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Russia, China Top Agenda as Blinken Visits Ukraine, U.K.


Security challenges posed by Russia and China will be top concerns when Secretary of State

Antony Blinken

meets ministers and leaders of allied countries next week in visits to London and Kyiv, according to U.S. officials.

Mr. Blinken is conferring with foreign ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrialized countries in London in advance of a summit of leaders from those countries, including President Biden, in June.

Afterward, Mr. Blinken will travel to Kyiv to meet top officials there after Russian forces massed along the Ukrainian border in recent weeks to world-wide alarm.

Mr. Biden voiced concerns about the Russian troop buildup in an April phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia was removed from what was then known as the G-8 following its move to annex Crimea in 2014.

While Russia’s Defense Ministry said last week it would start a partial withdrawal, U.S. military officials have expressed wariness and Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelensky

has urged his troops to remain on guard.

Mr. Blinken will meet with Mr. Zelensky and Ukrainian Foreign Minister

Dmytro Kuleba

to reaffirm U.S. support “especially in the face of ongoing Russian aggression,” said Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

Mr. Reeker acknowledged reports that some Russian troops have departed, adding they should “cease aggressive activity in and around Ukraine.”

He said the U.S. and Ukraine also would discuss U.S. security assistance. Washington sent Kyiv about $125 million in aid earlier this year and another $150 million is expected.

The Biden administration also faces a decision about whether to impose serious new  sanctions against Nord Stream 2, a natural-gas pipeline being built to connect Russia and Germany that could give Moscow greater sway over European energy markets. The U.S. also has disagreements with Moscow over issues including human rights and the future of the Arctic, the subject of a gathering Mr. Blinken is set to attend later in May in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Concerns about China also will be aired during meetings of the G-7, a club that unites the U.S., leading European economies, Canada and Japan. The countries’ foreign ministers will host diplomats from select guest countries, including Australia, South Korea and India—three key U.S. partners in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, where U.S. allies have recently encountered a more assertive Beijing.

At the G-7 dinner Tuesday, the regular and guest members will discuss the Indo-Pacific region, said Erica Barks-Ruggles, a senior official overseeing international organizations at the State Department.

“The common denominator through here is to engage China from a position of strength,” including alliances and partnerships, Ms. Barks-Ruggles said. “Our goal is to not to have an us-versus-them, or to make allies pick and choose; our goal is to uphold the rules-based international order, which has helped keep the peace for the last 70 years.”

With India in the midst of a severe Covid outbreak, the gathering also is expected to address global medical supply chains. In addition, Mr. Blinken is expected to meet with U.K. Prime Minister

Boris Johnson.

Other topics at the G-7 will include the coronavirus pandemic, the global economic recovery, climate change, human rights, food security and gender equality, Ms. Barks-Ruggles said.

Write to William Mauldin at [email protected]

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