2:09 p.m. EST
MR PRICE: Good afternoon.
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
MR PRICE: As we have noted in recent days and recent hours, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is beginning. Hours after Russia recognized the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as, quote/unquote, “independent,” President Putin authorized Russian troops to enter those regions. He has taken other steps that amount to a direct assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty.
We responded in turn quickly and decisively. Within less than a day, we’d announced the first tranche of sanctions with our allies and partners, including those in the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and Australia.
Our German allies, yesterday, took resolute action to ensure that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, what had been a prized $11 billion investment on the part of the Russian Federation, is suspended indefinitely. And as you have just seen, President Biden today authorized sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its corporate office-holders. We have now taken complementary action using our own authorities to ensure that Nord Stream 2 is off the table, just as we said it would be.
In lockstep with our allies, we are blocking from the global financial system two large banks that are connected to the Kremlin and Russian military, and Russian sovereign wealth can no longer trade on U.S. or European financial markets. As you all know, we additionally sanctioned Russian elites, those elites who are in many ways complicit.
This is the beginning of our response. If Putin escalates further, we will escalate further using additional sanctions and export controls, which we’ve yet to unveil but are fully prepared to implement with allies and partners across the globe.
The sequence of events that Secretary Blinken laid out at the UN Security Council last week appears to be proceeding exactly as he laid out. We’ve seen false flags, we’ve seen provocations, we’ve seen theatrically staged meetings at the Kremlin, we’ve seen cyber operations, and the list goes on.
So where do we go from here? Moscow needs to demonstrate that it’s serious about diplomacy. Russia’s actions over the last 48 hours have, in fact, demonstrated the opposite. If Moscow’s approach changes, we remain ready to engage.
The United States and our allies and partners remain open to diplomacy. We are eager to engage to avert what would be a brutal and costly conflict, but as we have said, diplomacy cannot succeed unless Russia changes course.
As we have said, we are prepared. We are prepared for any contingency going forward.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks. I have a question about the Houthi sanctions, but it’s largely semantic, so I’ll leave it ‘til later.
On Nord Stream 2, you guys had been saying for months – indeed, for over a year, since the waivers were first granted – that in fact this gave you additional leverage, withholding the sanctions did, and would serve as a deterrent. Clearly it didn’t – they didn’t provide you with any leverage at all that we can tell, because of what you just said in your opening statement about the invasion beginning. So how do you explain to people why you didn’t impose these sanctions earlier?
MR PRICE: So Matt, it’s important – and let’s just rewind the tape and remember what has happened in recent hours. Yesterday, within a short timeframe of the Russian invasion beginning, Germany took decisive, resolute action to take Nord Stream 2 off the table. Today, we followed with our own complementary authorities using the powers and capabilities that we have.
We have always said in the context of Nord Stream 2, in the context of the steps that we are taking with partners and allies around the world, that one of the most important tools we have in our arsenal is transatlantic unity. The fact that Germany acted so quickly, so decisively, is in many ways a product of the coordination of the consultation we have done now with two successive German governments. Of course, this started with Chancellor Merkel and her government, and in more recent months we have had concerted discussions with Chancellor Scholz and his government.
The fact that we are acting in unison immediately to take these steps that essentially remove Nord Stream 2 from the equation – that is a byproduct, that is a result of the work that we have done together with the German Government over the course of these last several months, over the course of the last year or so.
QUESTION: So it sounds to me – and correct me if I’m wrong – that your argument is that if you had imposed the sanctions earlier, the Germans wouldn’t have suspended – done – the Germans wouldn’t have done what they did yesterday, or it would have been a much bigger lift to get them to do that.
MR PRICE: What we have said, and our – what —
MR PRICE: Our strategy has been predicated on the knowledge that transatlantic unity is the most powerful instrument we have.
QUESTION: That’s fine, but I don’t – but look, the pipeline’s already been built, okay? Now, whether it gets turned on or not is another —
MR PRICE: Well, but —
QUESTION: — is another question.
MR PRICE: Right. So you —
QUESTION: But presumably you had more leverage – and I don’t understand why you don’t think that you would have had more leverage if it hadn’t been – if these sanctions had been imposed before the pipeline was finished.
