Blinken defends U.S. info blitz predicting Russian military action

Blinken defends U.S. info blitz predicting Russian military action

Secretary of State Antony Blinken launched a scathing attack Thursday on what he said were Russian preparations for a possibly imminent invasion of Ukraine, saying the Biden administration has issued a blitz of warnings in recent weeks about potential Russian provocations as a way to head off war.

Hours after President Biden said it was “his sense” that a Russian military incursion will come in the next few days, Mr. Blinken at a U.N. Security Council meeting called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to renounce unequivocally any military action against its neighbor and outlined what he said was a Russian blueprint to “manufacture a crisis” that would justify a military move, including disinformation and false accusations of actions by Kyiv.

The comments were some of the bluntest remarks to date from Mr. Blinken, even as he insisted at the end of his address that the administration still hoped for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

“This is a moment of peril for the lives and safety of millions of people, as well as for the foundation of the United Nations Charter and the rules-based international order that preserves stability worldwide,” Mr. Blinken said. “Our information indicates clearly that [Russian] forces including ground troops, aircraft ships are preparing to launch an attack against Ukraine in the coming days.”

Mr. Blinken warned that Russia had multiple ways to fabricate an excuse for military action, including “the invented discovery of the mass grave, a staged drone strike against civilians, or a fake — even a real — attack using chemical weapons.”

In Moscow, the Putin government released a lengthy written response to U.S. and NATO proposals to end the crisis, saying the Western response effectively ignored Russia‘s national security red lines. 

The U.S. and its allies have rejected the Kremlin’s demands to bar Ukraine permanently from NATO and to pull back troops and weaponry broadly along Russia‘s western borders.

The document defends Russia‘s recent massive build-up of troops on Ukraine‘s border.

“Ultimate demands to withdraw troops from certain areas on Russian territory, accompanied by threats of tougher sanctions, are unacceptable and undermine the prospects for reaching real agreements,” the 11-page response read in part.

“In the absence of the readiness of the American side to agree on firm, legally binding guarantees to ensure our security from the United States and its allies, Russia will be forced to respond, including through the implementation of military-technical measures.”

Mr. Blinken in his U.N. remarks said he had written a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov asking for another face-to-face meeting in Europe next week. He also addressed complaints in Russia and elsewhere that Washington was hyping the threat of war and making a diplomatic solution harder.

“I am mindful that some have called into question our information, recalling previous instances where intelligence ultimately did not bear out,” the secretary of state said. “But let me be clear: I am here today, not to start a war, but to prevent one.”

“The information I’ve presented here is validated by what we’ve seen unfolding in plain sight before our eyes for months,” he added. “And remember that while Russia has repeatedly derided our warnings and alarms as melodrama and nonsense, they have been steadily amassing more than 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders, as well as the capabilities to conduct a massive military assault.”

“If Russia doesn’t invade Ukraine, then we will be relieved that Russia changed course and proved our predictions wrong. …  And we will gladly accept any criticism that anyone directs at us.”