- The Washington Times
Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold a high-stakes summit with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov later this week in Geneva as the Biden administration scrambles to try and prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

A senior State Department official told reporters on a background call Tuesday that the meeting, which is slated for Friday and comes amid an ongoing Russian military buildup around Ukraine, will focus on testing “whether there is an opportunity for a diplomatic off-ramp here.”

Mr. Blinken is headed to Europe a week after Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman met with her Russian counterpart in Geneva as well as with NATO allies in a bid to tamp down tensions with Moscow. The Kremlin has presented a series of security “guarantees” it is seeking from the Western military alliance, including a pledge to keep former Soviet states such as Ukraine and Georgia out of NATO, that the U.S. and its allies have rejected.

“If Russia does decide to pursue further military aggression, if it chooses to further escalate, we have been working very closely and effectively with our allies and our partners to ensure that there would be massive consequences,” said the senior State Department official.

The State Department announced earlier that Mr. Blinken is heading to Ukraine on Tuesday and Germany later this week. Following the Germany visit, he will gather with Mr. Lavrov in Geneva. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was in Moscow Tuesday for separate talks with Mr. Lavrov.

“The secretary’s travel and consultations are part of the diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the tension caused by Russia‘s military buildup and continued aggression against Ukraine,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday in a statement.

Mr. Blinken‘s trip follows last week’s push by U.S. and European allies to present a united response to the threat of a Russian invasion. Recent days have seen tensions rise anew amid reports of Russian forces arriving in Belarus for joint military exercises with that country, which also borders Ukraine.

Mr. Price’s statement said Mr. Blinken will begin his trip in Kyiv, where the secretary of state will meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday to “reinforce the United States’ commitment to Ukraine‘s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

On Thursday, Mr. Blinken will travel to Berlin to “discuss recent diplomatic engagements with Russia and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including allies’ and partners’ readiness to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia,” Mr. Price said.

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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