MR PRICE: So, Matt, you also raise a good point. The pipeline, when this administration came into office, was more than 90 percent complete. We have imposed sanctions under PEESA on a number of targets associated with this pipeline, persons and entities. But the fact is that had we sanctioned Nord Stream 2 AG, had we sanctioned its corporate office holders, it is far from clear that that would have kept the pipeline from going into operation. What the Germans did yesterday was to ensure that the pipeline is no longer part of the equation.
MR PRICE: So by acting together with the Germans how we did, when we did, and the way in which we did, we have ensured that this is an $11 billion prize investment that is now a hunk of steel sitting at the bottom of the sea.
QUESTION: All right, well, I don’t think you, though, can prove – and the converse can’t be proven either. But you just don’t know if imposing the sanctions earlier would have had more of a deterrent effect or any deterrent effect —
MR PRICE: Well, if we would have made it a sunk cost many, many months ago for the Russian Federation, I don’t think that would have had much deterrent capability.
QUESTION: Well, it hasn’t anyway, so I’ll leave it there.
MR PRICE: Simon.
QUESTION: Yeah, the Secretary obviously said yesterday he had canceled his meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, but you guys remain open to diplomacy. So what exactly would you want to see from Russia in order to reschedule that meeting, in order to resume some kind of diplomacy, diplomatic talks between you? And just an additional one: You’ve sort of – this is the last – or this is part of the first tranche of sanctions, the Nord Stream 2 sanctions that just came out. Is that the end of the first tranche or is there more coming in that? And can you say whether more sanctions actions will be taken if Russia doesn’t escalate further from where it is now?
MR PRICE: Well, the question you ask is what we would like to see. Let me tell you – let me start by answering that question by letting you know what we no longer will engage in, and that is the pretense of diplomacy. You heard the Secretary use that phrase yesterday, and that is what we have seen. This is and has been, in some ways, diplomatic kabuki theater on the part of the Russians – making statements that they are committed to a diplomatic path while their actions suggest exactly the opposite. That is not an environment in which diplomacy can achieve the results that it needs to achieve.
Our goal here, even as the Russian invasion of Ukraine is beginning, is to avert the worst-case scenario, the worst-case scenario that we have warned about for some time now. And we have gone into great detail in terms of what that could look like: electronic warfare; the – a fuller-scale invasion, an attack on major urban centers, including Kyiv, a city of 2.9 million people; horrific human rights abuses, atrocities, potential war crimes. These are all things that, even as the invasion is beginning, we are going to do everything that we reasonably can to prevent from happening.
And so that’s why, together with our allies and partners, we absolutely remain open to diplomacy, but only if Moscow is serious. We are not going to engage in this pretense with them during which they draw out the process – suggest one thing, do another, ready their preparations, move their forces closer to the border, develop and refine their plans – as they give the world a head fake that they are actually committed to the diplomatic path.
Now, there are a number of ways that Moscow could indicate that it is serious. It essentially boils down to de-escalation. That would be the most concrete, the clearest indication that diplomacy has the potential to bear fruit, that diplomacy has the potential to save lives. That is the kind of diplomacy we are interested in. That is also not the kind of diplomacy that we have seen any indication, as of yet, that Moscow is interested in.
QUESTION: Can you comment on the reports that the U.S. informed the Ukrainian Government that an attack could happen as soon as tonight and that Kharkiv is possibly in the line of attack, that it could be directly – that the Russian troops could roll over the border and attack Kharkiv tonight?
MR PRICE: What I’ll say about those reports is they are entirely consistent with what we have been saying for some time now: that Russia has amassed forces along Ukraine’s borders, in Belarus; positioned the assets, the heavy weaponry, the soldiers, the service members it would need to undertake an invasion of Ukraine at a moment’s notice. That has been true for some time now.
So for several days now, we have said the invasion is potentially imminent, meaning it could start today. It could start tomorrow; it could start next week. What we haven’t seen is – and this goes back to Simon’s question – is any indication that the Russians are backing away from this. We have not seen any data points that alleviate the grave concern, the profound concern that we’ve been expressing for some time yet – some time now. So the invasion remains potentially imminent, and Moscow is poised to do precisely the kinds of things that you just outlined.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up real quickly also on something Simon said, that you and Simon discussed? With this notion of diplomacy still on the table and now you’re saying that it’s possible that – Donbas is obviously being attacked if not actually, then rhetorically; that the Russians are now acknowledging or recognizing their autonomy and sovereignty. So how can you then justify discussions about diplomacy when this is underway? I mean, you keep on saying that the Russians have to show that they’re serious. They have to de-escalate. But could they pause things right now and possibly engage in talks with the U.S., or do significant sort of scale-back have to happen? Do we have to see troops falling back before that’s discussed? Is Donbas being regarded differently from the rest of the country?
