Update (Jan. 18, 2022): The State Department announced Tuesday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky. That meeting “to reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” is set for Wednesday.
“The Secretary will also meet with the employees and families of the U.S. Embassy to communicate the Department’s efforts to plan for contingencies, should Russia choose to escalate further,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. “The Secretary’s travel and consultations are part of the diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the tension caused by Russia’s military build-up and continued aggression against Ukraine.”
On Thursday, Blinken will travel to Berlin. There, he’s expected to meet with his German, British and French counterparts to discuss a possible response to any Russian military action. The announcement of Blinken’s trip comes a day after a bipartisan group of senators traveled to Ukraine to meet with President Zelensky.
Original Story (Jan. 17, 2022): A bipartisan group of seven American senators met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other top Ukrainian officials in Kyiv Monday. The goal of the visit was to express solidarity with Ukraine, and threaten Russia with consequences should it attempt to escalate ongoing tensions with Ukraine. The seven senators on the trip to Kyiv include:
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN),
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
Sen. Kevin Cramer
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS)
“I think Vladimir Putin has made the biggest mistake of his career in underestimating how courageously the people of Ukraine will fight him if he invades,” Sen. Blumenthal said after the meeting. “We will impose crippling economic sanctions, but more important, we will give the people of Ukraine the arms, lethal arms, they need to defend their lives and livelihoods.”
Kyiv and the United States have been warning Russia about invading ever since the country directed tens of thousands of its troops near the Russia/Ukraine border. Last month, Russia demanded NATO not allow Ukraine to join.
The senators’ trip to Ukraine came on the same day Russia fired back at Washington’s claim that Russia was preparing a “false-flag operation” to create a pretext for possible invasion. According to last Friday’s White House daily press briefing, U.S. intelligence officials have concluded Russia has already deployed operatives to eastern Ukraine to carry out acts of sabotage. Russia would then blame those acts on Ukraine as a justification to invade.
At a news conference Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the White House claim as “total disinformation.”
“We don’t construct our policy under the principle of ‘what happens if,’” Lavrov said. “That’s sounds more like our Western colleagues who threaten sanctions against the Russian Federation at the drop of a hat practically every day.”
Lavror also discussed the alleged 18 response scenarios prepared by the U.S. in case of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, saying it could be an “internal contest.”
“I think it was reported that the US has 17 different special services and intelligence agencies,” Lavrov said. “Maybe it’s those 17 plus the State Department – 18 scenarios.”