US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that Russia could choose a diplomatic solution on Ukraine in talks next week but warned the United States would not be “distracted” by Moscow’s demands.
“We’re prepared to respond forcefully to further Russian aggression. But a diplomatic solution is still possible and preferable if Russia chooses it,” Blinken told reporters ahead of talks Monday in Geneva.
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Blinken said that Russia, which has amassed tens of thousands of troops along the border with Ukraine, was “gaslighting” the world by making demands.
“No one should be surprised if Russia instigates a provocation or incident then tries to use it to justify military intervention, hoping that by the time the world realizes the ruse it’ll be too late,” Blinken said.
Russia asked for the talks after putting forward proposals that include guarantees that NATO will not expand to Ukraine or further parts of the former Soviet Union.
“I think that’s certainly part of the playbook — to put out a list of absolutely non-starter demands and then to claim that the other side is not engaging and then to use that is somehow justification for aggressive action,” Blinken said.
“But the fact of the matter is — Russia knows well what a non-starter is.”
He said that the focus of talks will be Russia’s “aggression toward Ukraine.”
“We won’t be diverted from that issue. Because what’s happening in Ukraine is not only about Ukraine, it’s part of a broader pattern of destabilizing, dangerous and often illegal behavior by Moscow as it tries to build a sphere of influence that covers the countries that were once under Soviet dominion,” Blinken said.
Read more: Top US, German diplomats reiterate warning to Russia over Ukraine