Secretary Blinken will discuss relations with Russia with NATO allies

Secretary Blinken will discuss relations with Russia with NATO allies

Anthony Blinken will make his first visit to Europe from March 22-25

U.S. and allied nations’ relations with Russia will be one of the issues Secretary of State Anthony Blinken plans to discuss with his NATO colleagues at the Alliance’s Foreign Ministers’ Conference, which will take place in Brussels March 22-25. Philip Ricoeur, undersecretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, told reporters Friday.

This will be Anthony Blinken’s first visit to Europe and he will personally interact with his NATO counterparts during his upcoming visit to Brussels.

According to Philip Ricoeur, the secretary of state plans to discuss with allies relations with Russia, which “remain problematic,” adding that the NATO bloc countries “understand this very well.”

“Given Russia’s behavior in recent months and years, (in our relationship) there are elements of hostility, and we’re not going to shy away from that … I think Russia will be discussed both at the NATO ministerial meeting and on the sidelines,” Ricker said, “We … will discuss with our allies different views on Russia and how we can engage with Russia in a way that advances our collective interests, but at the same time be clearly aware of the threats that Russia poses.”

That said, Ambassador Ricker stressed, President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “have made it clear that our goal… is for relations with Russia to be predictable and stable. And where there are opportunities to work constructively in our interests, we will pursue them.”

Ambassador Ricker did not respond unequivocally to a question about whether the Secretary of State intended to discuss issues related to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in bilateral talks with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, including possible sanctions against German companies involved in the project.

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“I don’t want to prejudge what’s going to happen in this or that meeting. I think you saw the statement that the Secretary of State made yesterday about Nord Stream 2. I’m just going to assume that statement speaks for itself… Obviously, the secretary of state will have the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with all 30 NATO foreign ministers,” said Ricoeur.

Another issue that the Secretary of State will discuss during the meetings with his counterparts from the European Union is the situation in Belarus, said Ricoeur. The U.S. continues to condemn the repression of Lukashenko’s regime against peaceful protesters and calls on Minsk to release political prisoners and hold free and fair elections.

When answering the question of when Julie Fischer will officially take up her duties as U.S. ambassador to Belarus, Ricker didn’t go into details, saying that the State Department is working on “a multi-step process to determine how… Ambassador Fischer can perform his duties in Belarus.”

According to Ricker, Julie Fischer, “with her vast knowledge and experience, has been in close contact with many allies. A few weeks ago she traveled to Europe – to Vilnius, Warsaw, Stockholm – to meet with representatives of the protest movement, as well as our partners and allies, and to consult on these issues.”