MR PRICE: So you heard from our colleagues at the White House and others here over the course of the day yesterday, including the Secretary, that the invasion is beginning. And when we spoke about the beginning of the invasion, we talked about several developments over the course of that 24-hour period: Vladimir Putin’s recognition of the so-called DNR and LNR; the order that he conveyed to the ministry of defense to deploy forces into the Donbas; the authorization that he sought to send Russian servicemembers into service extraterritorially; the rhetorical assault, essentially, that we saw President Putin deliver against Ukraine denying Ukraine its sovereignty and, essentially, its right to exist. Those are what we’ve seen. Those are what we’ve heard.
But as I just mentioned, there are some things – many things, in fact – that Russia is poised to do at a moment’s notice that we have not yet seen. A large-scale invasion, an assault on urban centers, the human rights abuses, the potential war crimes, the atrocities that we have great concern could take place, these are all things that we want to prevent.
So you asked the question, why would we engage in diplomacy? Well, we would engage in diplomacy to save lives. We would engage in diplomacy to prevent an all-out war. This is a war that would be brutal. It would be costly. It would be in many ways devastating for the Russian Federation, of course for the Ukrainian people. And the way in which the Russian Federation would wage this war, you heard from the National Security Advisor, it would not be a type of conflict that you might imagine over territory or over concrete ends. You heard the National Security Advisor make the case that this would be a war waged against the Ukrainian people to subjugate them, to crush them, to exact in many ways revenge.
This is what we want to prevent. So we are ready to engage, but we need a partner. We need a negotiating counterpart that demonstrates seriousness of purpose. We have not seen that from the Russian Federation; in fact, we have seen the opposite at every turn.
QUESTION: Ned, do we have diplomats right now in Lviv? Or are they spending their nights in Poland and going back and forth? Have we made any kind of commitment to the safe passage, to any kind of extraction, if you will, for key members of the Zelenskyy government, if necessary? And what would be our commitment to any insurgency that developed, given if it were a full-scale invasion, if any? I mean, there was training. There was support.
And one final question —
MR PRICE: I should write these down.
QUESTION: Sorry. Your reaction to former Secretary of State Pompeo and former President Trump praising Putin’s cleverness, strength, and smartness in the last couple of days?
MR PRICE: I’ll start with that one. I have no response. In fact, I have no words.
To move on to Lviv, I think what you heard from us on Sunday is that the Secretary had determined that it was in the best interests, in the best interests of the safety and security of our team on the ground, for them to temporarily relocate into Poland. They have been spending the night in Poland, but they have been regularly essentially commuting back into Lviv. Our chargé, Kristina Kvien, has been leading the team back on the ground in Lviv. We have every expectation that they will continue to do so as long as the security environment remains permissive.
When they’re on the ground in Lviv, they’re able to undertake emergency consular services to help Americans who may be seeking to leave the country. They are engaging with our Ukrainian partners, and they have important missions that they’re able to fulfill in Lviv.
But regardless of whether they’re in Lviv, whether they are in Poland, that in no way changes the commitment we have to our Ukrainian partners. It in no way diminishes the partnership we have with Kyiv. We’ve remained in constant contact with our partners in the Ukrainian Government, and that takes me to your question about any advice we may have passed on to the Zelenskyy government.
The fact is that we are in contact with our friends and counterparts in Kyiv on a daily basis. As you know, Foreign Minister Kuleba was here yesterday. The President had an opportunity to speak to President Zelenskyy over the weekend. The Secretary was in the Oval Office for that call. The president, President Zelenskyy and his team, know that they have the steadfast and unwavering support of the United States. Of course, our goal in all of this is to avert that worst-case scenario, the worst-case scenario that we’ve already talked about in the course of this briefing. The fact is that the president and his team will make decisions in the coming days best – based on the best interests of their country and their people. The foreign minister was asked a question about this just yesterday. He provided an insight into their thinking. But these will be decisions that our Ukrainian counterparts will make based on their own determinations and their own calculus.
