Blinken Warns Attempting to Retake Crimea Is a ‘Red Line’ for Putin

The Pentagon doesn’t think Ukraine has a real chance of taking the peninsula

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Categories Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday warned that a Ukrainian attempt at retaking Crimea would be a “red line” for Russian President Vladimir Putin and risks a major response.

POLITICO reported that Blinken made the comments during a Zoom call Wednesday with a group of experts in a discussion about the war, citing four unnamed people familiar with the call.

Blinken’s comments mark a potential shift in the Biden administration’s thinking about Crimea. While the Pentagon doesn’t think Ukraine has a chance of retaking Crimea, The New York Times reported last month that the administration still wanted to help Ukraine attack the peninsula and wasn’t concerned about escalating the war.

Putin has shown a willingness to significantly escalate the war over attacks on Crimea. Russia did not start large-scale missile strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure until after the truck bombing of the Kerch Bridge, which connects Crimea to the Russian mainland.

According to POLITICO’s sources, Blinken made the comments when asked if the administration was willing to help Ukraine achieve its goal of taking Crimea, which Russia has controlled since 2014. They said Blinken conveyed that the US isn’t actively encouraging Ukraine to retake the peninsula but said it’s Kyiv’s decision whether or not to do so.

Ukrainian officials still maintain that they will drive Russia out of the peninsula, but the Pentagon recently told members of Congress that it’s unlikely. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has publicly said it’s doubtful Ukraine will be able to drive Russia out of all the territory it controls by the end of this year.

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“I still maintain that for this year it would be very, very difficult to militarily eject the Russian forces from all — every inch of Ukraine and occupied — or Russian-occupied Ukraine,” Milley said on January 20.

While Ukrainian officials say they will “liberate” Crimea, most people living on the peninsula are happy they are part of the Russian Federation. Russia annexed Crimea following the 2014 US-backed coup in Kyiv that ousted former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and sparked the civil war in the Donbas.

A referendum at the time saw 97% of voters in favor of joining the Russian Federation. While the US and Ukraine dispute the results, polling since then has shown that the people of Crimea are happy they joined Russia.

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