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Diplomacy in Action

Interview With Television Espanola (TVE)

Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Madrid, Spain
April 29, 2014


Question: Mrs. Nuland, what is your opinion on the situation in Ukraine, now after these 24 hours?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well, before we talk about Ukraine, I hope you will let me talk a little bit about Spain. I think you know that I’m here because we have a deep and long relationship between the United States and Spain. I have to say that after this day here I am really encouraged by how Spain is growing again, by all that you have done to rejuvenate the economy. We just had a fantastic day here with young entrepreneurs. They are Spain’s future, we had some great conversations about how our Embassy here can support entrepreneurship, youth employment, this is something that is very important for both of us, so I’ve gotten a lot of energy being here today and we hope Spaniards can have confidence as well in your recovery.

Question: So do you feel comfortable with the Spanish people?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I very much do and we are very high on what is happening in our relationship, on the trade going forward, on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which will release energy and bring jobs and growth on both sides of the Atlantic, so it’s been a really really good day, but we have a lot more to do together. And one of the things we are doing together is working on Ukraine, supporting the people of Ukraine in their desire to live in a clean, non-corrupt, democratic country, where they have opportunity. That’s why we are supporting them as they go to elections at the end of May; that’s why we are supporting them in the reforms and the economic change that they are trying to make, but that’s also why we have to be absolutely firm with Russia in saying that the destabilization that they are engaged in is dangerous and that there will be costs for it.

Question: If it seems that I ask the same question more than once don’t worry, because I’m trying to get the same response but using different words.

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Okay, good.

Question: President Obama said on Saturday that it’s absolutely necessary for the United States and Europe to offer a message of unity…

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Yes.

Question: …of unity against Moscow…On the ground - is this idea close or far from becoming a reality?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I think the United States and Europe are very unified today in our approach to Ukraine, both in terms of the support that we are seeking to give to the Ukrainian people, our work with them to help them get the IMF support, the assistance that we are giving them in anticorruption, in energy independence, in getting to the elections, but also we are close in the costs that we are imposing on Russia. Just yesterday, the European Union and the United States imposed more sanctions on Russians who are contributing to destabilization in Ukraine. We are also having intense consultations now between Washington and Brussels and the member states - that was one of the conversations I talked about today in Madrid - about the next stage of sanctions, about sectoral sanctions, and how we can be sure that if we have to go in that direction, we hurt Russia more than we hurt ourselves.

Question: Do you think that Europe is supportive, after all the things that you have said, what about its involvement in the crisis? Or do you still hold the critical opinion that was leaked two months ago? And does Europe have a real goal?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I think we are doing very well together, the U.S. and Europe, as I said, both in supporting Ukraine now but also in ensuring that if Russia doesn’t change course, if they continue to destabilize Ukraine and try to steal the free choices of the Ukrainian people that it will cost for Russia - that goes to the sanctions that we are imposing. But we are also doing well together in keeping the door open for a diplomatic resolution of this conflict. As you know, Secretary Kerry and High Representative Ashton met with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister and the Russian Foreign Minister just two weeks ago in a show of unity to demonstrate that a Russia that was willing to deescalate could protect the rights of ethnic Russians through a political process. Unfortunately, despite the hard work in Geneva and the very strong agreement that we came to, the Russians have not only not done anything to implement it, they continued to destabilize.

Question: So, on this response, how far will the United States be willing to go? Is there a possibility of war?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: We are all trying to prevent more violence. We are all trying to prevent an escalation of the conflict. That’s why it’s so important for the U.S. and Europe to stay together, that we stay together both in supporting Ukraine and in making…sending Moscow a message - that there is a diplomatic way out if they choose it, but if they don’t choose it, the cost in isolation will go up. So that was one of the things we were talking about today, how we stay united in trying to settle this the situation peacefully, and give the Ukrainian people the right that they deserve to live, as we do, to live in peace with us and to blunt Russia’s aggression.

Question: After these last two months, how do you assess the current attitude of Europe towards the Ukrainian crisis?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well I think like Americans, Europeans are very concerned with what we are seeing. They are very concerned by the aggression that we see coming from Moscow, not simply the 40,000 Russian troops ringing Ukraine’s borders, but also what Russia is doing to provide material support and weapons and planning to the separatists and I think Europeans are increasingly concerned, as we are, that we don’t know where this is going to stop, and that’s why we have to send a very, very strong message together.

Question: So in a way are the positions of the United States and Europe on setting possible sanctions on Russia irreconcilable? And what sanctions in your opinion should be used against Russia? And are sanctions enough?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: So the sanctions that we have been imposing are primarily individual sanctions on those Russians who have been involved in crafting and implementing this policy, and in the United States we have been also imposing sanctions on those who are close to Putin, who protect his money, who enable him to have the military opportunity to threaten Ukraine. So in the European context, Europe has imposed sanctions on some government officials. We are asking Europe to look at a broader collection of Russians to consider sanctioning if we have to go further, but also on both sides of the Atlantic we are considering sanctions within certain economic sectors, and we believe we can do this with a scalpel rather than a hammer, that we can, as the United States did yesterday, block the sale of new technology to Russia and other things that will hurt the economy and cause people to think twice if he doesn’t stop. And those are the kinds of things we’re going to have to do, because it’s much cheaper to take deterrent measures now than to face a broader conflict. Similarly, as you know, within the NATO context, we are ensuring that Russia knows, that Moscow knows, that our own space, NATO territory, is inviolable, that we will protect it. And that’s why we have deployed on land and sea and air now, more forces to reassure those allies who live closest to Russia. That was another thing that I talked to the Spanish government about today, is ensuring that all of us are contributing to that NATO reassurance message, so that we don’t face a threat to our own space.

Question: In a NATO context, do you share the opinion of former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana who said that Russia is not only interested in Crimea, but in the whole of Ukraine?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: I think this is our concern, that the goal here is to destabilize all of Ukraine, to have political and economic control over the country, to steal its wealth, but most importantly, to deny free democratic choice, and a positive future, a more European future, to the Ukrainian people, which they have fought so hard for.

Question: Kiev has said that with its attitude Russia is taking all the steps that will lead to a third world war. Do you share these accusations? Do you agree that it will finally lead to war?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: That is what we are all working so hard to avoid. We are working hard to avoid it both by making Russia’s current moves cost, and we do think we are having a significant impact on the Russian economy, but also by keeping the door open to diplomacy. Just back to the cost that Russia has already paid. I think it’s important that all of us engage in this, see what is happening. The capital flight out of Russia in the first quarter of 2014 was larger than capital flight for all of 2013. Russia has had to spend more than 20 billion ruble… rubles and or euros to support the ruble. It has had its investment rating downgraded by the major organizations around the world to one level above junk, so it’s already costing Putin what he’s doing, and if he doesn’t stop, we will have to increase the cost. Thank you very much.

Question: Thank you.

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