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410 executed bodies in Bucha alone. Russian soldiers “creating more atrocities right now.” Those comments came from Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Brussels on Thursday night. Blinken just wrapped up 48 hours of meetings with NATO, and he is on fire to help Ukraine.
This was no average meeting. The NATO Foreign Ministerial burgeoned into a worldwide anti-Russia posse. There were unusual guests. Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea attended for the first time ever.
NATO will sustain and strengthen its support “so that Ukraine prevails,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared.
Thank heavens for NATO, after the gloomy testimony this week from America’s most senior military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley. First Milley said Russia could take Kyiv in 72 hours. That was back in February. Now he says the war will drag on for years.
Both remarks were no help to Ukraine. Milley’s remarks did damage because they fed the fear that Ukraine could never beat Russia. That pessimism has been holding back U.S. support.
Plus, Milley’s wrong again. The balance of this war will be decided in days and weeks, and will depend on whether Ukraine can win the fight underway right now at Izyum and Mariupol.
NATO gets it. In Brussels, there was no pessimism. It was all grim determination.
Credit Ukraine’s success in battle – and the Russian atrocities. “The sickening images coming out of Bucha and other parts of Ukraine have only strengthened our resolve and unity,” said Blinken. He told how Russian soldiers gathered residents of Bucha and forced them to watch as the Russians shot a young man. “This is dirt,” the killer said, pointing to his victim. “We’re here to cleanse you from the dirt.”
Ukraine’s counterattack is also a race to curtail atrocities. “Each day, more and more credible reports of rape, killing and torture are emerging,” Blinken said. “We must assume Russian soldiers are creating more atrocities right now,” he added.
For Blinken, there’s a sense of urgency. What a contrast with Milley, who’s struggled as Chairman, on issues from critical race theory to Afghanistan to Ukraine. Milley also dropped the unfortunate remark that Russia was not deterrable.
Granted, Milley told Congress quite a bit about how Ukraine is fighting and winning. On Tuesday, Milley praised the “extraordinary intelligence sharing we’ve allowed Ukraine to see” which, combined with a decentralized fighting style, is “working extremely well on the battlefield.” Translation: American surveillance is helping a lot, and Ukraine is using the right tactics to beat Russia.
Still, Milley’s job is to give advice. Good advice. You have to wonder.
Of course, Blinken’s had his moments, too. He still mentions renewable energy in every speech and takes credit for sending lethal weapons to Ukraine, without acknowledging the policy started with Trump. He’s a Biden family man, for sure, having worked with Biden on and off for 20 years. Blinken even has a walk-on part in the Hunter Biden laptop saga. But right now Blinken’s “strong sense of urgency” is leading the Biden Administration’s response Blinken is in sync with NATO. (And it all went much better without President Biden or Vice President Harris.)
Not a moment too soon. Ukraine must tackle Russia on the roads south of Izyum before two Russian army groups link up. NATO member Greece wants to help Ukraine protect Odesa so it “doesn’t become Mariupol,” Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said Thursday. Holding on in Mariupol, and taking ground near Izyum could deliver another win as big as the Kyiv victory.
Blinken, Austin, and Milley talk to their Ukrainian counterparts just about every day. As you know, Ukraine is not shy about asking for equipment. “They are coming forward with new systems they think would be helpful,” said Blinken on Thursday night in Brussels. Final selections depend on “what the Ukrainians would be ready to use as soon as they get it.”
“For every Russian tank in Ukraine there will soon be 10 anti-tank systems,” Blinken told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell this week. That’s the spirit.