ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: Hello GLOBSEC press. I'm delighted to be back at this conference. I always enjoy it, but it’s really fun to watch it mushroom into such a big event. I had an opportunity today to see Prime Minister Fico, to see Foreign Minister Lajcak, and to see a number of other foreign ministers from the neighborhood. It’s obviously a very vital moment for allies, partners, people in Central Europe to gather to talk about the challenges that we’re facing in Ukraine, the challenges that we’re facing with Russia, the importance of defending NATO space, the importance of supporting Ukraine’s aspirations to decide its own future, the May 25th elections that are upcoming, and the work that we are doing together to make the choice for Russia real. And by that I mean that there have been costs for the choices Russia has already made in the form of U.S. sanctions, EU sanctions. There will be more costs if Russia does not step back. But at the same time we are leaving the door open for de-escalation, for dialogue, for diplomacy. You see the work that we did when the EU, the U.S., Ukraine, and Russia met in Geneva. We regretted that that agreement was not implemented. We are trying again now with the OSCE facilitating dialogue, including today in Kyiv. So Russia has a choice; that was very much the subject of the conversation in all meetings here today. Why don’t we go to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: About the OSCE plan – could you give us your assessment of the prospects for that plan after today? And overall do you think the plan is hard enough, demands enough of Russia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: Well, the OSCE is focused today with Ukraine on supporting this Ukrainian initiative to have a broad national dialogue about decentralization to the regions, about offering the regions the ability to keep their own tax money, elect their own people – in exchange for real de-escalation and pursuing those goals politically, rather than through separatism, rather than through the barrel of a gun.
So my understanding is that the first of these OSCE-facilitated round tables started about two hours ago. I frankly haven’t had a report on how it went, but we very much support that Ukrainian-led OSCE-facilitated effort. And we are encouraging all parties to take advantage of it, because real change can happen, real decentralization can happen. But what’s most important are these elections on May 25th, because there are some 23 candidates running representing every color of the political spectrum. There’s a candidate for everybody in Ukraine, and that’s where Ukrainians should really choose their own future.
I think the issue for us is we would like to see as much effort as is going into dialogues and round table also go into really de-escalating, getting separatists out of buildings, getting the focus on demilitarizing the east, because that is equally important and that is causing a lot of terror and friction out in the east, and we feel for the citizens out there.
QUESTION: How divided is the EU vis-à-vis the common Western policy approach on Russia? And how divided is Central Europe? And do you think the U.S., separately, do you think there’s a need for troop build-up on the Western borders of Ukraine, in countries like Slovakia, Hungary et cetera?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY NULAND: Well first, with regard to what happens inside the EU, I think you should ask folks who are inside the EU. I can certainly tell you that in terms of U.S./EU cooperation, it has been constant, it has been intense, and it has been very strong. You’ve seen that every time the U.S. has had to move on the sanctions side, the EU has moved with us, including the sanctions that were imposed earlier this week. So we have very close to matching lists and we’re obviously talking about what we would have to do if the elections are destabilized, meaning moved to sectoral sanctions, and we’re having a very good conversation about how we could do that in a way that made our point to Russia while protecting our own economies. So we feel quite good about that. Obviously there are varying different views based on history, geography, relations, but that’s why it’s important to talk, to find that common position.
With regard to NATO reassurance, as you know, the Alliance has made clear that we will protect our space, that we mean what we say by Article 5, that NATO territory is inviolable, and we are demonstrating that on land, on sea, and in the air. The United States, as you know, has put assets – land, sea and air – all the way along the periphery, including 750 ground troops now throughout the Baltic States, Poland, Romania. We had consultations today about the posture here. My sense is that Slovakia is comfortable, but it knows that it can count on its alliance if it needs any further reassurance. Thanks very much.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.