In terms of our – let me put it this way. In terms of our continued assistance to our Ukrainian partners, the President has made very clear that in the event of a Russian invasion – which, as we have said, is beginning – we will not only continue our defensive security assistance to our Ukrainian partners, but we will double down on it. So on top of the unprecedented level of defensive security assistance that we provided to our Ukrainian partners over the last year – $650 million, including a $200 million drawdown that the President signed in December, deliveries of which continue to flow into Kyiv, flow into Ukraine I should say – we will continue – not only continue to provide that support, but we will look to further that defensive security assistance for our Ukrainian partners.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering if Russia has responded at all to Blinken’s letter yesterday and what diplomatic conversations between the U.S. and Russia have looked like in the last 24 hours.
MR PRICE: What I’ll say is we – the Secretary laid out for Foreign Minister Lavrov in a private communication the fact that, under the current circumstances and what we have seen from the Russian Federation so far, our conclusion that a meeting this week in Geneva would not serve the purpose that any such meeting would need to serve. And first and foremost, that is to avert a brutal, massive, costly conflict. The Russians, and all of you later, heard that publicly from Secretary Blinken. The Russians know precisely our position. They know through private communications and through our own public messaging that we stand ready to engage diplomatically if they are willing to do so in good faith, and if they are willing to change their posture we will be ready, willing, and able to engage them on this.
QUESTION: And did the Secretary detail what “in good faith” would look like in this letter, or was it broad descriptions like you just gave?
MR PRICE: We are not going to be prescriptive in terms of what de-escalation might look like, what good faith might look like. We have been very clear – because all of you know, presumably our counterparts in the Russian Federation know – what steps might look like if they were interested in signaling de-escalation. We have not seen any of those steps. And again, we have seen steps that actually move in the opposite direction.
QUESTION: And then just a last question. Can or will the U.S. keep open our embassy in Moscow if there is a full-scale invasion into Ukraine?
MR PRICE: We believe, in times of conflict, in times of crisis, that the ability to communicate is in some ways even more imperative. Now, long before the massive Russian military buildup started along Ukraine’s borders, in Belarus, of course, our team on the ground in Moscow and throughout Russia, they were in a very difficult operating environment – a very difficult operating environment because of the restrictions that the Russian Federation had imposed on them. It will be our goal to be in a position to maintain diplomatic communication, the ability to convey clearly any messages that we need to send to the Russian Federation. Embassies are an important tool in that, but we have also seen the Russian Federation even in recent days escalate on an unprovoked and needless basis the bilateral challenges in terms of our own diplomatic staffing in Moscow and our ability to operate an embassy on the ground. But again, we believe communication, we believe the ability to pass messages is even more important in times of great crisis.
QUESTION: Ned, on Nord Stream, are you working with the Germans to find alternative sources of energy for them? I mean, it seems like the pipeline is not going to go full – or going to go operational anytime soon, so are you working with them, with the Qataris or any other potential suppliers, perhaps in Algeria and so on, and about the means to get it there?
And I have a quick question on the diplomacy.
MR PRICE: Sure. Let me start with your question on the energy, and of course, this was something that President Biden discussed yesterday. We have been frank, we have been candid with the American people that our measures – the measures we have and are prepared to impose on the Russian Federation – certainly won’t be cost-free for the Russian Federation, but they won’t be entirely cost-free for the rest of the world as well. And so that is why we are working with countries around the world, executing a plan with major producing and consuming countries to secure the stability of global energy supplies, whether that’s oil, whether that’s LNG.
For energy consumers – and you heard this from Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh yesterday – he made the point that we all have strategic reserves at our disposal, and those reserves we know could support the supply of global energy. The White House announced such a move late last year. There are other countries that have their own strategic supplies. For energy producers, we know that many of them have spare capacity to provide supply to global markets that could balance those markets in the event of any supply disruption.
More broadly, we’ve been very clear with the Russian Federation that any further attempt to weaponize energy, to constrict flows with malign geopolitical intent or purpose, would have massive consequences and, to your point, would only further the longstanding effort to diversify energy supplies for Europe and the rest of the world. We have heard from a number of countries, including Japan, including Australia, including Slovakia, that they are taking concrete steps in terms of global energy markets. We expect other countries will have announcements of their own. We also know that the International Energy Agency has announced that it’s monitoring and consulting with member states to ensure market stability going forward.
