U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says there are no signs Russian President Vladimir Putin is “willing to engage diplomatically” to bring his unprovoked aggression against Ukraine to a close.
“He was on the phone with President [Emmanuel] Macron of France a couple of days ago, and by all accounts … he’s digging in and doubling down,” Blinken said of the Kremlin leader in an interview Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
Blinken’s comments come as Putin ramps up an offensive he began on Feb. 24 and as the feds consider cutting off Russian oil imports to the U.S. — something Sen. Ed Markey and others called for last week. President Joe Biden, American allies and international credit firms have implemented severe sanctions blocking the Russian government, Kremlin-linked oligarchs and major banks from the world economy.
“I think we have to be ready that this could go on for some while,” Blinken said. “The sheer force that Russia can bring to bear, the manpower, the expanse of its military, has the potential to keep grinding down these incredibly brave and resilient Ukrainians.”
As United Nations officials said more than 300 civilians have already been killed by Russian attacks, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this weekend called on the U.S. and Western leaders to provide more support. He pleaded with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine — a move NATO says won’t happen even as it bolsters defenses and boosts logistics and humanitarian support for Ukraine.
Asked about a potential no-fly zone — which Putin has said he’d effectively consider an act of war by any participating nations — Blinken said the U.S. is trying to “end this war in Ukraine, not start a new one.”
Blinken noted that “winning a battle is not winning a war,” and he cautioned that the world should brace for a long fight.
More than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland and other nearby countries.
“Taking a city is not taking the hearts and minds of Ukrainians,” Blinken said. “And what we’ve learned over the past couple of weeks is that they will fight to the end for their country if it takes a week, a month, a year. [Putin] has no plan for how this actually ends on his terms. He can’t impose his will, and Russia’s will, on 45 million Ukrainians, they’ve clearly demonstrated that. But it may take some considerable time to play out. We want it to end as quickly as possible, with Ukraine having its independence, its territorial integrity, its sovereignty, but I think we need to be prepared for this going on for some time.”
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