THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center’s briefing on “The Outcomes of the G7.” My name is Wes Robertson and I’m the moderator for this briefing. As a reminder, this briefing is on the record. We will post a transcript of this briefing on our website, which is fpc.state.gov. For journalists joining us on Zoom, please take a moment now to rename yourself in the chat window with your name, outlet, and country.
Our briefer for today is Howard Solomon, Director of the Office of Western European Affairs. Following his remarks, I’ll open the floor for questions. Over to you, Director Solomon.
MR SOLOMON: Thank you. Well, thank you for having me here today. It’s a real honor to be here.
As you know, Secretary Blinken returned from the G7 last week, where we addressed several challenges and reflected what our unity with European allies and partners has accomplished so far. The United States with the G7 has imposed massive consequences and severe costs on Russia after President Putin decided to launch his unprovoked and devastating full-scale invasion of Ukraine. We’ve imposed unprecedented sanctions and export controls that have directly impacted the Russian military’s ability to wage war.
These efforts, coordinated with our NATO Allies and partners, have strengthened Ukraine’s battlefield capabilities and weakened Russia’s. Along these lines, Russia’s war has made clearer than ever the urgency of promoting and defending the values and ideals that the United States and the G7 represent. And it has affirmed the vital importance of the U.S.-EU relationship. As Secretary Blinken said, it has also demonstrated how the dream of a Europe whole, free, and at peace continues to motivate those in Europe and beyond working for a more secure, more just, and more prosperous world.
The G7 is providing economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine as Moscow tries to make up for Russia’s deficits or defeats on the battlefield by targeting civilian infrastructure, including heat, water, and electricity, impacting Ukrainian men, women, children, and the elderly. Russia has destroyed some 40 percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including thermal energy plants that provide many Ukrainian homes, schools, hospitals with heat in the wintertime, when temperatures can drop to -20 degrees Celsius. Violently uprooting tens of thousands of Ukrainians from their homes and deporting them to Russia through so-called human filtration operations was not enough. Russian officials have been spreading fear throughout the world with talk about using nuclear weapons.
As the G7 has done, we’re continuing to address Russia’s latest escalations together, standing firm with Ukraine. On infrastructure, the G7 agreed to create a new coordination group to help repair, restore, and defend Ukraine’s energy grid. The G7 is focusing more of our security support on helping Ukraine protect against these attacks, strengthening air defenses, and ramping up defense production. On energy, the United States has exported 53 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas to Europe. That’s nearly two and a half times what we exported in 2021 and will provide our friends with a vital reserve as they head into the winter.
On food security, in June President Biden and other G7 leaders announced that our countries would invest $4.5 billion in strengthening food security, and more than half of that is coming from the United States, and we pledged billions more since that time. On this issue, as with many others from energy security to democracy and human rights, there is no daylight between the United States and the European Union. The EU is a partner of first resort in addressing our shared global challenges.
The U.S. is deeply committed to strengthening the transatlantic relationship and working with our allies and partners to address global challenges and opportunities. Throughout the last year, the United States and Europe have become more unified in our approach to the People’s Republic of China, together with G7 partners, NATO Allies, and with the European Union in the U.S.-EU dialogue on China. The G7 stands together in defense of the rules-based international order so that all nations can choose their path free from intimidation, coercion, or unfair trade practices. We all recognize the need to cooperate with the PRC on global challenges like the climate crisis – which we cannot address without the world’s largest emitter being a part of it – and global health security, of course. But in our discussions here, we were also clear-eyed about the need to align our approach to the PRC in the face of growing coercion and pushback against Beijing’s market distorting policies and practices, which hurt workers and industries in all of our countries.
We appreciate Germany’s leadership in the G7 this year, with its focus on shared goals related to security, climate, economic stability, health, infrastructure, and democratic values. The transatlantic relationship is stronger than ever, as shown by the unprecedented level of cooperation on multiple fronts in the past year.