But to the question about diversification of supply, this has been a longstanding goal of ours. And to go back to the question of Nord Stream 2, there was the communiqué that together we drafted and finalized with the German Government over the summer, in the summer of July of 2021. It laid out a series of steps that Germany committed to taking with Ukraine to help Ukraine diversify its supply of energy, cognizant that Russia had weaponized energy flows in the past and Russia might have been looking to do so again in the future. If Russia were to take that step, we’ve been very clear about the massive consequences that would befall it.
QUESTION: Very quickly to follow up on Kylie’s and your response to her on diplomacy. So are you urging the Ukrainians not to cut off relations with Russia? Because there was talk that they might cut off all diplomatic relations with Russia.
MR PRICE: That’s a decision for the Ukrainian Government to make.
QUESTION: Of course, but are you bringing them – I mean, if they decided to cut off their relations with Russia, you wouldn’t say, “No, don’t do it now” or “Go ahead, do it”?
MR PRICE: That is a decision for the Ukrainian Government to make. Again, the Russian Federation has launched an assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty, on its territorial integrity, in many different ways and many different forms. But the decision as to whether to continue diplomatic relations between Kyiv and Moscow, that’s something that Kyiv will have to decide.
QUESTION: Ned, on the diplomacy, I’m curious about your reference publicly from the podium to what the Russians have been doing as kabuki theater. What specifically are you referring to? The meeting in Geneva between Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov? The UN Security Council meeting last week or even – whatever it was – a day or two ago? The Russian National Security – the —
MR PRICE: So I think you could point to any number of steps. The – what comes to my mind immediately was the dramatic, theatrical scene we saw – I guess it was last week now – between President Putin and his deputies, in which they had what was scripted, I assume, to be a pretty candid exchange indicating that the Russian Federation should pursue diplomacy, only as, at that very moment and in the days that followed, we saw additional Russian forces go to the border.
QUESTION: Right, but that —
MR PRICE: We saw additional Russian forces take up readiness. That is not consistent with a country that purports to be interested in diplomacy.
QUESTION: No, but that is not diplomacy per se. That was an internal government meeting. Whether they – it was staged or what —
MR PRICE: That was kabuki theater, I think we can agree.
QUESTION: Well, fine, yeah, but I want to know if you’re talking about the meeting in Geneva between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov.
MR PRICE: I was referring to the incident of kabuki theater that I just mentioned to you.
QUESTION: You’re referring specifically – okay, because I just want to make sure that you don’t think – you’re not now in a position where you think that the meeting in Geneva that did happen was a waste of time and simply an entertainment.
MR PRICE: Look, I wouldn’t want to characterize —
QUESTION: Or the Security Council meetings are a waste of time because – I just want to make sure that you’re not talking about those.
MR PRICE: Well, I – so the UN Security Council meeting most certainly was not a waste of time because the Russian Federation and the entire world heard from a number of countries the broad and strong consensus that this should be resolved diplomatically and that state sovereignty should be an inviolable principle. That certainly was not pointless.
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Because before the Security Council meeting, U.S. officials said that they believed Russia could be using it as a pretext for this invasion. And you said earlier that this is and has been in some ways kabuki theater all along. So are you – to Matt’s point, are you making the assessment that the —
MR PRICE: The security – the Russian Security Council meeting you’re referring to?
QUESTION: No, sorry, the one last Thursday, before there was a briefing where U.S. officials said they believed given the document that the Russian mission circulated that they were going to use the meeting as a pretext. So do you assess now that all of these diplomatic engagements were part of a charade to give Russia cover, to show that they had been engaging in good faith diplomacy in their mind?
MR PRICE: I wouldn’t want to make a sweeping categorical judgment like that. What I will say is that, if you take a step back, we have not seen any indication that Russia’s stated commitment to the diplomatic path had – bore any resemblance to its actions or that its actions reflected any commitment to – stated commitment to the diplomatic path. That is not to say that there is not value in these sessions, and I think the UN Security Council session that you all saw last Thursday was extraordinarily valuable. It was valuable for – even for the Russian Federation, and if any of those messages got to the Russian people, they would have heard a strong message of resolve and consensus and unanimity from the rest of the world that the steps that Putin was taking, the plans that he may well still have in mind, that is not something that the rest of the world is prepared to countenance.
QUESTION: But the meetings in Geneva, the non-papers back and forth, that – you don’t think that that all was a charade by the Russian Government?
