Here’s a look at what U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other top diplomats have been doing this week:
US, Russia, Ukraine
Following consultations with various European partners as well as Ukraine, the United States and NATO provided written responses to Moscow addressing Russia’s renewed security demands — the latest moves in diplomatic maneuvering aimed at heading off armed conflict.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan delivered the document in person Wednesday to Russia’s Foreign Ministry. Separately, NATO transmitted to Russia its own responses regarding European security in a document described by officials as a few pages in length.
US Responds to Russia’s Security Demands, Renewing Call for Diplomacy
Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman assessed that China’s hosting of the Winter Olympics early next month was a factor in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculation of military actions against Ukraine.
“We all are aware that the Beijing Olympics begin on February 4 — the opening ceremony — and Putin is expected to be there,” Sherman said. “I think that probably President Xi Jinping would not be ecstatic if Putin chose that moment to invade Ukraine. So, that may affect his timing and his thinking.”
On Sunday, the State Department ordered the departure of eligible family members from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and authorized the voluntary departure of U.S. direct-hire employees amid the continued threat of Russian military action against Ukraine. The State Department also asked U.S. citizens in Ukraine to consider departing the country via commercial or other privately available transportation options.
US Orders Departure of Family Members of Ukraine Embassy Staff
The State Department said it was watching closely “the fluid situation” in Burkina Faso, where a military junta ousted President Roch Marc Christian Kabore. But the U.S. said it was “too soon” to officially characterize the events in Burkina Faso as a coup.
“We call for the immediate release of President Kabore and other government officials, and for members of the security forces to respect Burkina Faso’s constitution and civilian leadership. We urge all sides in this fluid situation to remain calm and to seek dialogue as a means to resolve grievances,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said this week during a press briefing.
Burkina Faso Soldiers Say They Deposed President
The United States warned Iran was just weeks from developing the capacity to make a nuclear weapon. The alarm came amid indirect negotiations between the two countries seeking a mutual return to compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal.
“[Iran] is getting to the point where its breakout time, the time it would take to produce fissile material for a bomb, is getting down to a matter of a few weeks,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a virtual event Monday. How the U.S. and its allies would deal with the risks will be decided soon, Blinken said, adding that “given what Iran is doing, we can’t allow this to go on.”
As Iran Nears Uranium Breakout Capacity, US Mulls Bomb-Making Scenarios
On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department released its annual “Trafficking in Persons Report.” Blinken called for other countries to improve “collective efforts to comprehensively address human trafficking,” as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem.
State Department Releases Annual Trafficking in Persons Report