Antony Blinken Caught “Rockin’ in the Free World” in Ukraine

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday picked up a red guitar at a basement bar in Kyiv with a message for Ukraine – that the U.S. and much of the world was fighting not just for Ukraine but for the free world.

Blinken arrived by train early on Tuesday morning on the previously undisclosed visit, which comes days after Russia launched a ground incursion into Kharkiv — after U.S. military aid was held up for months by Republicans.

Blinken joined the Kyiv punk band 19.99 on stage with a left-handed guitar at Barman Dictat in the capital city, and played Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World”, a rock anthem released in 1989.

The music bar was built to double as a bunker in case of war. Blinken’s presence there came at the end of a long day of meetings that was capped with a speech that set out Blinken’s vision for what a Ukrainian victory would look like.

“That victory would include a firm place in the free world,” Blinken said.

The song was first performed during an era when the Soviet Union was reeling from protests. Ultimately the USSR broke up and numerous nations, including Ukraine, gained independence.

Dmitry Temnyi, frontman of 19.99, said he was impressed by Blinken’s guitar skills.

“He played well,” he said.

Reuters, WaPo

This is not the first time Blinken has shown off his musical skills.

In September 2023, Blinken picked up a guitar and sang at a State event, surprising the crowd with a rendition of Muddy Waters’s “Hoochie Coochie Man.”

Blinken once told Rolling Stone magazine that music is a passion, being hooked by the Beatles as a child, and admiring Eric Clapton later in life.

Blinken released three blues-rock singles on Spotify between 2018 and 2020, under the moniker Ablinken. Those songs have popped up in his life as a state official, being blared from various world events, and at least eight foreign diplomats and leaders have gifted Blinken guitars or accessories as gifts.

Noting the U.S. has used music as a diplomatic tool in history, Blinken said, “It’s a wonderfully bonding thing to forget about the weight of the world for a couple of hours and come together just as friends with a common passion for music.”