MR PRICE: I am not prepared to use such wholesale language. Now, have we been able to deter and to prevent the worst-case scenario? That’s still an unresolved question. What is not unresolved is that we have seen continued signs that the Russian Federation is moving forward with the plans that we have been warning about for weeks.
QUESTION: Can I have another follow-up?
QUESTION: Can I just point out that some people do find value in kabuki theater, especially the Japanese, who invented it?
MR PRICE: That’s – no —
QUESTION: They pay to go see it, so —
MR PRICE: No offense intended.
QUESTION: Can I just – another follow-up?
MR PRICE: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: Yesterday Foreign Minister Kuleba said that their Plan A, obviously, is to use diplomacy to deter Russia. Plan B is to defend every inch of Ukrainian territory. You have previously praised their restraint. Do you agree with their Plan B? Do you think they have a right to self-defense? And if Russia moves past the current areas that the separatists control in the Donbas, do the Ukrainians have a right to respond?
MR PRICE: Of course, the Ukrainians have a right to self-defense.
QUESTION: So I find there have been a lot of mixed signals coming from the PRC in terms of its stance on the Ukraine situation. At times they’ve talked about the importance of state sovereignty; other times they’ve railed against NATO expansion. Have you – has the State Department been in communication with PRC interlocutors seeking clarity on their position? And have you laid out any ways in which these ongoing signals might undercut U.S.-China ties?
And on a related note, you’ve kind of hinted before that if the PRC were to seek to undermine the impact of U.S. sanctions on Russia, then the U.S. would have countermeasures. Have those discussions continued with PRC interlocutors?
MR PRICE: Well, as you know, Secretary Blinken had an opportunity to speak to his counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang, just the other night. And one of the two primary topics they discussed was Russia’s – the crisis that Russia has needlessly precipitated with Ukraine and with the rest of the world. Secretary Blinken – and we issued a readout; the PRC also issued their own readout – but you saw in our readout that the Secretary made very clear where we stand in terms of our unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and its sovereignty. And I think especially that last point, sovereignty, should be an element that the PRC understands quite well. We often in statecraft hear the PRC cite this principle of sovereignty, which in any number of instances they have claimed should be inviolable, should be sacrosanct, should be one of the foundational rules that countries abide by and respect.
So you’ll have to ask the PRC how they marry that longstanding position with anything less than an effort to use the considerable influence and sway they have with the Russian Federation to urge Vladimir Putin to back down, to de-escalate. Whether they are doing that, you’ll have to ask them. But we did see in the readout that our PRC counterparts are also calling for the situation to be resolved diplomatically and to be resolved peacefully. Now, whether Putin heeds that call, I think that is not something we yet know.
QUESTION: And what about relaying the potential impact on U.S.-China relations?
MR PRICE: Look, in terms of our bilateral relationship with —
QUESTION: In terms of China’s support for Russia in its railing against NATO expansion and the potential tacit endorsement that that provides – what’s the impact of that on U.S.-China relations?
MR PRICE: Well, we believe – and we’ve made this point not only about the PRC, but every responsible country in the world has, in our estimation, an obligation to use any influence it has with the Russian Federation to urge, to incentivize, to advocate for Vladimir Putin to back down, for the Russian Federation to de-escalate. Again, you will have to ask the PRC whether they have used their own considerable influence with the Russian Federation to that end. Of course, we’ve all read the 5,000-word joint communiqué, and we can glean our own conclusions from that.
I think what gives us concern is that – from that manifesto and from what we’ve seen not only in recent days, weeks, and months, but in recent years – is this growing partnership between Russia and the PRC. And I say it’s concerning because we talk about a rules-based international order, a rules-based international order that has been at the crux of seven-plus decades of unprecedented levels of stability, of security, of prosperity the world over, whether that’s in Europe or the Indo-Pacific and places in between.
It is true, I think, we think, that Russia and the PRC also want a world order. This is a vision that they appear to be developing together if you read that communiqué. But this is an order that is and would be profoundly illiberal, an order that stands in contrast to the system that countries around the world – including, by the way, Russia and in some ways the PRC – have built over the last seven decades. It is an order that is in many ways destructive rather than additive.
