With signs of Russian aggression towards Ukraine becoming more pronounced, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made the rounds on the Sunday shows. While the secretary did speak to there being a "swift response" against Russia if Vladimir Putin took action, he also emphasized "diplomacy and dialogue."
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Blinken would not comment on the intelligence reports that came out of Britain on Saturday, with regards to Russia installing a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine. He did acknowledge "we've been concerned and have been warning about exactly these kinds of tactics for week," claiming they've also "talked about that publicly, that Russia would try to, in some way, topple or replace, replace the government."
Blinken also mentioned that "this is very much part of the Russian playbook," something he emphasized throughout the segment about a potential "false flag operation."
The theme of the segment, and of those on other shows, is that "diplomacy and dialogue" are part of their efforts, Rebekah Koffler highlighted issues with those efforts in a January 15 column for Townhall.
While Blinken spoke of "diplomacy" throughout his segment, he really emphasized it at one point, when asked by host Chuck Todd if efforts were really about diplomacy:
Look, it’s – it is certainly possible that the diplomacy that Russia's engaged in is simply going through the motions and it won't affect their ultimate decision about whether to invade or in some other way intervene or not in Ukraine. But, we have a responsibility to see the diplomacy through for as far as and as long as we can go because it's the more responsible way to bring this to a closure. But Chuck, we are not sitting still. Even as we're engaged in diplomacy, even as we're engaged in dialogue, we are building up defense. We're building up deterrence. We've now provided to Ukraine more security assistance this year than in any previous year. We have rallied allies and partners around the world. We are preparing massive consequences for Russia if it invades Ukraine again. So you have to do both at the same time. You build up your defense. You build up your deterrence on the one hand. You engage in diplomacy and dialogue on the other. That's the way that I think it makes the most sense to carry this forward. Ultimately, we've given Russia two paths. It has to choose.
Todd also asked about other pressing issues to do with Ukraine.
This included playing a clip from President Joe Biden's press conference last Wednesday, when he said "I think what you're going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades. And it depends on what it does. It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and then we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera."
Blinken told Todd that "we have been clear that first, in the event that there is a renewed Russian incursion, Russian forces going into Ukraine, there is going to be a swift, a severe and united response." Such a response applies to other potential actions from Putin.
"But, we've also been clear that there are other things – we were just talking about this – that Russia could do, short of sending forces into Ukraine again, to try to destabilize or topple the government – cyber attacks, hybrid means, et cetera. And there, we've also been clear. There'll be a swift response. There'll be a calibrated response. There'll be a united response," Blinken offered.
The other issue is whether the State Department will authorize the evacuation of nonessential staff at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine who have requested it.
Blinken did not directly answer:
There’s been some reports that our embassy in Ukraine has made a request to send non-essential personnel home now, begin that process. Have you approved that request yet? And what would – and if not, what are you waiting for?
SEC. ANTONY BLINKEN:
Chuck, this is something that we look at every single day. I have no higher responsibility than the safety and wellbeing of the folks who work for the State Department and who are under, under my care, in a sense. So we're tracking this very, very closely. We're looking at it on really a daily basis. And if we need to make a determination that we should draw down some of the folks at the embassy, we'll do that based on the security needs.
But right now, you feel like Kyiv appears safe, at least in the near term?
SEC. ANTONY BLINKEN:
This is something, again, we're tracking intensely hour by hour, and certainly day by day.
The segment was at its closing, and Todd did not press further.
Blinken also appeared on CNN's "State of the Union." He similarly told host Dana Bash that he couldn't speak to the specific intelligence as that British report.
He did share that " I don't think it speaks to whether it's more or less likely" about whether Putin will invade. "I think it speaks to the fact that, as always, Russia develops lots of different options for doing things, including in Ukraine. And this is one of them. And it's something that people have to -- have to be aware of," he continued, as he once more spoke about "the possibility of so-called false flag operations."
"We've given Russia two paths. There's a path of diplomacy and dialogue... But there's also a path of its renewed aggression and massive consequences," says Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the threat of Russia invading Ukraine. #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/txGKoEfhjV— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) January 23, 2022
He similarly stuck to his hope for "diplomacy," and that this seems to be the preferred plan:
BLINKEN: We have given Russia two paths.
There's a path of diplomacy and dialogue, one that I engaged in with Foreign Minister Lavrov just last week in Geneva. But there's also a path of its renewed aggression and massive consequences that we have been building now for many weeks.
And it's not just us that is saying it. The G7, the world's leading democratic economies, have been clear about that. The European Union's been clear about that. NATO has been clear about that. And, as we're doing that, we have provided more defensive assistance, military assistance to Ukraine last year than at any time in the past.
I just authorized, myself, the provision of American military equipment that's with third countries, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, to get to Ukraine. And we are in intense, regular, constant communication, consultation with allies and partners to make it very clear that these massive consequences will follow.
So, basically, at this point, Dana, the choice is Vladimir Putin's. And their -- the paths are clear. Diplomacy, dialogue, seeing if we can build collective security in a way that is good for everyone, is clearly the preferable path. But we're prepared either way.
Bash had also asked about sanctions, which Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is asking to be imposed on Russia, now. However, Blinken explained, sanctions are not in place yet, because "the purpose of those sanctions is to deter Russian aggression." He offered "if they're triggered now, you lose the deterrent effect."
.@SecBlinken on why there hasn't been sweeping sanctions on Russia for its provocations in Ukraine: “Once sanctions are triggered, you lose the deterrent effect. So what we're doing is putting together a whole series of actions that would figure into President Putin's calculus.” pic.twitter.com/41NYN8xy31— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 23, 2022
While speaking with Margaret Brennan on CBS' "Face the Nation," Blinken also emphasized "diplomacy and dialogue," while also adding that "we are building up defense and deterrence."
"So we are proceeding on both paths at the same time, we'll be ready either way. The choice is Vladimir Putin's," Blinken also shared.
The secretary had tweeted hashtag support on Saturday for Ukraine, resulting in mockery.
Except for the minor fact that Biden just got 44 Dems ignore the pleas of Ukraine and vote to kill Russian sanctions & then Biden explicitly invited Putin to invade.— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 23, 2022
But nice hashtag. https://t.co/Idj3TMkWUO
Hashtag diplomacy a week after blocking meaningful sanctions - feels like the Obama years all over again. https://t.co/L0DpA3kziS— Matt Whitlock (@mattdizwhitlock) January 23, 2022
... except when it comes to doing literally the ONLY two things the Ukrainians say could deter a Russian invasion: imposing immediate sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and accelerating arms transfers.— Omri Ceren (@omriceren) January 23, 2022
But I guess hashtags are nice too. https://t.co/JrLn5eSHT8
Hashtag diplomacy doesn’t work. pic.twitter.com/MiGEbLYN2t— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) January 23, 2022