Blinken In Kiev: We Know Russia Planning For "Even More" Forces On Ukraine Border

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022 - 03:57 PM

Soon after Secretary of State Antony Blinken touched down in Kiev on Wednesday, he warned reporters during a press briefing that Russia could send more troops towards Ukraine very soon. He also said that President Biden asked him to reaffirm US commitment to Ukraine as he meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and top officials there.

Blinken said in the briefing: "We know that there are plans in place to increase that force even more on very short notice." He explained, "And that gives President Putin the capacity also on very short notice to take further aggressive action against Ukraine and that, of course, has gotten not only our attention, but it's gotten the attention of virtually all of our allies and partners and not just in Europe, even beyond."

Just before he arrived, White House press secretary Jen Psaki had struck an alarmist tone in her Thursday afternoon press briefing, saying, "We're now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine." She added of the Secretary of State's trip which will also see him meet with Russia's foreign minister in Geneva on Friday: "And what Secretary Blinken is going to go do is highlight very clearly there is a diplomatic path forward."

Zelensky for his part reportedly thanked Blinken for the US increasing its military assistance to Ukraine, just as the US administration unveiled $200 million more in defensive military aid to Ukraine, which was approved in December. While addressing reporters, Blinken stressed that Russia's force build-up has occurred with "no provocation, no reason" and that Putin now has before him a choice of diplomacy or "confrontation and consequences".

Blinken emphasized there's still hope for deescalating the situation, and that diplomacy is preferable: "Clearly the preferable path, clearly the most responsible path and the one that we would prefer, but there is also the path if Russia chooses to renew aggression, of conflict, confrontation and consequences for Russia," he said.

Via Reuters

But he put the ball in Putin's court, concluding that: "I strongly, strongly hope that we can keep this on a diplomatic and peaceful path, but ultimately, that's going to be President Putin's decision."

As NBC details, the US embassy in Kiev has put contingency plans in place in the instance of a hot war on the Russia-Ukraine border

During his time in Kyiv, Blinken will also meet with the employees of the U.S. embassy and their families to discuss efforts "to plan for contingencies," should Russia choose to escalate further, the State Department said.

Currently Russia and Belarus are engaged in snap military drills on the latter's soil, which the Kremlin stressed Wednesday is Russia's "sovereign right" to do. The White House is calling the drills and heightened situation in general "extremely dangerous".

A senior administration official was cited in the NBC report as describing the large-scale arrival of Russian troops and military equipment as "neither an exercise nor normal troop movement," but "a show of strength" which could set the stage for a false pretext leading to conflict.

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Here's Rabobank discussing the latest key developments...

The US has reportedly taken its financial ‘nuclear weapon’ of taking Russia off of SWIFT off of the table, just as its actual nuclear weapons were removed as a threat recently at the UN - after it also indicated it, and NATO, won’t fight for Ukraine conventionally either. The latest decision is allegedly over fears of “short-term market destabilization” and worries that breaking SWIFT would shatter the global financial system. So the integrity of the global/US security architecture is now secondary to the US stock-market. Meanwhile, Russian stocks are slumping, and the Kremlin does not seem to care. Which of the two countries therefore has more real power in this stand-off? Indeed, in flagging Wall St must not be touched to defend US hegemony, D.C. just downsized its deterrent power. This signalling lowers the potential cost of Russian action.

On which note, Russia’s amphibious landing fleet just left the Baltic and is heading for the Black Sea, as its missiles continue to roll West. Yesterday also saw an unusually large number of US navy vessels and aircraft leave harbour/home base. The US now flags a joint threat to Ukraine from Belarus-Russia, who can easily pincer it, as Kyiv calls up 130,000 reservists to supplement its 246,000-strong army. Moscow rejected a NATO offer of further talks, no doubt as playing for time in the hope spring’s mud drives fears of war into it too: yet there have been Russian rumblings that if the US continues to ignore its demands, it may deploy tactical nuclear weapons close to the US mainland, which would take us straight to Cuban Missile Crisis territory.

Against this backdrop, US Secretary of State Blinken travels to Kyiv then Berlin before meeting his Russian counterpart in Geneva. We shall see how much diplomacy is in all this shuttling, but it worries lots (though not all) of the people who usually don’t worry: the ones who played ‘Call of Duty’ in real life.