Blinken details Russian military plans at UN Security Council meeting

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday laid out in stark detail for the United Nations Security Council actions the U.S. believes Russia could take to manufacture a crisis and justify an invasion of Ukraine.

Blinken delivered the last-minute speech as the U.S. warns that Moscow is on the precipice of launching a war.

“Russia plans to manufacture a pretext for its attack,” Blinken said, adding the pretext could be a violent event that Russia will blame on Ukraine or an “outrageous accusation that Russia will level against the Ukrainian government.”

The secretary said this could take the form of a fabricated so-called terrorist bombing inside Russia, invented discovery of a mass grave, a staged drone strike against civilians, or a fake, even a real attack using chemical weapons.”  

Blinken’s remarks build on the Biden administration’s strategy of sharing assessments of intelligence, without providing specific pieces of evidence, to deter Russia from carrying out the actions and draw attention to what the U.S. says is Russia’s playbook of using campaigns of disinformation to obscure its military action. 

The secretary further said Russian state-run media is amplifying warnings of a potential attack on Russians and that in the event of a “fabricated” crisis, the Russian government may “theatrically convene emergency meetings” and declare it necessary to “defend Russian citizens or ethnic Russians in Ukraine.”

He added that Moscow’s attack plans include that “Russian missiles and bombs will drop across Ukraine, communications will be jammed, cyberattacks will shut down key Ukrainian institutions” and a ground invasion will “advance on key targets that have already been identified and mapped out in detailed plans.” 

These plans include targeting the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Blinken said, a city of 2.8 million people. He also said Russia “will target specific groups of Ukrainians.” 

Blinken said he was sharing such a detailed assessment with the Security Council to deter Russia, as U.S. officials say Russia has massed enough military infrastructure to launch an invasion at any time, on any day. President Biden on Thursday said the threat of a Russian invasion “is very high.”

Blinken on Thursday addressed criticisms by those recalling the George W. Bush administration delivering faulty intelligence in the Security Council in 2003 to rally the world to support an invasion of Iraq.  

“I’m mindful that some have called into question our information, recalling previous instances where intelligence ultimately did not bear out. But let me be clear: I am here today not to start a war but to prevent one,” Blinken said.  

The secretary reinforced U.S. calls for Russia to engage in diplomacy and said he had asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to meet in Europe next week and proposed diplomatic meetings of the NATO-Russia council, and at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.  

U.S. and NATO officials have said Russia this week added as many as 7,000 troops on top of an estimated 150,000 troops that have encircled Ukraine since November.

Russia denies that it has plans to invade Ukraine and its defense officials have said it is drawing down troops after concluding “large-scale military exercises.” Officials in Moscow have sought to paint the U.S. and allies as whipping up hysteria and creating a pretext for a conflict. 

Blinken on Thursday said the U.S. had not observed Russia drawing down its troops and that “our information indicates clearly that these forces, including ground troops, aircraft ships, are preparing to launch an attack against Ukraine in the coming days.”  

The secretary’s remarks, which were scheduled overnight Wednesday, came at the request of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who said in a statement she requested Blinken’s presence at the council meeting ahead of his travel to Germany for the Munich Security Conference. 

“After a series of conversations with the White House, the National Security Council, and the State Department, I asked Secretary Blinken to come speak directly to the UN Security Council on his way to Munich about the serious situation in Ukraine,” Thomas-Greenfield wrote on Twitter Thursday morning.

“Our goal is to convey the gravity of the situation. The evidence on the ground is that Russia is moving toward an imminent invasion. This is a crucial moment. Today’s Council meeting should not distract us from that. It should focus on what is happening right now in Ukraine,” she added. 

Blinken’s speech took place during a previously scheduled meeting of the United Nations Security Council about a diplomatic stalemate surrounding the Minsk agreements, a 2015 diplomatic effort to resolve fighting in Ukraine’s eastern area, called the Donbass, between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists.

Russia holds the Security Council presidency for the month of February.

It was the second meeting in the Security Council surrounding the security situation in Ukraine, and what the U.S. and Western allies and partners criticize as Russia’s provocative, dangerous and unjust buildup of military forces on Ukraine’s borders.  

The U.S. called a security council meeting on Jan. 31 to address “threats to international peace and security.” 

The Russian representative to the U.N. condemned the open-forum meeting at the time, saying the U.S. was engaging in “megaphone diplomacy” out of a desire to “whip up hysterics.” 

Tags Antony Blinken Joe Biden Linda Thomas-Greenfield Russia Russia-Ukraine conflict Ukraine United Nations Security Council

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