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Antony Blinken claims U.S. sanctions on Russia will only be reversed when Vladimir Putin totally withdraws from Ukraine and warned China to avoid getting involved in the conflict as the U.S. sent thousands of troops to Australia because of the threat posed from Beijing.
‘China’s already on the wrong side of history when it comes to the Ukraine,’ the State Department secretary told NPR in an interview published Wednesday.
He added: ‘If China actually provides material support in one way or another to Russia in this effort, that would be even worse, and that’s something we’re looking very carefully at.’
The warning comes after President Joe Biden‘s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with his Chinese counterpart in Rome on Monday – and as the U.S. reveals Russia requested equipment and economic assistance from China after invasion.
Blinken said in the interview that Russian sanctions would ‘go away’ when Russia fully withdraws from Ukraine for good, claiming the punishments against Putin were ‘not designed to be permanent.’
He said the pull back would need to be ‘in effect, irreversible’ so that ‘this can’t happen again, that Russia won’t pick up and do exactly what it’s doing in a year or two years or three years.’
Blinken’s comments come as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prepares to address Congress via video from Kyiv Wednesday morning. He is expected to seek more aid from the U.S., including a request for fighter jets and help in the development of a no-fly zone above Ukraine.
American troops are also being deployed to Australia as fears heighten of war between China and Australia. Tensions are on the rise in the Indo-Pacific, especially after Russia invaded Ukraine, as worries also mount that China could be preparing to invade Taiwan in coming years.
About 2,200 troops with the rotational U.S. Marine force will be based in Australia’s Northern Territory during the upcoming dry season. The deployment will also include 250 Army personnel, according to the Australian Defense Force.
Washington says it will lift sanctions on Russia if it ‘irreversibly’ withdraws from Ukraine. Pictured: Rescuers work at a site of a warehouse burned after shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Wednesday, March 16, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine goes on 20 days
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Russian sanctions would ‘go away’ when Russian President Vladimir Putin fully withdraws from Ukraine for good, claiming the punishments against Moscow were ‘not designed to be permanent’. Pictured: An abandoned house seriously damaged by Russian bombing in the Saltivka district in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Tuesday, March 15, 2022
Blinken also warned China against helping Russia in its attack against Ukraine. Putin (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) have met dozens of times as they tried to forge an alternative to American hegemony
Workers load high thermal blankets inside a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warehouse in Rzeszow, Poland on Wednesday to be transported into Ukraine for people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address Congress on Wednesday to ask for additional military and humanitarian aid
Those being deployed are trained in surface-to-air missile systems, High Mobility Artillery Rockets and unmanned aircraft.
Defense Minister Peter Dutton warned in September that conflict with China ‘shouldn’t be discounted’ and on Wednesday told the U.S. Studies Center that Beijing may look to annex Taiwan while the world is preoccupied with Russia’s attack in Eastern Europe.
‘China’s already on the wrong side of history when it comes to the Ukraine,’ Blinken told NPR. ‘If China actually provides material support in one way or another to Russia in this effort, that would be even worse, and that’s something we’re looking very carefully at’
Sources familiar with conversations told Bloomberg News that the U.S. told allies Russia had requested armed combat drones from China in the days after it invaded Ukraine.
It comes as Washington continues to step up warnings to Beijing that it will face ‘significant consequences’ if it supports Moscow with arms or other aid.
After 19 days, Russian forces have failed to capture the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and their advances have mostly stalled, according to senior U.S. officials.
In the meantime, a string of reports has described how Moscow is turning to friends in Beijing for key supplies to keep its invasion running – including M.R.E.s, or ‘meals ready to eat.’
On Tuesday, it emerged that American diplomats had told European capitals that they had intelligence that Moscow had asked for combat drones.
China has a growing drone industry, and has supplied unmanned aerial vehicles to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. It is known to have a supersonic model in development.
U.S. allies have been told that Washington believes China has expressed enthusiasm for supplying help to Russia, with whom it has developed an anti-West alliance in recent years.
That has prompted American officials to step up their warnings to Beijing that it would face action if it met the requests, including during a seven-hour meeting between National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat on Monday.
But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stopped short of laying out President Joe Biden’s red lines on what would trigger action, or describe what those consequences might be, despite repeated questions during the daily briefing.
‘I think what we have conveyed and what was conveyed by our national security adviser in this meeting, is that should they provide military or other assistance that of course violates sanctions or, or supports the war efforts, that there will be significant consequences,’ she said.
‘But in terms of what the specifics look like, we would coordinate with our partners and allies to make that determination.’
A Wing Loong II unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, on display at Air Show China. The U.S. has told European allies that Russia asked China for armed drones just days after it launched its invasion of Ukraine
The mayor of Kyiv announced today a 36-hour curfew from 8pm on Tuesday until 7am on Thursday at the ‘decision of the military command’ after an apartment building in Kyiv was hit this morning, killing at least four people (pictured)
Vladimir Putin’s stuttering invasion has forced even his close allies to admit, publicly, that things are not going to plan but, as Russia’s invasion falters, its methods become more brutal – with cities increasingly coming under indiscriminate rocket fire (pictured, a Ukrainian soldier inspects the rubble of a destroyed apartment building in Kyiv on Tuesday)
Sullivan met Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s politburo, at a Rome hotel on Monday morning.
A senior administration official characterized it as a ‘frank exchange’ of views and said the ‘intense’ meeting was long planned.
