Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the U.S. and allied nations are continuing to prepare to counter Russia if it continues its aggressive actions toward Ukraine.
Blinken said resolving the situation diplomatically “is clearly the preferable path,” but officials are readying an array of options commensurate to various possible moves by Moscow.
“We’re prepared either way,” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Basically at this point, the choice is Vladimir Putin’s,” Blinken said of the Russian president.
There has been a flurry of activity in recent weeks as the Biden administration and European counterparts try to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine, where Russia has built up a massive troop presence along the two countries’ shared border.
“We’ll see if we can advance the diplomacy,” Blinken said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “But even as we’re that doing that, we’re preparing — building up defenses, building up deterrence — if Russia chooses the other path.”
Blinken said there are several areas where a compromise could be reached, if Moscow wants to pursue that pathway, while emphasizing that several items Russia has brought up in discussions are nonstarters — such as barring Ukraine from joining the NATO alliance.
“I was very clear with Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov, as we’ve been, that there’s certain basic principles that we’re not by one iota going to compromise on,” he said on CNN. “Including, for example NATO’s open door, the right of countries to choose with whom they’ll associate, which alliances they’ll join.”
Blinken also offered assurances that the United States and others will forcefully meet any Russian military maneuver into Ukraine — a point that the administration has stressed repeatedly in the days after President Joe Biden rankled Ukrainian leaders by discussing the possibility of stomaching a “minor incursion.”
“If a single additional Russian force goes into Ukraine in an aggressive way, as I said, that would trigger a swift, severe and united response from us and from Europe,” Blinken said.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Blinken made a “much stronger statement” Sunday than Biden did earlier in the week but added that the current administration needs to go further to ward off Russia.
“If there’s room for doubt, if there is space, Vladimir Putin will drive a truck through that gap,” Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday.”