Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he remains “convinced and confident” that Ukraine will eventually defeat Russia.
Blinken argued that the toll of the nearly four-month war had not turned in Russia’s favor during a Tuesday interview with Judy Woodruff on PBS. While he said Ukraine had suffered “significant losses” in heavy fighting in the Donbass region, Blinken predicted the country would retain sovereignty “long after” Russian President Vladimir Putin was in power.
“Ukrainians are fighting for their country, they are fighting for their future, they are fighting for their freedom,” Blinken said. “It’s unclear why the Russians are fighting except to further the whims of Vladimir Putin and the bizarre belief that Ukraine is not a sovereign, independent country and should somehow be subsumed under Russia.”
“So I am convinced and confident that ultimately Ukrainian independence, Ukrainian sovereignty will prevail and will be there long after Vladimir Putin leaves the stage,” he continued.
Blinken said the “terrible death” in Ukraine was “the result of Russian aggression” and would continue until the end of the war. He declined to comment directly on suggestions that Ukraine might need to make territorial concessions to Russia to end the war.
“The future of Ukraine depends on Ukrainians,” Blinken said. “It belongs to the Ukrainian people and ultimately these decisions will be made by their democratically elected government, including the president [Volodymyr] Zelensky.”
“He will have to determine what is in the best interest of his country, of his people, and we will support him,” he added. “We will look to the Ukrainians to decide what is in their best interests.”
A poll released by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology last month found that 82% of Ukrainians were against reaching a peace deal by ceding Ukrainian territory to Russia under any circumstances.
The battle for Donbass has recently centered on Severodonetsk, where Russian forces may be on the verge of taking full control after already taking over and controlling most parts of the city.
While imploring Western countries to provide additional aid on Tuesday, Zelensky said the Ukrainian military was working hard to “hold on” to Donbass, while noting that there had been “painful losses in the Kharkiv region ” in addition to Severodonetsk.
Russian military success in the Donbass has led some analysts to conclude that the war has swung in favor of the Kremlin. However, a senior US Defense Intelligence Agency official said Newsweek Wednesday that Ukraine would likely end up emerging with “an advantage”.
“The Russian military is weakening day by day, with little prospect of comprehensive rebuilding or significant reinforcement,” the official said. “Meanwhile, Ukraine is holding its own… [and] standing on the brink of a major increase in its offensive capability by the West.”
“Even if Russia manages to take all of Donbass in the coming weeks, we will still see a stalemate where Ukraine increasingly has an advantage,” the official added.
Newsweek contacted the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.