The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has said Vladimir Putin will fail in his effort to subjugate Ukraine, and will instead lead Russia into a “strategic defeat” that is already unfolding.
Blinken was talking at a press conference with the UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, at which both pledged to keep up security and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
“I’m absolutely convinced that Putin will fail, and Russia will suffer a strategic defeat no matter what short-term tactical gains it may make in Ukraine,” the secretary of state said.
“You can win a battle, but that doesn’t mean you win the war. On the contrary, you can take a city but you can’t take the hearts and minds of its people and Ukrainians are demonstrating that every single day.”
“We’ve already seen that Russia has failed in its chief objectives,” he added. “It’s not been able to hold Ukraine. It’s not going to be able to hold Ukraine in the long term.”
Blinken said that Putin “has a clear plan to brutalise Ukraine, but to what end? He is now turning to a strategy of laying waste” Ukrainian cities.
He warned that if even if Putin succeeded in installing a puppet regime in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Ukrainians would never acquiesce.
“I think it’s pretty evident that they will never accept that,” he said.
Blinken also tried to explain the fiasco on Tuesday surrounding the plan to deliver Polish MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. The US had previously given a green light to Poland to supply the planes to Ukraine, saying it would replace them by providing more modern US fighter jets to the Polish air force.
On Tuesday, Poland announced it would hand all its MiG-29s to the US at the Ramstein airbase in Germany, taking Washington by surprise. Within hours the Pentagon said the plan was not tenable.
“I think what we’re seeing is that Poland’s proposal shows that there are some complexities that the issue presents when it comes to providing security assistance. We have to make sure that we’re doing it in the right way,” Blinken said.
The Russian defence ministry has said that any country that provided bases from which Ukrainian war planes took off from to attack Russian forces would be considered as being involved in the conflict.
“Departing from a US Nato base in Germany to fly into airspace contested with Russia over Ukraine raises some serious concerns for the entire Nato alliance,” Blinken said.
“So we have to work through the specifics of these things going forward. It’s simply not clear to us that there’s a substantive rationale for doing it in the way that was put forward yesterday.”
Both Blinken and Truss were questioned about the Ukrainian demands to establish no-fly zones over Ukraine, or at least over humanitarian corridors inside the country. Both ruled it out.
“The reality is that setting up a no-fly zone would lead to a direct confrontation between Nato and Russia, and that is not what we are looking at,” Truss said, and pointed out the announcement on Wednesday that the UK would supply the Ukrainian armed forces with the Starstreak anti-aircraft system.
“What we are looking at is making sure that the Ukrainians are able to defend their own country with the best possible selection of anti-tank weapons and anti-[aircraft] systems.”
Blinken said: “If I were in President Zelenskiy’s position, I’m sure I would be asking for everything possible, in his mind, to help the Ukrainian people.
But he added: “Both of our countries and so many others, have done extraordinary things to make sure that the Ukrainians have in their hands the means to effectively defend themselves against this war of choice from Russia.”