Blinken responds to Zelenskyy’s plea: No sanctions until ‘bombs are actually dropping'

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s plea for the U.S. and allies to impose sanctions against Russia now, before it invades Ukraine, saying the U.S. will continue to take a diplomatic approach with Russia until “the tanks are actually moving, the planes are actually flying, the bombs are actually dropping.”

During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Blinken was asked to respond to Zelenskyy’s comments Saturday at a security conference in Munich, where the Ukrainian leader pleaded for global action against Russia as it appears poised for an imminent invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky walks to the the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for an Armed Forces Full Honor Wreath Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on September 1, 2021 in Arlington, Virginia.
(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“We don’t need your sanctions after the bombardment will happen, and after our country will be fired at or after we will have no borders or after we will have no economy or parts of our country will be occupied,” Zelenskyy said. “Why would we need those sanctions then?”

Blinken said on CNN, “Look, I understand where President Zelenskyy is coming from, but these things are not at all inconsistent.

“Biden has said while we believe President Putin has made the decision, until the die is cast, until that die actually settles, and until the tanks are actually moving, the planes are actually flying, the bombs are actually dropping, we’re going to do everything we can with diplomacy and with deterrence and persuasion to get President Putin to reverse the decision that we believe he’s made,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting, Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

“The purpose of the sanctions in the first instance it to try to deter Russia from going to war,” he continued. “As soon as you trigger them, that deterrent is gone. Until the last minute, as long as we can try to bring a deterrent effect to this, we’re going to try to do that. As to laying out in detail what the sanctions will be, two things – first, Russia generally has a pretty good idea what we’re going to do, but we don’t want to lay out the specifics in advance, because that would allow Russia to try to plan against them.”

Blinken made similar remarks later Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” saying that “until the tanks are rolling and the planes are in the air,” the U.S. is going to continue to try to “dissuade” Putin.

“Until the last minute, there’s still an option for him to pull back,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to prevent a war. As soon as you trigger the sanctions, of course, any deterrent effect they may have is gone. They get absorbed by President Putin and he moves on.”

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an event at Germanna Community College February 10, 2022 in Culpeper. Virginia. 
(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Blinken accepted an invitation to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Europe this Thursday, but he said the meeting is off if Russia starts a war before then.

President Biden gave a speech Friday saying he believes Russia will invade Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in the “coming days.” The U.S. and NATO partners have threatened to impose a massive package of economic sanctions against Russia in the event of an invasion.

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