QUESTION: For more on where things stand, I’m pleased to be joined by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here. Do you have reason to believe that before this night is over, Russian forces will be engaged in something akin to a full invasion of Ukraine?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I do. Unfortunately, Russia has positioned its forces at the final point of readiness across Ukraine’s borders – to the north, to the east, to the south. Everything seems to be in place for Russia to engage in a major aggression against Ukraine.
QUESTION: To be clear, you think tonight that could happen or will happen?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, I can’t put a date or an exact time on it, but everything is in place for Russia to move forward.
QUESTION: The first round of sanctions has apparently not deterred President Putin, and given the attack posture you just described, that the Pentagon describes, it sounds like follow-on sanctions won’t be – deter him either. Is the administration out of options here? Is Russian control of Ukraine a fait accompli?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: No, it’s not. And there, I think, is still an opportunity to avert a major aggression, although, again, they’re in their final stages of being able to engage in one. Yesterday when they when they began this invasion of Ukraine, we hit them hard – not just us, but in unison with Europe, in unison with other allies and partners – going against major financial institutions, taking out a major project, the so-called Nord Stream 2 pipeline that Germany took off the table, a major cash cow for Russia going forward, an $11 billion project that’s not going forward.
But at the same time, we’ve said very clearly that if Russia continues to escalate, so will we. And so they have to factor that into what they’re thinking. At the end of the day, if that doesn’t stop President Putin, we’ve made very clear along with all of our allies and partners that there will be massive consequences going forward, a price that Russia will have to pay for a long, long time.
QUESTION: Russia will have to pay, but in the meantime, Ukraine would be in Russian hands. What does Europe look like with Ukraine in Russian hands?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, two things, Lester. First, we’ve also made clear – and we’ve already begun to do this – that we will reinforce NATO, we will reassure all of our allies and partners, by positioning forces to the east among our partners and allies to make sure that they’re protected. At the same time, we’re doubling down on our assistance to Ukraine itself, making sure, as we’ve already done, that we’re providing additional security assistance, diplomatic support, economic, humanitarian support. That will continue, and in fact, the President says we’re doubling down on that.
QUESTION: All right. Secretary Blinken, good to talk to you. Thanks for joining us tonight.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, Lester. Good to be with you.