‘What I would say in general is that we do have deep concerns about China’s alignment with Russia at this time,’ said the official, ‘and the national security adviser was direct about those concerns and the potential implications and consequences of certain actions.’
The official said it had not been set up to discuss concerns that Russia had asked China for military help.
Either way it put Beijing at the center of the latest diplomatic push.
Last week senior U.S. intelligence officials said they believed Chinese leaders may be worried that Moscow’s invasion, and President Vladimir Putin‘s increasingly brutal tactics, will reflect badly on them if they offer diplomatic cover.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday said China will face ‘significant consequences’ if it sends military to aid to Russia but declined to set red lines or describe what sort of action would be taken
President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan (l) was meeting with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi (r) at a Rome hotel on Monday morning as part of a diplomatic push to ensure Beijing does not prop up Moscow
The Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria hotel in Rome Sullivan was meeting Jiech to discuss the war in Ukraine
A Ukrainian soldier helps fire crews search the ruins of a Kyiv apartment building for survivors and victims after Russia resumed its bombing campaign early Monday
A child looks on as she stands in front of a destroyed apartment building following shelling in Kyiv on March 14
Two people were killed on Monday during a Russian missile attack on a Kyiv apartment block. One person died when a rocket struck the residential complex while a second was killed by debris from a second missile being intercepted
Against that background, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV on Monday morning reported that Yang Jiechi had met Sullivan in Rome, but offered no further details.
American officials and allies have repeatedly said that China risks facing secondary sanctions if it sides with Russia.
And on Sunday, they claimed that Putin had asked his ally for military help for his faltering invasion.
But that triggered accusations of disinformation by Chinese officials.
Zhao Lijian, spokesman for Beijing’s foreign ministry, said that America was ‘targeting China on the Ukraine issue with malicious intentions.’
A day earlier, Sullivan warned Beijing of ‘consequences’ if it tried to bail out Putin by, for example, providing ways to skirt international economic sanctions.
‘We will ensure that neither China, nor anyone else, can compensate Russia for these losses,’ Sullivan told NBC ahead of the meeting.
‘In terms of the specific means of doing that, I’m not going to lay all of that out in public, but we will communicate that privately to China, as we have already done and will continue to do.’
And he told CNN that Washington was watching closely to see how far China provided economic or material support.
‘We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,’ he said.
‘We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world.’
Russia on Monday denied it needed China’s help.
‘No, Russia has its own potential to continue the operation, which, as we have said, is unfolding in accordance with the plan and will be completed on time and in full,’ said Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman.
It all puts China at the heart of diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in its third week.
American officials believe Putin expected to take the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in a two-day lightning offensive.
Instead, almost three weeks later, his forces are still battling Ukrainian forces who have used hit-and-run attacks – and an influx of foreign weapons, including anti-tank grenades – to lethal effect.
Rescuers work next to a residential building damaged by shelling by Russian forces in the early hours of Monday
A view of damaged area after fragments from a Tochka missile which was allegedly launched by Ukrainian forces has fallen in Donetsk region, killing 20 civilians, injured 9 others, on March 14
A view of damaged buildings and streets due to the ongoing Russian shelling and missile strikes in Kharkiv on March 13
A Ukrainian firefighter drags a hose inside a large food products storage facility which was destroyed by an airstrike in the early morning hours on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, March 13
American officials, speaking anonymously, say the Kremlin has reached out to Beijing for help replenishing its military supplies – though they did not say exactly what Putin had requested or when the request was made. Western nations have been supplying Ukraine with a steady stream of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons.
‘China is deeply concerned and grieved on the Ukraine situation,’ Liu Pengyu, the Chinese embassy spokesperson in Washington, said, adding that he was not aware of any suggestions China might be willing to help Russia.
‘We sincerely hope that the situation will ease and peace will return at an early date.’
Intelligence officials have hinted there may be a chance to harness Chinese influence over Moscow, perhaps by advocating for a ceasefire.
China abstained from a United Nations General Assembly vote to condemn Russia’s invasion – rather than voting against it – and officials have used the term ‘war’ to describe what Moscow insists is a ‘special military operation.
And last week C.I.A. Director Bill Burns said Chinese leader Xi Jinping may be worried about the way the war was unfolding and that its ugly nature risked guilt by association.
‘President Xi is probably a little bit unsettled as he watches the way in which President Putin has driven Americans and Europeans more closely together and strengthen the Transatlantic alliance in ways that would have been a little bit hard to imagine before the invasion began,’ he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has said he is willing to meet Putin in person for talks, said last week that he was willing to ‘discuss and find a compromise’ with Russia over the future of Donbas – a region of eastern Ukraine comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk where many ethnic Russians live.
Russian and Ukrainian representatives held talks by video link on Monday. Ukraine’s negotiator said he wanted to secure a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and security guarantees for Ukraine.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said the talks would resume on Tuesday after what he described as a ‘technical pause.’
They were the first talks to be held for a week.
Ukrainian authorities earlier said two people died and seven were injured after Russian forces struck an airplane factory in Kyiv, sparking a fire. The Antonov factory is Ukraine’s largest aircraft manufacturing plant and is best known for producing many of the world’s biggest cargo planes.
Russian artillery fire also hit a nine-story apartment building in the northern Obolonskyi district of the city, killing two more people, authorities said.
Firefighters worked to rescue survivors, painstakingly carrying an injured woman on a stretcher away from the blackened and still smoking building.