Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
QUESTION: Secretary of State Antony Blinken just met with the Russian foreign minister. He joins us live right now. Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us this morning. I know you’ve said there were no breakthroughs.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good morning, George.
QUESTION: There were – you said there were no breakthroughs this morning, but what did you achieve specifically?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: George, we didn’t anticipate there’d be any breakthroughs, but what we were doing is testing whether there is still a path forward for diplomacy, for dialogue, to resolve a crisis that Russia has created by massing 100,000 forces on Ukraine’s border and threatening to renew its aggression against Ukraine.
And so in the last couple of weeks we’ve been engaged in intense diplomacy, including conversations with Russia directly, with the United States at NATO, at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, among allies and partners. And based on that, President Biden asked me to meet today with my Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Lavrov, to see if there is a path forward for diplomacy and dialogue to resolve this potential crisis and to see where we were. And that’s exactly what we did today.
We had an opportunity to look at where we can go next in this, and I think we at least have some opportunity to continue to work to resolve this diplomatically.
QUESTION: Bottom line, are we closer or further away from war?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: You’d really have to ask President Putin. It’s ultimately going to be President Putin who decides what Russia will do. But here’s where we are: Based on what we’ve heard in the last couple of weeks, we will put in writing both some deep concerns that we and other allies and partners have about Russia’s actions, not just with regard to Ukraine but more broadly when it comes to things that it does that threaten security. We’ll address some of the concerns that Russia has raised with us, and we’ll put some ideas on the table for how we might actually strengthen each other’s sense of security going forward. And then based on that and based on Russia’s response, we anticipate that we’ll get together again across the table and see if we continue to advance this through diplomacy.
But George, at the same time that we’re doing that we’re also very conscious that Russia continues to have these forces on Ukraine’s border, it continues to strengthen them, it continues to take steps that are escalatory not de-escalatory. And we will continue to do what we’ve been doing, which is building a very strong, united response from allies and partners to any renewed Russian aggression. It’s very clear, and I made that clear again today to Minister Lavrov, that any renewed aggression will face massive consequences, and coming from us, from Europe, and other allies and partners.
And so there are basically two paths ahead. One is through diplomacy and dialogue. The other is Russian aggression that will have serious consequences.
QUESTION: Even if it’s, to use President Biden’s words, a minor incursion into Ukraine?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’ve been very clear with Russia that any Russian forces going into Ukraine constitute an invasion that will be receiving a very swift, united, and severe response. At the same time, based on history, we’re acutely aware of other things that Russia does short of actually sending uniforms into another country to try to destabilize it, topple its government, hybrid actions, cyber attacks, et cetera. I made equally clear to Minister Lavrov that we will respond to those too in a swift, severe, and united way, but that is proportionate to what Russia does.
QUESTION: We only have about 15 seconds left. Is this going to take a summit between the President and President Putin to solve?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, they’ve – as you know right here in Geneva they met some months ago. They’ve talked on the phone since then; they’ve been on videoconferences. If it proves productive, useful to try to resolve things through direct conversation between presidents, that’s certainly something we’re prepared to do. Right now the plan is to take stock of where we are next week after we share some ideas with Russia, and then —
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Secretary Blinken, thank you very much.