Testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the United States’ top diplomat said it’s important for the country not to “let up” its support for Ukraine two months after Russia’s invasion.
“Our purpose is to make sure that [Ukrainians] have within their hands the ability to repeal the Russian aggression, and, indeed, to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table,” Blinken said.
“We’ve seen no sign to date that President Putin is serious about meaningful negotiations. If he is, and if the Ukrainians engage, we’ll support that.
“The end state should be determined by the Ukrainians as a sovereign, independent country.”
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, accusing Kyiv of neo-Nazism and violence against its own people. Putin has also taken issue with Ukraine’s attempts to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, saying the former Soviet republic belongs to Russia.
During the committee hearing Tuesday, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., accused the Biden administration of “agitating” and pushing for Ukraine to join NATO. Blinken denied the suggestion.
“These are sovereign decisions for nations to make. This goes to the heart of the international system and order, the basic principle that one country can’t dictate another the choices it makes as to whom it allies,” Blinken said.
“It is abundantly clear, in Putin’s own words, that this was never about Ukraine being potentially part of NATO. It was always about his belief that Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign independent country, that it must be reassumed into Russian in one form or another.”
Russia annexed the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine during 2014 fighting, and in recent weeks has refocused its efforts to take full control of the separatist Donbas region in Ukraine’s east.