In Finland, Blinken Calls Russia’s War ‘Strategic Failure’

Although Mr. Blinken’s speech, billed as an important overview of Washington’s thinking about the war, broke little new ground, its delivery from a country that shares a more than 800-mile border with Russia that the NATO alliance is now committed to defending amounted to a victory lap likely to embarrass if not infuriate Mr. Putin.

Finland’s official entry into NATO in April, Mr. Blinken said, was “a sea change that would have been unthinkable” before the war in Ukraine — and one that Mr. Putin had brought upon himself by invading his neighbor.

Mr. Blinken spoke at the end of a weeklong trip to Finland, Norway and Sweden that included meetings with NATO officials meant to highlight Western resolve against Ukraine and discuss the alliance’s long-term relationship with Kyiv, which is seeking NATO admission and security guarantees. Sweden is also seeking to join NATO, over Turkish opposition that U.S. officials hope can soon be defused.

More broadly, Mr. Blinken argued in a 40-minute address in Helsinki, that Mr. Putin had unwittingly exposed and compounded the weakness of Russia’s military, hobbled its economy and inspired NATO to become more united, and even larger.

But he also included cautionary notes about what he suggested would be a long and difficult road ahead for Kyiv, particularly amid what he predicted would be new worldwide calls for a halt to the fighting.

“Over the coming months, some countries will call for a cease-fire,” Mr. Blinken said. “On the surface, that sounds sensible — attractive, even. After all, who doesn’t want warring parties to lay down their arms? Who doesn’t want the killing to stop?”

But a cease-fire that freezes current lines in place, with Russia controlling large parts of Ukrainian territory, he added, “is not a just and lasting peace. It is a Potemkin peace. It would legitimize Russia’s land grab. It would reward the aggressor and punish the victim.”

While saying that the United States and Ukraine would like to see an end to the war, Mr. Blinken warned that Mr. Putin appeared to have little interest in negotiating a conclusion to the fighting.

The Russian leader is “convinced he can simply outlast Ukraine and its supporters — sending more and more Russians to their deaths, and inflicting more and more suffering on Ukrainian civilians,” Mr. Blinken said. “He thinks even if he loses the short game, he can still win the long game.”

The United States would support a peace initiative “that helps bring President Putin to the table to engage in meaningful diplomacy,” the secretary of state said, adding that such efforts must hold Russia accountable for atrocities and help pay for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

Although Mr. Blinken said that a peace deal would have to “affirm the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence,” he did not specify whether Russia would have to withdraw from all Ukrainian territory — including the strategic Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014 and which many analysts believe Mr. Putin will never surrender.

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