DAKAR: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken repeated on Saturday that his country has “real concerns” about Russia’s actions and statements on Ukraine, as tensions build.
“We have real concerns about Russia’s unusual military activity on the border with Ukraine. We have real concerns about some of the rhetoric we have been seeing and hearing from Russia as well as in social media,” Blinken told reporters on a visit to Senegal.
Blinken said the concerns were “widely shared” by US allies but declined to say whether US intelligence believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was aiming to seize land from Ukraine.
“We don’t know what President Putin’s intentions are. But we do know what’s happened in the past. We know the playbook of trying to cite some illusory provocation from Ukraine or any other country and using that as an excuse for what Russia plans to do all along,” Blinken said.
He was referring to the crisis that erupted in 2014 when Russia, following the toppling of a Ukrainian government that had resisted moves towards the West, seized the Crimea peninsula and backed separatists waging a conflict in Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking east.
Putin on Thursday accused Western nations of escalation the Ukraine conflict by holding drills in the Black Sea and flying bombers near its borders.
Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers have been pressing the US to step up military support for Ukraine. But that risks turning what may be mere muscle-flexing by Russian President Vladimir Putin into a full-blown confrontation that only adds to the peril for Ukraine and could trigger an energy crisis in Europe.
But a weak US response carries its own risks. It could embolden Putin to take more aggressive steps against Ukraine as fears grow he could try to seize more of its territory. And it could cause more political damage for President Joe Biden at a time his popularity is dropping.
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