Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke on Friday in the capital of NATO’s newest member, Finland, making the case for sustained Western aid to Ukraine and warning against the allure of cease-fires that might play into Russian hands.
In an address at Helsinki’s City Hall that was billed as an important overview of Washington’s thinking about the war in Ukraine, Mr. Blinken also cataloged what he called the many “strategic failures” that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has suffered since launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
He said Mr. Putin had unwittingly exposed and compounded the weakness of Russia’s military, hobbled its economy and inspired NATO to become more united, and even larger — as evidenced by Mr. Blinken’s appearance in Finland, which joined the 31-nation alliance in April after decades of firm neutrality.
Mr. Putin’s war “has been a strategic failure — greatly diminishing Russia’s power, its interests and its influence for years to come,” Mr. Blinken said.
Although the speech served as a kind of victory lap to celebrate an unexpected degree of Western unity and Ukrainian resolve, it also included cautionary notes about what Mr. Blinken suggested would be a long and difficult road ahead for Kyiv, particularly amid what he predicted would be new worldwide calls for a halt to the fighting.
“Over the coming months, some countries will call for a cease-fire,” Mr. Blinken said. “On the surface, that sounds sensible — attractive, even. After all, who doesn’t want warring parties to lay down their arms? Who doesn’t want the killing to stop?”
But a cease-fire that freezes current lines in place, with Russia controlling large swathes of Ukrainian territory, he added, “is not a just and lasting peace. It is a Potemkin peace. It would legitimize Russia’s land grab. It would reward the aggressor and punish the victim.”
While saying that the United States and Ukraine would like to see an end to the war, Mr. Blinken warned that Mr. Putin appeared to have little interest in negotiating a conclusion to the fighting.
The Russian leader is “convinced he can simply outlast Ukraine and its supporters — sending more and more Russians to their deaths, and inflicting more and more suffering on Ukrainian civilians,” Mr. Blinken said. “He thinks even if he loses the short game, he can still win the long game.”
The United States would support any peace initiative “that helps bring President Putin to the table to engage in meaningful diplomacy,” the secretary of state said, adding that such efforts must hold Russia accountable for atrocities and help pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.
Although Mr. Blinken said that a peace deal would have to “affirm the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence,” he did not specify whether Russia would have to withdraw from all Ukrainian territory — including the strategic Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014 and which many analysts believe Mr. Putin will never surrender.
Mr. Blinken visited Helsinki in part to commemorate Finland’s recent accession to NATO, a defeat for Mr. Putin, who has sought to block the alliance’s eastward expansion. Earlier in the day, Mr. Blinken met with and its departing prime minister, Sanna Marin, and foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto.
Mr. Blinken called Finland’s NATO membership “a sea change that would have been unthinkable a little more than a year earlier.” Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he said, just one in four Finns supported the country’s joining NATO. After the invasion, three in four Finns supported NATO membership.
Earlier in the week, Mr. Blinken visited Sweden, whose bid to join the Atlantic alliance has been held up by Turkey, and on Thursday met with allied foreign ministers in Oslo to discuss concerns about Ukraine’s long-term security.
Helsinki was expected to be Mr. Blinken’s last stop on a Nordic tour as Russia, China and the NATO nations jockey for stronger positions in the Arctic. Later this year, the United States will open a mission staffed by a single diplomat in the town of Tromso, Norway — its only such facility above the Arctic Circle — Mr. Blinken said at a news conference on Thursday.
Michael Crowley is a diplomatic correspondent in the Washington bureau. He joined The Times in 2019 as a White House correspondent in the Trump administration and has filed from dozens of countries. @michaelcrowley
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