Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it is obvious Russian President Vladimir Putin has goals beyond Ukraine and may have other countries in his sights.
"When President Biden addressed the nation today, he said that Putin wants a new Soviet Union. Is there intelligence to suggest that President Putin will advance beyond Ukraine?" "CBS Evening News" anchor and managing editor Norah O'Donnell asked Blinken in an interview on Thursday.
"You don't need intelligence to tell you that that's exactly what President Putin wants," the top U.S. diplomat said. "He's made clear that he'd like to reconstitute the Soviet empire. Short of that, he'd like to reassert a sphere of influence around neighboring countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc. And short of that, he'd like to make sure that all of these countries are somehow neutral."
But Putin would face intense resistance from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in doing so, he said.
"Now, when it comes to a threat beyond Ukraine's borders, there's something very powerful standing in his way," Blinken added. "That's Article 5 of NATO — an attack on one is an attack on all. It's exactly why we've been reinforcing NATO's eastern flank."
The Biden administration has been adamant that it will not send U.S. troops into Ukraine, which is not part of NATO, though it is stationing troops in nearby countries. Instead, the U.S. is arming Ukraine with weapons and has unleashed a series of sanctions against Russia.
When asked what the U.S. was doing to lower the risk of an accidental escalation between U.S. troops in nearby countries and Russian forces, Blinken said the Biden administration wants to have "communication with Russia on a military basis to make very clear what it risks if it miscalculates."
As Russia launched an attack on Ukraine, Putin warned that countries that stood in its way would face severe consequences that have never been seen in history, raising concerns that he was threatening a nuclear attack.
"I can't begin to get into his head and to say exactly what he means by that," Blinken said. "We've prepared for whatever course that he chooses to take."
Blinken said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is still in Ukraine.
"We're concerned for the safety of all of our friends in Ukraine, government officials and others," Blinken said. "And we're doing everything we can to stand with them to support them."
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