Blinken says Putin not 'serious' about Ukraine diplomacy
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While the United States would support Ukrainian efforts to end the war diplomatically, Blinken said: "Our purpose is to make sure that they have within their hands the ability to repel the Russian aggression and, indeed, to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table."
Blinken was responding to a question from Senator Rand Paul, a Republican critical of US interventionism, who accused President Joe Biden of contributing to Putin's decision to invade by "beating the drums to admit Ukraine to NATO."
"We sought to engage them on those issues in real seriousness," Blinken said.
"It is abundantly clear -- in President Putin's own words -- that this was never about Ukraine being potentially part of NATO and it was always about his belief that Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign, independent country."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is on a trip to Moscow and Kyiv, and Putin also spoke Tuesday about the war with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Moscow supported peace talks with Ukraine but also warned of a danger of World War III.
Blinken was opening three days of testimony to Congress after a surprise visit alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Kyiv on Sunday where the top US officials met President Volodymyr Zelensky.
"We saw mile after mile of Ukrainian countryside, territory that just a couple of months ago the Russian government thought that it could seize in a matter of weeks, today firmly Ukraine's," he said.
"In Kyiv, we saw the signs of a vibrant city coming back to life, people eating outside sitting on benches, strolling. It was right in front of us -- the Ukrainians have won the battle for Kyiv."