Putin the latest to start a war that wouldn’t be over by Christmas

Antony Blinken
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) Carolyn Kaster/AP

Putin the latest to start a war that wouldn’t be over by Christmas

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s demand for a full recovery of occupied territory is “a good start” for negotiations to end the war in Ukraine, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“We have to see some meaningful evidence that Russia is prepared to actually negotiate and negotiate, again, a just and durable peace. We just haven’t seen that,” Blinken told reporters at a year-end press conference. “I think President Zelensky’s proposals are a good start at that. We’re talking to countries around about those proposals.”

Zelensky has made “restoration of the territorial integrity of our state” a centerpiece of his 10-point peace formula, which he has promoted at the United Nations and to President Joe Biden this week. Russian President Vladimir Putin is at pains to blame Ukraine and its Western backers for the continuing conflict.

“Everything that is happening, and everything connected with the special military operation, is an absolutely forced and necessary measure,” Putin insisted on Thursday. “So we will seek to make sure that it all ends, and the sooner, the better, of course.”

RUSSIAN FORCES ‘BREAKING’ THEMSELVES, ZELENSKY SAYS IN VISIT TO FRONT LINES

Putin is the latest world leader to start a war that was not “over by Christmas,” as the First World War saying went. Russian officials attempted to decapitate the Ukrainian government in an opening assault on Kyiv, but their failure in February and March gave way to a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the fall to liberate Kherson and parts of other occupied areas of southern and eastern Ukraine. Zelensky, in a dramatic appearance Wednesday before a joint session of Congress, celebrated Biden’s decision to transfer a Patriot missile defense battery to Ukraine, but Russian officials countered by insisting that Biden is leading Ukraine to a bad end.

“All the allies of the United States ended up very badly, being on the sidelines or, rather, in the dustbin of history,” senior Russian lawmaker Dmitry Belik said, per state media.

Putin responded to Ukraine’s recent military victories by amending the Russian Constitution to lay claim to Ukrainian territory that Russian forces hadn’t even captured.

“Russia has shown no interest in meaningful diplomacy, in meaningfully engaging to bring this war to an end,” Blinken said Thursday at the State Department. “In our judgment, the best way to actually advance getting to that day is to sustain our support for Ukraine, to make sure that it does well on the battlefield — that it continues to have the support it needs to sustain itself against the Russian onslaught, including against its energy infrastructure, as well as economic support.”

Zelensky also asked for larger amounts of the equipment currently on offer, along with access to more dynamic armaments, such as fighter jets.

“To ensure Bakhmut is not just a stronghold that holds back the Russian army, but for the Russian army to completely pull out, more cannons and shells are needed,” Zelensky told lawmakers. “I believe there should be no taboos between us in our alliance. Ukraine never asked the American soldiers to fight on our land instead of us. I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves.”

Biden implied that some European allies have objected to the idea of the United States equipping Ukraine with some of those desired weapons due to fear that their arrival would lead to an escalation of the war.

“The idea that we would give Ukraine material that is fundamentally different than is already going there would have a prospect of breaking up NATO and breaking up the European Union and the rest of the world,” Biden said during a joint press conference with Zelensky. “They’re not looking for a third World War. And I think it can all be avoided by making sure that Ukraine is able to succeed in the battlefield.”

Blinken declined to “prejudge” the outlines of battlefield success after implying earlier this month that the goal is to enable Ukraine to retake the land that Russia has seized since its attack on Feb. 24 of this year.

“What we’ve heard from the Ukrainians in recent months is the intense focus on getting back territory in the east and in the south that was principally seized since February,” he said. “That’s where their focus has been. But that doesn’t prejudge in any way where this goes, where it settles. Again, these are decisions for them to make.”

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a territorial seizure that the U.S. and most other countries have refused to acknowledge as legitimate, along with parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

“The situation on the front line has stabilized, and the main efforts of our troops are now focused on completing the liberation of the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov said Thursday, using the Kremlin euphemism for one of the Donbas regions that Russian forces have attempted to annex.

Putin has insisted for years “that Russians and Ukrainians were one people — a single whole,” as he put it last year. He denounced, just days before the attack in February, “the virus of nationalist ambitions” that had divided the people of the two countries.

“No one wants the Russian people to unite,” Putin reiterated Thursday, per state media, which framed that statement as a reference to the Russian and Ukrainian people. “But we will try to achieve this and we will succeed.”

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Blinken condemned Putin’s obstinance. “Russia has shown no interest in meaningful diplomacy, in meaningfully engaging to bring this war to an end,” he said, adding that the U.S. would assist Ukraine until “President Putin comes to the conclusion that what he’s engaged in is futile and that it’s time for a genuine negotiation.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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