US aims to thwart ‘savage’ Putin plans for war in Ukraine

Blinken NATO
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba during the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Bucharest, Romania, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. (Stoyan Nenov/Pool Photo via AP) STOYAN NENOV/AP

US aims to thwart ‘savage’ Putin plans for war in Ukraine

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Russian President Vladimir Putin “must be disabused of the notion” that his “savage” bombardment of Ukrainian energy infrastructure will buy time for Russian forces to regroup, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“Russia’s savage attacks on Ukrainian civilians are the latest demonstration that President Putin currently has no interest in meaningful diplomacy,” Blinken said Wednesday at the NATO foreign ministerial in Bucharest. “Short of erasing Ukraine’s independence, he will try to force Ukraine into a frozen conflict, lock in his gains, rest and refit his forces, and then, at some point, attack again.”

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That assessment of Putin’s amounts to an emphatic repudiation of any Western interest in brokering a ceasefire at this juncture in the war, an idea floated by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff after Ukraine’s liberation of Kherson. Blinken signaled that U.S. allies in NATO and around the world will try to help Ukraine thwart the latest Russian plans.

“President Putin must be disabused of the notion that it can succeed,” Blinken said. “The best way to actually hasten the prospects for real diplomacy is to sustain our support to Ukraine and continue to tilt the battlefield in its favor.”

Yet Putin hopes that relentless strikes at civilian energy infrastructure will enervate that Ukrainian counter-offensive, a tactic that Ukrainian officials acknowledge could have a devastating effect if Western powers cannot mitigate the crisis quickly.

“Secretary Blinken rightly emphasized the need for everyone to act in the most coordinated way possible, because we literally have no time,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday before a meeting with Blinken in Bucharest. “When you have neither electricity nor water supply you literally become a part of the front line and you need immediate support … the people of Ukraine will be most grateful if this support is delivered as fast as it is necessary and it continues as long as it is necessary. Time really matters.”

Blinken hailed an effort by the G-7 — a bloc of the world’s leading industrialized democracies that includes Japan along with six members of NATO — “to synchronize our defense of Ukraine’s energy grid” as a civilian-centered prop to the war effort.

“And what we’ve established is very akin to what was done on the military equipment side in Ramstein,” he said, referring to the air base in Germany where Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convenes defense and military officials from countries that provide military assistance to Ukraine. “The same kind of process to make sure that Ukrainians are getting, as quickly as we can possibly get it to them, everything they had to keep their electric grid going.”

Russian officials likewise are eager to provide new weapons to their troops, as Putin has staked his plan to conquer Ukrainian territory on the mobilization of at least 300,000 conscripts.

“We need to continue upgrading and creating advanced systems with their subsequent application in the special military operation,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Wednesday, using the standard Russian euphemism for the invasion. “Today we will discuss further steps to build up the combat capabilities of the missile forces and artillery, taking into account the experience gained.”

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Blinken declined to comment on whether President Joe Biden would provide Ukraine with the Patriot air defense batteries prized by the U.S. military and many allied countries, but he signaled that some form of additional help could soon be on the way.

“I’ll leave it to the planners and the strategists on the military defense side to speak more specifically about that,” he said. “But yes, a part of this is making sure that not only are we getting Ukraine the weapons that it continues to need to defend itself and ward off the Russian aggression, but that some of that is used in a very deliberate way to, as best as possible, protect the energy infrastructure.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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