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In Kyiv, Blinken Adds Rock Notes to a ‘Free World’ Message

In Kyiv, Blinken Adds Rock Notes to a ‘Free World’ Message


At the tip of a somber day within the Ukrainian capital, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken slipped right into a seat at Barman Dictat, a crowded basement cocktail bar the place a punk-jazz band was squealing away.

After a couple of songs, the band’s frontman known as Mr. Blinken onstage on Tuesday and, by prearrangement, America’s prime diplomat slung a purple Gibson guitar over his shoulder.

“I do know this can be a actually, actually tough time,” mentioned Mr. Blinken, who had discarded his typical darkish go well with and tie for blue denims and a darkish button-down shirt. It was a reference to current Russian army positive factors. Ukraine’s troopers, notably within the northeastern metropolis of Kharkiv, he mentioned, “are struggling tremendously.”

“But they should know, you might want to know, the United States is with you, a lot of the world is with you,” he mentioned, hitting the core message of his unannounced go to to Kyiv, a visit meant partially to highlight practically $61 billion in further army support signed into legislation by President Biden in April after months of delays primarily attributable to a small band of right-wing House Republicans.

The troops, he mentioned below vibrant stage lights, “are combating not only for a free Ukraine however for the free world — and the free world is with you too.”

“So, possibly we will attempt one thing?” he added. “I don’t know if we will pull this off.”

A second later, the band had began up, and Mr. Blinken — a longtime guitarist who has performed in bands and even has a couple of tracks accessible on Spotify — started strumming the opening chords of Neil Young’s anthemic “Rockin’ within the Free World” with a minimum of fundamental competence.

With its 1989 classic and a refrain that matches its title, the track evokes America’s triumphalism as Soviet communism started to break down. It was clearly chosen to underscore one of many central messages of Mr. Blinken’s tenure and the Biden presidency: that Western democracies are in a significant wrestle with reactionary authoritarian forces.

To Mr. Blinken, Ukraine — a younger democracy at battle with Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia — is a entrance line of that battle.

Critics may query the track selection: the Canadian-born Mr. Young is not any American nationalist, and the track’s lyrics are chopping in regards to the state of an America with younger moms hooked on medicine, and mocked President George H.W. Bush’s promise of a “kinder, gentler” nation.

In that sense, the track is usually misunderstood, very similar to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the usA.” — which isn’t a patriotic anthem however a stinging indictment of Reagan-era America. (That could also be one cause Mr. Young sued President Donald J. Trump to cease him from taking part in his monitor at 2020 marketing campaign rallies.)

Mr. Blinken’s onstage foray shortly drew barbs on-line from critics who, citing hunger in Gaza or horror in Kharkiv, mentioned that this was no time for a cupboard official to be jamming in denims. “This just isn’t a severe administration,” a Republican National Committee account posted on the social media.

But the second appeared to serve its function. A coverage handle by Mr. Blinken earlier within the day about long-term help for Ukraine was one thing lower than a success on social media. By Tuesday afternoon, nevertheless, his politically tinged rocking was going viral.

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