n military forces could use chemical weapons to create a “pretext” for a major new invasion of Ukraine, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
That forecast continued a trend of U.S. officials predicting Russia’s next moves in what Blinken’s team has described as an “attempt to deter the Russians from going ahead with this activity,” as State Department spokesman Ned Price put it in a recent press briefing. That briefing took a testy turn, as Price did not offer evidence substantiating the allegation in question, but Blinken sought to preempt a similar controversy by emphasizing that the military mobilization has unfolded “in plain sight” of both the United States and other Western countries.
“Now, I am 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,” he said. “If Russia doesn’t invade Ukraine, then we will be relieved that Russia changed course and proved our predictions wrong. That would be a far better outcome than the course we’re currently on. And we will gladly accept any criticism that anyone directs at us.”
Russia, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, scheduled the session to mark the seventh anniversary of Minsk II, an agreement Moscow regards as a Ukrainian pledge to begin a process that would install Russian proxies within the Ukrainian political system and rewrite the Ukrainian constitution in terms congenial to Kremlin priorities. Blinken opted to speak at the meeting, according to U.S. officials, after Russian diplomats in New York circulated a document “which alleges that war crimes have been committed” in the eastern Ukrainian region where the conflict has festered in recent years.
“Each of these allegations are categorically false,” a senior administration official told reporters Thursday morning, prior to the Security Council meeting. “We’ve seen this playbook before in their previous military incursions into Ukraine and in Georgia and elsewhere. It is hard to draw any conclusion other than that Russia plans to use today’s U.N. Security Council meeting as part of an attempt to establish a pretext for a potential invasion, building upon the disinformation and incendiary statements we’ve seen over recent weeks.”
An attorney from Ukraine, who addressed the council at the apparent invitation of Russian officials, characterized Ukraine as “a colony of the collective West” under Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“The West wants a war with Russia,” attorney Tetyana Montyan insisted, through a U.N. interpreter. “And it wants a war to take place on the territory of Ukraine.”
Blinken announced that he had invited Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to meet next week “to discuss the steps that we can take to resolve this crisis without conflict,” and he said that the U.S. would support the implementation of the Minsk agreements — although the opposing sides have disagreed about what step must take place next for that process to continue.
“If Russia is committed to diplomacy, we are presenting every opportunity for it to demonstrate that commitment,” he said. “So, let me make this simple. The Russian government can announce today — with no qualification, equivocation, or deflection — that Russia will not invade Ukraine. … And then demonstrate it by sending your troops, your tanks, your planes back to their barracks and hangars and sending your diplomats to the negotiating table.”