PRETORIA, South Africa — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken warned on Monday that if countries don’t stand up to Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, that would give a green light for similar aggressions worldwide.
“If we allow a big country to bully a smaller one, to simply invade it and take its territory, then it’s going to be open season, not just in Europe but around the world,” he told a news conference in Pretoria, after holding talks with Naledi Pandor, the foreign minister of South Africa.
South Africa was among dozens of nations that did not immediately condemn President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February, which disappointed American officials. South Africa then joined 16 other African nations in abstaining from voting in March on a United Nations General Assembly resolution condemning Russia, while 28 countries on the continent voted in favor of the resolution.
Ms. Pandor told the news conference that Mr. Blinken had insisted in their talks that he was not trying to force her country to make a choice to denounce Russia.
“Secretary Blinken has confirmed that America is not asking us to choose,” she said. “I don’t recall any attempt by the United States to do that. But in terms of my interaction with some of our partners in Europe and elsewhere, there has been a sense of patronizing bullying — you choose this or else.”
“We’ve been quite clear in saying that we really advocate for peace,” Ms. Pandor said.
In a policy speech later on Monday at the University of Pretoria, Mr. Blinken said that economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic had “been deepened by Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine.”
He cited World Bank estimates that the invasion of Ukraine could add another 40 million people — most of them in Africa — to the ranks of the 193 million people worldwide who need humanitarian food assistance.
Russian officials have told African leaders that the U.S.-led sanctions on their country over the war in Ukraine have deepened the global food crisis, while failing to mention how Russian naval control had until recently prevented grain shipments from leaving Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain exporters, via its Black Sea ports.
Mr. Blinken tied the Ukraine conflict to anti-imperial independence movements by Africans, which he said have helped forge “a system of rules and principles” that include “the right of every nation to have its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity respected — a principle at stake right now in Ukraine.”
Mr. Blinken also said on Monday that he had authorized a new round of U.S. military aid to Ukraine, the 18th such package since August 2021. The shipments will include “arms, munitions and equipment from U.S. Department of Defense inventories for Ukraine’s self-defense,” he said in a statement.