Antony Blinken Hints Joe Biden Could ‘Adjust’ Ukraine Policy to Support Attacks with U.S. Weapons in Russia

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

American Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested in remarks on Wednesday that President Joe Biden could one day support Ukraine attacking Russian territory with U.S. weapons if deemed necessary to “adjust” to what Ukraine needs to do to fend off the invasion.

“As the conditions have changed, as the battlefield has changed, as what Russia does has changed in terms of how it’s pursuing its aggression, escalation, we’ve adapted and adjusted too, and I’m confident we’ll continue to do that,” Blinken told reporters during a stop in Moldova on Wednesday.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference with Moldova’s President Maia Sandu at the Moldovan Presidency in Chisinau, Moldova, on May 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, Pool)

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that anonymous sources within the Biden administration appear to agree with the implication in Blinken’s remarks that Biden is considering greenlighting strikes within Russia. The Post claimed the officials were “actively weighing” whether to stop discouraging Ukraine from using American weapons to strike Russian targets. Biden has led efforts to provide Ukraine with tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons in response to the Russian invasion since 2022 but has yet to publicly support Ukrainian attacks inside Russia out of concern that doing so will prompt Russian strongman Vladimir Putin to retaliate directly against the United States or other NATO powers.

Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, colonizing its Crimean peninsula in an “annexation” that Kyiv has rejected for a decade. The war simmered for years in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine, fueled by Russia-backed separatists seeking to sever ties with the Ukrainian government. Following Biden’s decision to lift sanctions on the now-defunct Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, Putin dramatically escalated the conflict by formally invading Ukraine using the Russian military in February 2022. Since then, Putin has “annexed” four more regions of the country — the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — and made small but incremental gains in securing a growing amount of Ukrainian territory.

ZOLOTE, UKRAINE - DECEMBER 12: on December 12, 2021 in Zolote, Ukraine. A build-up of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine has heightened worries that Russia intends to invade the Donbas region, most of which is held by separatists after a 7-year-long war with the Ukrainian government. On Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin via video conference to discuss the escalation tensions. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

A build-up of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine has heightened worries that Russia intends to invade the Donbas region on December 12, 2021. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

The lack of significant progress for Ukraine in thwarting the invasion in recent months appears to have prompted growing anxiety in the West and mounting calls to stop discouraging Ukraine from attacking Russian territory. Blinken was asked about Biden’s restrictions on U.S. weapons in the context of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg suggesting that Ukraine should be allowed to attack Russia.

“To deny Ukraine the possibility of using these weapons against legitimate military targets on Russian territory makes it very hard for them to defend themselves,” Stoltenberg reportedly said.

Jens Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Asked if Biden would reconsider limits on how American weapons could be used in Ukraine, Blinken responded that the White House would “adapt” to the status of the war accordingly.

“We haven’t encouraged or enabled strikes outside of Ukraine, but Ukraine, as I’ve said before, has to make its own decisions about the best way to effectively defend itself,” Blinken said, adding that America would “adapt and adjust” policies if needed.

Asked to clarify if that meant that Biden could, at some point, approve of Ukrainian strikes in Russian territory, Blinken replied, “With regard to Ukraine, adapt and adjust means exactly that.”

“At every step along the way, we’ve adapted and adjusted as necessary, and so that’s exactly what we’ll do going forward,” he elaborated. “We’re always listening, we’re always learning, and we’re always making determinations about what’s necessary to make sure that Ukraine can effectively continue to defend itself.”

The implication of Blinken’s comments appeared to contrast with comments made a day before by White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby, who insisted there was “no change at this point, we don’t encourage or enable the use of U.S. supplied weapons to strike inside Russia.”

Ukraine is already using its own weapons to hit Russian targets, the Washington Post noted on Thursday. Following Stoltenberg’s comments, several European nations also appeared to give approval to Ukraine to attack Russian territory.

“We think that we should allow them to neutralize military sites where missiles are fired, from where … Ukraine is attacked,” French President Emmanuel Macron said, with a caveat that he did not approve of striking Russian civilian communities.

Polish Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk more broadly said in an interview that Ukraine “can fight as they want,” without restrictions, using Polish weapons.

“We decided to help Ukraine in the conflict, Ukraine was brutally attacked, so it has the right to defend itself as it deems appropriate,” Tomczyk reportedly said.

Denmark and Finland soon followed. Asked about Ukraine using Danish weapons to attack Russia, Foreign Affairs Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said, “The short answer is yes.”

“When we discussed this with our Foreign Affairs Committee in the Danish Parliament, we made it very clear from the beginning – that this is part of self-defense, which will likely also imply the attacks on military facilities on Russian soil,” Rasmussen added, according to the Ukrainian state outlet Ukrinform.

Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen similarly stated that Finland had not specified to Kyiv any restrictions on how Ukraine could use Finnish weapons.

Stoltenberg appeared to defend his statements, promising to advocate for supporting Ukraine at July’s NATO summit.

“Ukraine can still prevail – but only with continued, robust support from NATO Allies. So at the NATO Summit in July, we plan to put our support on a firmer footing,” Stoltenberg said on Thursday, “Including with a greater NATO role in coordinating security assistance and training, as well as a multi-year financial commitment.”

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