Thank you, and I look forward to taking your questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you for those remarks. We will now move to the Q&A portion of this event. Please keep in mind that Director Solomon is the Director for Western European Affairs, so questions about other regions of the world will be outside of his area of responsibility. Journalists on Zoom, please click on the raised hand icon at the bottom of the screen to indicate you have a question.
I did have some questions that were submitted in advance, so we’ll go ahead and start with those. The first question is: “German Chancellor Scholz was criticized by some for going to the PRC during the G7. Do you think the trip has impacted U.S.-Germany and U.S. and EU relations?”
MR SOLOMON: Thanks for that question. So what I can say is that our partnership with Germany has never been stronger on a whole variety of issues and challenges – global challenges, regional challenges – including on the issue of China. I think we are very unified in terms of our approach toward these challenges and toward opportunities as well related to the PRC. And we strongly agreed – we saw the objectives that Chancellor Scholz laid out before his trip, including in op-eds in Politico and other publications, and they were very clear objectives. And one of those objectives was to encourage President Xi to press President Putin and Russia not to use nuclear weapons of any kind. And I think as a result – very positive – we saw the remarks from President Xi on exactly that topic. So in that sense, it was very good.
But in general, with Germany and with other European partners, I see a growing convergence in terms of recognizing the challenges in terms of competition, in terms of cooperation, and meeting issues such as looking at unfair trade practices, at working together to highlight human rights abuses – whether that’s in Geneva or in other places as well – looking at protecting intellectual property, critical infrastructure. And so in that sense I think we’re on one page, and if anything, we’ve seen an increased attention and a growing unity in terms of our approach. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question that was submitted in advance is from Robert Papa of MCN TV Albania: “Do you support Open Balkans, and what do you think about the Berlin Process for the Western Balkans?”
MR SOLOMON: Yeah, thanks. Advancing Western Balkans’ European Union integration is an absolute U.S. priority, and we see the future of the region in the European Union. We support the Open Balkan initiative as long as it is open to all Western Balkan countries, including Kosovo. And, yeah, we would urge the Open Balkan initiative transparency, if you will. In other words, we would like to see concrete benefits to all citizens of the region. It should complement – not duplicate – the Berlin Process.
All regional integration initiatives should deliver tangible results that advance closer political and economic ties and the Western Balkan-EU paths. So we welcome deliverables such as freedom of movement based on ID cards, mutual recognition of higher education credentials, and mutual recognition of some professional qualifications as announced at the November 3rd Berlin Summit. And we look forward to seeing its implementation across the Western Balkans. Thanks.
MODERATOR: That was the end of our advance questions. I don’t see any hands raised in the Zoom. Are there any questions in the room? All right, there we go. Please state your name and outlet.
QUESTION: Oh, hi. Bochen Han, South China Morning Post. Were there any discussion at the G7 meetings regarding Germany’s backing of Chinese state-owned shipping giant Cosco buying a stake in Hamburg, the Hamburg port, despite national security warnings, or any discussion on the German self-styled China city in Duisburg?
MR SOLOMON: Yeah. Well, look, I think that we’ve of course followed the stories of Hamburg and other issues related to PRC investments that have come up, and each country, whether it’s Germany or other European countries, has a sovereign right and a sovereign ability to be able to choose how they choose to approach these questions.
I think what we have seen is a growing sense of unity on the part of our German partners and other European partners in looking at increasing our tools to screen investments, to protect critical infrastructure, to look at supply chains of critical minerals, and it’s no exception.
So in addition to the stories, I just saw today that there were other stories about, for example, a careful screening process that the German Government underwent with investment in terms of the semiconductor industry where they put a veto on what were seen as sensitive technologies. So I think that there really is very little daylight between us.
MODERATOR: All right. If there are not any further questions, sir, do you have any closing remarks you’d like to make?
MR SOLOMON: No, thanks.
MODERATOR: Okay. Well, thank you so much. This brings us to the end of our briefing. I want to give a special thanks to briefer Director Solomon for spending his time with us today and for those of you who participated. Thank you and good day.