During a brief visit to Chicago on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that while Ukrainians have suffered greatly, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has inflicted “extraordinary damage” on its own civilians and military and that the US-led sanctions will take some time. dramatic toll on the Russian economy.
“The question you would really like to ask the Russians if we could talk to them more directly and clearly is, ‘How is Putin doing in Ukraine, how has that changed your life for the better? Did it do anything to make you better off?’” Blinken said.
“Putin has already lost in terms of what he was trying to achieve. What he was trying to achieve was to erase Ukraine and overthrow (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky, to erase Ukraine as an independent country, to incorporate it into Russia. That failed. That can’t work,” he said. “Where that settles is a profound question, and what damage has been done between now and then, we don’t know.”
But Blinken, speaking at the 10th anniversary of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, stressed that the international coalition’s support against Russian aggression “has gone from strength to strength”, despite a current dispute between the US and Germany over the sending tanks to Ukraine.
Germany has indicated that it will not send its Leopard tanks to Ukraine, or allow other countries to do so with its tanks, unless the US agrees to send Ukraine its M1 Abrams tanks. The US has said there are no plans to send the tanks to Ukraine, given the cost of training and maintenance.
“We just sent a large number of Bradley fighting vehicles to Ukraine, essentially light tanks. The French have done the same. The British even sent them main battle tanks. Others want to do that,” Blinken said. “They have to be able to maintain them and they have to be able to use them effectively. That all comes into play when making these decisions.”
Blinken said the US government has sent Ukraine more than $30 billion in military aid and about $60 billion in total aid, including humanitarian aid. Europeans have done “much the same thing,” he said.
Blinken’s comments came in an interview with the institute’s founder, longtime Democratic political consultant David Axelrod. Blinken was a fellow at the institute in 2017.
Earlier on Friday, Blinken held a round table discussion with leaders of the Ukrainian diaspora at the Ukrainian Cultural Center and visited the Children of War exhibition of children’s art at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art.
“I think the first reaction you have, when you have kids, is, these could be my kids,” Blinken, the father of two young children, said of the art exhibit. “What if this was my child?
“And what Putin is trying to do with the day-to-day attack is to numb all of us to normalize this so that people are basically saying, ‘Okay, this is happening and we just accept it,'” he said. “We really should avoid that. We need to make sure we collectively continue to make it clear that, no, this is not normal. This is not acceptable. And if we allow this to go unpunished in Ukraine, you will open a Pandora’s box, where potential aggressors around the world will say, ‘I can get away with it.’”
Blinken, who will go to China for high-level talks in the coming weeks, also expressed concern that China is taking a more aggressive stance in asserting sovereignty rights over Taiwan’s democratic involvement rather than the current status quo relationship continue across the island. area.
“They say, ‘This is a sovereign issue for us.’ Our answer: This is an interest for the United States and countries around the world,” he said. “If anything happens with the actions that (China) takes, 50% of every container ship that circumnavigates the world every day will go through the Taiwan Strait, 70% or more of the computer chips manufactured in the world… are made in Taiwan, and if that gets disrupted, the entire global economy will suffer.”
China, he said, was the US’s biggest competitor in the world, “but competition is one thing. Conflicts are another. And it is strongly in our interest to make sure that even when we compete very, very vigorously, we prevent competition from turning into conflict.”
Blinken praised US foreign policy under President Joe Biden’s administration as one of renewed engagement and rejuvenation of alliances and partnerships after four years of a Donald Trump administration that led to uncertainty among allies.
“We’re in a better place in the world than we were,” he said.
Still, he acknowledged that the chaotic US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in February 2020 following a Trump deal was fraught with problems and is subject to a high-level review ahead of a likely investigation by the new Republican-led US House.
Yet, Blinken said, Biden “ended the longest war in American history and the result of that is that there will be no future generations of Americans fighting and dying in Afghanistan.” I think that’s a good thing.”
Blinken also said warnings of a resurgence of terrorism coming from Afghanistan have not been confirmed and that the US has managed to get terrorists there who pose a threat.
But Blinken also noted that the Taliban were “unable or unwilling to deliver on things they said they would” when they made human rights and other commitments to the US and others in the international community after the takeover of Afghanistan. .
That, he said, starts with “ensuring that they actually protected the rights of all Afghans, including women and girls. That has been a dramatic step backwards and we are working to deal with it as best we can.”