“As we described it, it appears that whatever led to the actual invasion is happening,” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry reported more than 100 ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine on Saturday and said the bombing continued until Sunday, while Russian forces remained in Belarus to continue military exercises that were supposed to end.
Blinken told CNN’s Dana Bash he was concerned that the extension of the exercises was another sign that Russia was paving the way for an invasion, following this week’s “false flag” operations and the mobilization of more than 150,000 Russian troops along the Ukrainian border.
“They are now justifying the continuation of the ‘exercises’ which they said will now end, the continuation of those unquoted exercises on the situation in eastern Ukraine indefinitely – a situation they have created by continuing to escalate tensions,” Blinkin said.
“We think President Putin made the decision, but until the tanks really rolled in, the planes flew, we’ll take every opportunity and every minute to see if diplomacy can still dissuade President Putin from moving forward on this.” He said.
Blinken said on Sunday that the United States did not want to reveal the sanctions early because that would “allow Russia to try to plot against them.”
“The sanctions are primarily intended to try to deter Russia from going to war,” he said. “Once you fire them, that deterrent is gone and until the last minute, as long as we can try to have a deterrent effect on this, we’ll try to do that.”
If Putin went ahead with the invasion, Blinken said, the United States and NATO were clear that they would “meet him and Russia very hard.”
Asked if Putin might be cheating, Blinken said, “There’s always a chance, but every indication we’ve seen, every move he’s taken has followed the play we set for the world to see before the United States. The UN Security Council, he’s following the scenario almost literally.”
“Everything we’re seeing indicates that this is very dangerous, that we are on the verge of an invasion,” he added.
On Sunday, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Putin still had options on the table if he chose to take a diplomatic way out of the tensions.
“We’ve made serious proposals and talked about changing, for example, the scope and scale of some of our exercises in Europe, and the willingness to talk about offensive missile capabilities in Europe. We’ve certainly come up with other proposals to try to impress Mr. Putin. We’re serious,” Kirby told Fox. .
He also clarified that the issue of Ukraine’s membership in NATO, however, is “the issue of Ukraine and NATO.”
“This is not something that Mr. Putin can simply veto or decide for himself,” he said.
Blinken told CBS’s Margaret Brennan that the United States would not recognize the ceding of Crimea or any other territory in eastern Ukraine to Russia as a way to avoid war.
“No,” the minister said when asked on Face the Nation if the United States would use this tactic as a diplomatic means to avoid a larger war.
Meanwhile, the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, which shares a border with Russia, said in a separate interview on Sunday that Putin “acted in a way that is difficult to expect.”
“It is very difficult to identify and define the other person in reality, deep down. But so far, I can say that he behaved in a way that is very difficult to predict but it might also be intentional, that is to act in this way, because that brings confusion to the ocean,” Niinisto said. .
Blinken is scheduled to meet later this week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Europe, in what could be another round of weeks-long diplomatic talks as Russian troops continue to build up on the Ukrainian border. But Blinken said the meeting would be called off in the event of an invasion.
“It all depends on what Russia will do in the coming days,” he said. “If you don’t invade, I’ll be there.”
CNN’s Chandelles Duster, Jasmine Wright, Sarah Fortinsky and Manvina Suri contributed to this report.
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