US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken addressed the UN Security Council on Thursday on the situation in Ukraine as the world watches Russian troops that continue to mass on its border.
Despite Russia’s protestations that they are beginning to pull some troops back from the border, western governments are skeptical that any real drawback has taken place.
The council meeting had been called to discuss the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which Blinken said is “a goal that we all share, despite Russia’s persistent violations.” The Minsk agreements, which were negotiated in 2014 and 2015 and signed by Russia, remain the basis for the peace process to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Secretary noted.
Blinken noted “As we meet today, the most immediate threat to peace and security is Russia’s looming aggression against Ukraine,” but added “The stakes go far beyond Ukraine.
Ukraine still bordered by Russian troops despite claims of drawback
“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. This crisis directly affects every member of this council and every country in the world.”
Blinken went on to state that the basic principles that sustain peace and security, enshrined in the wake of two world wars and a Cold War, are under threat once again, including, he stated, “The principle that one country cannot change the borders of another by force. The principle that one country cannot dictate another’s choices or policies, or with whom it will associate. The principle of national sovereignty.
I just arrived in New York City, where I will address the @UN Security Council regarding Russia's threat to peace and security. We seek to resolve this crisis diplomatically but are prepared to impose severe measures should Russia further invade Ukraine.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 17, 2022
“This is the exact kind of crisis that the United Nations – and specifically this Security Council – was created to prevent,” the US Secretary of State charged.
“We must address what Russia is doing right now to Ukraine,” he implored, recounting how Russia has amassed over 150,000 troops around Ukraine’s borders, in Russia, as well as Belarus and occupied Crimea, which Russia invaded in 2014.
Although Russia stated earlier this week that it was drawing down its forces, “We do not see that happening on the ground,” Blinken stated, adding “Our information indicates clearly that these forces – including ground troops, aircraft, ships – are preparing to launch an attack against Ukraine in the coming days.
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“In fact, it’s unfolding right now, today, as Russia takes steps down the path to war and reissued the threat of military action,” Blinken declared.
The secretary of State then stated that Russia plans to manufacture a pretext for its attack, including perhaps a violent event that it will of course blame on Ukraine. Blinken added that it could also be “an outrageous accusation that Russia will level against the Ukrainian Government.”
Other made-up incidents may take the form of “a fabricated so-called “terrorist” bombing inside Russia, the invented discovery of a mass grave, a staged drone strike against civilians, or a fake – even a real – attack using chemical weapons,” Blinken stated.
“Russia may describe this event as ethnic cleansing or a genocide, making a mockery of a concept that we in this chamber do not take lightly, nor do I do take lightly based on my family history,” Blinken stated with emotion.
He then noted “In the past few days, Russian media has already begun to spread some of these false alarms and claims, to maximize public outrage, to lay the groundwork for an invented justification for war. Today, that drumbeat has only intensified in Russia’s state-controlled media. We’ve heard some of these baseless allegations from Russian-backed speakers here today.”
Another tactic that the Russians may employ in response to this manufactured provocation, Blinken said, is that “the highest levels of the Russian Government may theatrically convene emergency meetings to address the so-called crisis. The government will issue proclamations declaring that Russia must respond to defend Russian citizens or ethnic Russians in Ukraine.”
The US Secretary of State then charged, “Next, the attack is planned to begin. Russian missiles and bombs will drop across Ukraine. Communications will be jammed. Cyberattacks will shut down key Ukrainian institutions.”
Blinken then said a ground war might ensue. “After that, Russian tanks and soldiers will advance on key targets that have already been identified and mapped out in detailed plans. We believe these targets include Russia’s capital –Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, a city of 2.8 million people.”
Blinken continued his excoriation of what he believes to be Russia’s plans, saying “And conventional attacks are not all that Russia plans to inflict upon the people of Ukraine. We have information that indicates Russia will target specific groups of Ukrainians.
“We’ve been warning the Ukrainian Government of all that is coming. And here today, we are laying it out in great detail, with the hope that by sharing what we know with the world, we can influence Russia to abandon the path of war and choose a different path while there’s still time.”
Acknowledging that not all intelligence is completely accurate, Blinken then went on to say “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. 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.”
Blinken added that this wasn’t just US intelligence that had made the observations but that of its many friends as well.
“If Russia doesn’t invade Ukraine, then we will be relieved that Russia changed course and proved our predictions wrong. That would be a far better outcome than the course we’re currently on. And we will gladly accept any criticism that anyone directs at us.
“As President Biden said, this would be a war of choice. And if Russia makes that choice, we’ve been clear, along with Allies and partners, that our response will be sharp and decisive.”
The US Secretary of State then added that there is still a path forward. “There is another choice Russia can still make, if there is any truth to its claim that it is committed to diplomacy.
“Diplomacy is the only responsible way to resolve this crisis. An essential part of this is through implementation of the Minsk agreements, the subject of our session today.”
If Russia would sit down with the Ukrainian Government and work through the process of implementing these commitments, our friends in France and Germany would be ready to convene senior-level discussions to settle these issues, Blinken stated.
He then mentioned that over three weeks ago the us gave Russia a paper detailing concrete steps that can be taken “to address our respective concerns and advance the collective security interests of Russia, the United States, and our European partners and allies,” adding that the US did receive a response, which it is evaluating.
He then noted that earlier on Thursday, he had sent a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposing that we meet next week in Europe to discuss the steps that we can take to resolve this crisis without conflict. Blinken added that the US is also proposing meetings of the NATO-Russia Council and the OSCE Permanent Council.
“These meetings can pave the way for a summit of key leaders, in the context of de-escalation, to reach understandings on our mutual security concerns,” he added, noting “As lead diplomats for our nations, we have a responsibility to make every effort for diplomacy to succeed, to leave no diplomatic stone unturned.
“If Russia is committed to diplomacy, we are presenting every opportunity for it to demonstrate that commitment. I have no doubt that the response to my remarks here today will be more dismissals from the Russian Government about the United States stoking hysteria or that it has ‘no plans’ to invade Ukraine,” Blinken said.
“So let me make this simple. The Russian Government can announce today – with no qualification, equivocation, or deflection – that Russia will not invade Ukraine. State it clearly. State it plainly to the world. And then demonstrate it by sending your troops, your tanks, your planes back to their barracks and hangars and sending your diplomats to the negotiating table.”
Blinken concluded his remarks by declaring: “In the coming days, the world will remember that commitment – or the refusal to make it.”
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