Antony Blinken: “In case of Russian aggression in Ukraine, we will respond”

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The military reinforcement of Moscow near the Ukrainian border accentuates tensions between NATO, the European Union and Russia. Foreign ministers in Sweden for an OSCE meeting seek to avoid a confrontation. We touched on the subject in a recorded interview at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm on December 2 with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“A new aggression against Ukraine would be a mistake”

Efi Koutsokosta, euronews:

You said you had proof that Russia is considering invading Ukraine. Are we close to a military confrontation? “

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State:

“We do not know the intentions of President Vladimir Putin. We do not know if he has decided to carry out further aggressive actions against Ukraine. But what we do know is that he is building the capacity to to do it in a short period of time. This is very, very worrying, not just for us, but for many partners in Europe. I was at the NATO summit before I came here [ndlr : en Suède] for the OSCE meeting and this concern is widely shared. So it is very important for me and for us to tell Russia very clearly that a new aggression against Ukraine would be a mistake, that there would be serious consequences and that we are convinced that whatever the disputes, diplomacy is the best way to resolve them, especially through the implementation of the Minsk agreements which were never applied. “

A “very direct conversation” with Sergey Lavrov

Efi Koutsokosta:

“You come from meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Do you have any indication of his intentions now? What was the atmosphere between you? Do you have the feeling that we are on the verge of a de-escalation? “

Antony Blinken:

“Our conversation was very direct, frank as usual. We did not get into controversy. It was very professional, very direct. I spoke with him because it is important to be able to talk to each other, to communicate directly, not just through TV or press releases, but to talk to each other face to face because I wanted him to understand the worries we have and the consequences that would be if our worries translate into aggression on the part of Russia. I wanted him to know that we are convinced that the best way forward is diplomacy, that is, for Russia to de-escalate, withdraw his strength and makes a significant commitment to the implementation of the Minsk agreements. “

Efi Koutsokosta:

“Would you say that today we are closer to a de-escalation?”

Antony Blinken:

“What I can tell you is that Sergey Lavrov will return our discussions to President Putin. I will obviously do the same to President Joe Biden. I expect the two presidents to speak to each other very soon. and from there we can move forward. But the first thing is to express ourselves very clearly and very directly, about the way we see things, about the worries that we have, as well as about what we do. are going to do and what we would prefer to do: namely, relaunch diplomatic efforts and ultimately resolve the issue of the occupation of these territories in Ukraine. “

Efi Koutsokosta:

“Is a meeting between the two presidents in preparation?”

Antony Blinken:

“I expect they will actually talk to each other in the near future.”

“The many things we are considering could have very strong repercussions.”

Efi Koutsokosta:

“You warned of serious consequences if Russia ends up invading Ukraine. What do you mean by that? And how far are you prepared to go? Could you go beyond economic sanctions? “

Antony Blinken:

“The economic consequences could be very strong. I believe that Moscow is fully aware of the magnitude of these consequences and I hope that President Vladimir Putin takes them into account in his calculations. At the same time, the United States and d “Other countries have worked to ensure that Ukraine has the means to defend itself. Obviously, if NATO is threatened in any way, we will make sure to further strengthen our own defense capabilities. But I insist on the word “defense”. NATO is a defensive, not an offensive alliance. We are dedicated to the protection and safety of our members, but we are also here to help partners like Ukraine defend themselves if they are threatened with aggression. So that’s what we’re focusing on. But, I repeat: the most important thing is that Russia understands that any action has consequences. These consequences are very real. These are not in Russia’s interest, and the outbreak of conflict is not in anyone’s interest. Let me add one thing: Joe Biden, during his interview with Vladimir Putin in Geneva a few months ago, indicated that the United States really wants to have a stable and predictable relationship with Russia. Further aggression on his part against Ukraine would mean exactly the opposite. I believe it’s not good for any of us, but President Joe Biden has made it equally clear that if Russia chooses to act recklessly, then we will respond. “

Efi Koutsokosta:

“Are you only referring to sanctions? I remind you that the European Union and the United States have already instituted them. What makes you believe that this time, they will be effective? Vladimir Poutin does not seem to change of course. “

Antony Blinken:

“The many things that we are considering could have very strong repercussions and these are things that we have refrained from doing in the past and Russia is well aware of the extent of the possibilities in this matter. I can say.”

Efi Koutsokosta:

“You don’t mean exactly what you plan to do?”

Antony Blinken:

“No, not publicly.”

“NATO is not directed against Russia”

Efi Koutsokosta:

“Russia is suspicious of Ukraine joining NATO. Will the United States support this membership?”

Antony Blinken:

“This question goes back to the founding of NATO and the Washington Treaty which stipulates that the doors of the Alliance are open to those who want to join it and meet the criteria. So we reaffirmed at the last summit that the doors of NATO are open. But this opening does not represent a threat to Russia because – and I stress this – our Alliance is defensive, transparent. It is not directed against Russia, it is not a threat to Russia. In reality, unfortunately, the only aggressive actions we have seen in recent years have been Russian aggressions against Georgia, then against Ukraine and today we don’t want to see such things happening. reproduce in Ukraine. “

“We have to be able to work together on things where we have a common interest”

Efi Koutsokosta:

“We are also witnessing a rise in tensions along European borders, in particular in Belarus with what the European Union calls a “hybrid attack” or thousands of migrants are transported to the borders of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. In this context, do you think that Russia is really, at the moment, the greatest threat to the European Union and the West? “

Antony Blinken:

“Because of its actions, especially those it has taken in the past, but also because of the risk of further actions on its part in Ukraine, Russia poses a real problem. is not in his best interests. In reality, we are working together in areas where our interests overlap: for example, in my conversation today with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, we talked about Iran and our common interest so that this country does not acquire nuclear weapons. We also have good collaboration in conjunction with European partners, but also with China within the framework of our discussions in Vienna. We are also working together in the Caucasus region where our two countries have interests in Azerbaijan and Armenia in the sense that we seek to resolve in a lasting way their differences over Nagorno-Karabakh, but also their relationship in the broad sense. So we have to be able to work together on things where we have a common interest. But further aggression against Ukraine would make that very difficult. “

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