can’t stop embarrassing themselves on the world stage
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) January 24, 2022
Grant: One year ago, I bet Secretary of State Anthony Blinken never thought he’d be speaking in Berlin, doing damage control for President Joe Biden with more than 100,000 Russian troops surrounding Ukraine.
“If Moscow chooses the path of further aggression, we will impose swift and massive costs,” Blinken said in Berlin on Thursday.
After a fruitless meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday, Blinken told NBC News they’d meet again next week and “see if we can advance this through diplomacy.”
Exactly. Can diplomacy still get us out of this mess over Ukraine? Maybe. As Blinken said in Berlin, he “would greatly prefer a diplomatic solution” with Russia. That gentle language won’t scare Putin.
But diplomacy can still work, if Team Biden toughens up, links diplomacy with military force to deter Putin, and gets the president to take aim before he fires off his mouth.
Blinken’s speech in Berlin was a start. Blinken called out Russia for the “contrived” Ukraine crisis and the “orchestrated” war in Donbass, which has killed 14,000 so far and displaced 1.5 million people. Blinken warned Russia could shut down the internet in Ukraine, stop heating oil and send in tanks – all things Putin did in past conflicts with Georgia and Estonia.
Blinken’s best point was a direct appeal to the Russian people. It is “pointless to go to war with your neighbors,” Blinken said. Blinken added that a Russia-Ukraine war would be “a violent conflict that will likely drag on.” That squares with military assessments that Ukraine’s armed forces could push back Russia, given time and help. Detachments of US and British forces are in Ukraine to deliver training on anti-tank weapons and other military tactics, and NATO brought Ukraine into its cyber early-warning system.
Blinken is no inspiring speaker like President John F. Kennedy or President Ronald Reagan, who both delivered epic speeches from Berlin. If he was a college professor, you’d fall asleep in his class. The Moscow Times calls him “calm and unflappable.” In Berlin, Blinken opened with a joke about Einstein that didn’t get even a polite laugh.
But I was glad to hear Blinken point out Russia’s Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty violations, which quietly slammed the door on reviving that treaty. And Blinken got it 100 percent right when he said the Ukraine crisis is really about Russia’s rejection of a Europe “whole, free and at peace.”
Next, it’s high time for Team Biden to start talking about defending Ukraine – not just about punishing Russia after an invasion happens. Of course, no one wants war. Deterrence is the goal. Straight talk about military consequences is part of the recipe for deterrence. Blinken must use words and deeds to get Putin to calculate that the military risk of invasion is just too high.