European countries should detain Vladimir Putin and turn him over to the International Criminal Court if the Russian president visits their countries, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told lawmakers Wednesday.
“Would you encourage our European allies to turn him over?” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) asked Blinken during a budget hearing.
“Anyone who is a party to the court and has obligations should fulfill their obligations,” Blinken said.
Putin is unlikely to visit hostile European countries anytime soon, especially in light of the ICC arrest warrant — a decision that garnered the court both praise for standing up against Putin and criticism for potentially closing diplomatic pathways for reaching a political resolution that ends his war in Ukraine.
Blinken appeared Wednesday at two Senate hearings, during which he sought to defend the Biden administration’s $6.8 trillion budget proposal for next year.
Blinken called the spending plan necessary in order for the United States to confront the “acute threat” posed by Russia and the “long-term challenge” from China while also addressing climate change and migration.
President Biden has defied Republican demands to reduce the size of government with a budget that proposes increasing spending on the Pentagon and social programs while raising taxes on higher earners and corporations.
“The post-Cold War world is over, and there is an intense competition underway to determine what comes next,” Blinken told a Senate Appropriations panel. “This budget will help us advance that vision and deliver on the issues that matter most to the American people.”
The $63.1 billion request for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development would increase funding for the Asia-Pacific region by 18 percent, said Blinken, helping the United States “outcompete” China.
The pitch appeared designed to counter some criticisms from Republicans that the billions of dollars the United States is spending on military and economic assistance to Ukraine may come at a cost to the long-term strategic goal of countering China.
“They want us to believe we can fight an endless proxy war in Ukraine and, somehow, this won’t impact our ability to deter China from invading Taiwan,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said in a speech last month. “They want us to believe that our military might is infinite, that American power faces no real constraints.”
Blinken argued that the State Department’s budget request would put Washington in a place to address all of its key challenges, which he categorized into two “sets.”
“The first set is posed by our strategic competitors — the immediate, acute threat posed by Russia’s autocracy and aggression, most destructively through its brutal war against Ukraine … and the long-term challenge from the People’s Republic of China,” said Blinken.
“The second set is posed by shared global tests, including the climate crisis, migration, food and energy insecurity, and pandemics, all of which directly impact the lives and livelihoods of Americans and all peoples around the world,” he added.
Graham, in remarks to open the Appropriations hearing, said he wanted to increase funding specifically “to counter China throughout the world, particularly in their backyard.”
Antiwar protesters repeatedly disrupted the other hearing, held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calling for Blinken to negotiate an end to the war. “You’re supposed to be a diplomat,” said one of the protesters.
Blinken has been reluctant to engage in negotiations to end the war, preferring instead to arm Ukraine and allowing it to retake territory captured by Russia before any negotiations take place.
In the absence of U.S. efforts to broker an end to the war, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has proposed a peace plan for the conflict — an effort that the administration and Capitol Hill have looked at skeptically.
“Xi is no peacemaker; he seems ready to validate Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
This week Xi traveled to Russia for a state visit that Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) called a “three-day bro-fest ... celebrating authoritarian power.”
Blinken called Russia the “junior partner” in the relationship but acknowledged that Moscow and Beijing have reasons to stick together. “Both countries have very different worldviews than our own,” he said. “They may find common cause in opposing the worldview that we and so many other countries around the world seek to defend and advance.”
One year of Russia’s war in Ukraine
Portraits of Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has changed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion one year ago — in ways both big and small. They have learned to survive and support each other under extreme circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed apartment complexes and ruined marketplaces. Scroll through portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a year of loss, resilience and fear.
Battle of attrition: Over the past year, the war has morphed from a multi-front invasion that included Kyiv in the north to a conflict of attrition largely concentrated along an expanse of territory in the east and south. Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and take a look at where the fighting has been concentrated.
A year of living apart: Russia’s invasion, coupled with Ukraine’s martial law preventing fighting-age men from leaving the country, has forced agonizing decisions for millions of Ukrainian families about how to balance safety, duty and love, with once-intertwined lives having become unrecognizable. Here’s what a train station full of goodbyes looked like last year.
Deepening global divides: President Biden has trumpeted the reinvigorated Western alliance forged during the war as a “global coalition,” but a closer look suggests the world is far from united on issues raised by the Ukraine war. Evidence abounds that the effort to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions haven’t stopped Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.