Blinken: Extended military exercises with Russia, Belarus raise concerns of Russian invasion
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said an extension of joint military exercises between Russia and Belarus is making him more concerned that Russia will move ahead with an invasion of Ukraine.
Asked by co-anchor Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” if news of Russia and Belarus extending their drills makes him more concerned about a potential Russian invasion, Blinken said, “It does.”
Blinken said the development illustrates that the “playbook” he laid out at the United Nations Security Council last week about Russia attempting to create provocations to justify aggression against Ukraine “is going forward.”
“We’ve seen that over the last few days. Now they’re justifying the continuation of exercises, exercises in quotation marks, that they said would end now, the continuation indefinitely of those quote unquote exercises, on the situation in eastern Ukraine, a situation that they created by continuing to ramp up tensions,” he said.
Russia and Belarus are extending military drills that were scheduled to end on Sunday. Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin said military leaders from the two countries will “continue checking” joint force readiness, pointing to an “increase in military activity” eastern Ukraine, according to The Washington Post.
Blinken on Sunday also pointed to the increase in Russian troops massed near the Ukrainian border. He said the number has increased over the past months, from 50,000 to more than 150,000.
“All of this, along with the false flag operations we’ve seen unfold over the weekend, tells us that the playbook that we laid out is moving forward,” Blinken said.
Blinken’s comments come as the U.S. and other allied countries are becoming increasingly concerned that Russia is preparing to launch an incursion against Ukraine.
President Biden on Friday said he was “convinced” Putin has “made the decision” to move forward with an invasion of Ukraine.