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Sec. of State Blinken says Putin wants to advance beyond Ukraine as White House is hit hard over 'failed' diplomatic strategy: 'Putin was playing Biden all along'

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Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that Russia's military invasion of Ukraine is likely only part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's designs for the European continent.

Blinken made the remarks in an interview with CBS News managing editor Norah O'Donnell. When asked by O'Donnell if the U.S. had any specific intelligence indicating Putin will advance beyond Ukraine, the nation's top diplomat shrugged off the question, suggesting it's obvious.

"You don't need intelligence to tell you that that's exactly what President Putin wants," Blinken said. "He's made clear that he'd like to reconstitute the Soviet empire. Short of that, he'd like to reassert a sphere of influence around neighboring countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc. And short of that, he'd like to make sure that all of these countries are somehow neutral."

Blinken made it clear that any attack on a NATO member country would trigger a global response.

"Now, when it comes to a threat beyond Ukraine's borders, there's something very powerful standing in his way," Blinken noted. "That's Article 5 of NATO — an attack on one is an attack on all. It's exactly why we've been reinforcing NATO's eastern flank."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on alarming developments in Ukraine www.youtube.com

It remains to be seen, however, what strength of response NATO countries, including the U.S., would offer. President Biden has thus far been tepid and diplomatic in his approach to Russia's aggression in Eastern Europe. Though it depends on who you ask. In a press conference Thursday, Biden responded to Russia's unprovoked military invasion by unleashing a slew of sanctions he said would be "devastating" — in "another month or so."

The U.S. has also been supplying weapons to the Ukrainian government, as well. But when pressed by reporters Thursday on whether more could be done — such as personally sanctioning Putin and removing Russia from SWIFT, an international banking cooperative, for starters — Biden demurred.

Politico reported Thursday that Putin was "playing Biden all along." Reuters, too, reported that Biden's negotiating returned zero results. Other voices, some notorious, chimed in with varying degrees of criticism.

Despite the president's tough rhetoric toward the would-be tyrant in the past, during meetings this year, Biden attempted to appeal to Putin's reason, pleading with him to "return to diplomacy" for the sake of Russia's "credibility worldwide," the Politico report stated.

With the launch of a full-scale invasion into Ukraine this week, Putin proved that Biden's reasoning and emotional appeals had little effect on him.

"Biden’s appeals to Putin’s geopolitical ego didn’t work," the report added. "For Biden and his team, it is a deeply frustrating moment. Their strategy toward Russia has largely failed."

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