Blinken in Rīga: "End the war. End it now."

The United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, was in Rīga today and delivered a clear message to Russian President Vladimir Putin more than a week after Russian forces attacked Ukraine without provocation.

"End the war, End it now," Bliken said at the conclusion of talks with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs. Ukrainians had been attacked while attempting to flee fighting, and were suffering without heating, food, water and medicines, he said. 

Speaking to reporters at the Latvian National Art Museum, Blinken attempted to awaken Putin's hitherto dormant sense of humanity by drawing parallels between the Russian attack on Kyiv and the Nazi siege of Leningrad during the Second World War.

"We have seen scenes like this before in Europe," Blinken said, explaining that every Russian knew about the siege of Leningrad in which the civilian population was systematically starved and "intentionally destroyed" with the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.

"That siege affected millions of Russian families, including President Putin's, whose one-year-old brother was one of the many victims. Now, Russia is starving out cities like Mariupol. It's shameful," Blinken said.

Defending NATO's current stance of not trying to declare or enforce a no-fly zone over all or part of Ukraine, Blinken said doing so risked a much larger conflict.

"Our efforts are all in the direction of ending this war, of ending this suffering as quickly as possible. What we don't want to do it to widen it... a wider war is in no-one's interest, including the interest of the Ukrainian people," Blinken said.

However, NATO is "absolutely committed" to defending "every square inch" of NATO territory, he said.

For his part, Rinkēvičs noted that discussions had included means to further enhance regional defense.

"We see the need - and we are also learing from what is happening in Ukraine... we feel that we need to bolster our coastal defense, cyber defense," Rinkēvičs said, while saying that no concrete decisions on additional measures were ready to be announced as yet. 

The Minister also called for extending the presence of the U.S. forces and capabilities in the Baltic States through the provision of air defense and anti-missile systems. He added that it was in the security interests of Latvia and the Baltic States to have a permanent military presence of the U.S.

"We see the willingess [of the U.S.] to work with us," he said.

 

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