So that is as we see this relationship develop, and we’ve seen something that gives us great concern. And of course, in recent days we’ve seen Russia reach out to its autocratic counterparts in other corners of the globe. This gets back to one of the core points that the President has been making since before he assumed high office, and that is, increasingly, we are seeing the world divided between democracy and autocracy. It is and has been a charge of this President and this administration’s foreign policy to act to unite our democratic colleagues around the world, to act in unison, to galvanize collective action. And I think whether the challenge has been what Russia is doing, whether the challenge has been what the PRC is doing, what we are seeing from state and non-state actors around the world, you’ve seen us succeed in that.
But it will continue to be an animating principle as we continue to see the forces of autocracy, the forces of authoritarianism, the forces of illiberalism continue to work together and attempt to combine forces. But the other point, even as they try to do that, we are confident. We are confident in our own abilities. We are confident in our abilities as an international community, and whether that’s the West, whether that’s a community of democracies, whether it is our system of alliances and partnerships that span the globe.
And we’re confident for a number of reasons. If you look at it quantitatively, we have 50 percent-plus of global GDP. We have a large share of the world’s population. China and Russia, in terms of their GDP are, what, 20 percent of global GDP? We have innovation. We have entrepreneurship. We have a shared set of values that we really think are a core instrument of national power. And we know that when we put all of this together, especially when we act with our allies and our partners – as we’ve done in the face of the challenge that Russia has posed, in the face of the challenge to the rules-based international system that the PRC has posed – or even when you talk about the threats and challenges that we face that are not state actors – climate change, COVID, economic recovery – we know that acting together, we are situated to take on any threat, to seize any opportunity.
And that’s really been the driving force of our foreign policy. It’s why Secretary Blinken spent so much time of his first year in office repairing, revitalizing, in some ways reimagining the system of alliances and partnerships. And you’re seeing the dividends of that now play out, even in recent hours.
QUESTION: Well, first of all, can you guess how long that answer was, how many minutes that was?
MR PRICE: (Laughter.) I’m sure you will tell me.
QUESTION: I’ll pull it up – well, I can’t because my Otter seems to have, like, frozen here. But if —
MR PRICE: Yeah. I haven’t paid for the premium version.
QUESTION: But if you’re – yeah – but if you’re boasting about reinventing it and you’re seeing that – the fruits of all that labor now, you’re talking about the united reaction against —
MR PRICE: United – the united response of the international community.
QUESTION: To Russia?
MR PRICE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I – purely – it’s unrelated to Ukraine, but it is China. And that is something that I know Nike is interested in and has been asking about before. But there is barely an anniversary, a diplomatic – an anniversary in diplomatic history that goes by without the U.S. – the State Department at least, if not the White House – making some kind of comment about it. And in that light, regardless of how tense or strained relations are now with China, why is it that there hasn’t been any mention of Nixon’s – former President Nixon’s – the 50th anniversary of former President Nixon’s visit to China, which was a pretty groundbreaking event when it happened, paved the way for recognition or U.S. recognition of the PRC and opening of diplomatic relations.
And it seems to me that it would make sense for there to be some kind of mention of this, or are you just, like, embarrassed by it now and think that it should never have happened?
MR PRICE: I don’t think – certainly not the latter. I – Matt, there are some anniversaries that we commemorate there. There are other anniversaries that we don’t. I’m not aware of any plans at the moment for a statement, but —
QUESTION: Yeah, but (inaudible) statements about, like, the 17th anniversary of U.S.-Iceland relations or something – not to demean Iceland – but I mean, these kinds of things get attention. And this one, which was, a pretty big deal – a BFD, as the President might say – at the time and since, just seems to be being ignored.
MR PRICE: I don’t know that we’re ignoring it. I’m not sure that I would equate not putting out a formal statement with ignoring it.
QUESTION: Thank you, Matt, for asking (inaudible). But my question is on Pakistan. Can I ask about Pakistan Prime Minister Khan’s visit to Russia? Does the State Department have a – an assessment of his visit at this timing?
MR PRICE: Well, we’re certainly aware of the trip, and the points I made earlier about the PRC in some ways apply here. We believe it’s the responsibility of every responsible country around the world to voice concern, to voice objection to what Putin appears to have in mind for Ukraine. We’ve communicated to Pakistan our position regarding Russia’s further renewed invasion of Ukraine, and we have briefed them on our efforts to pursue diplomacy over war. We have a longstanding partnership and cooperation with Pakistan. We view our partnership with a prosperous, with a democratic Pakistan as critical to U.S. interests. And we certainly hope, when it comes to those shared interests – the aversion of a costly conflict, the aversion of a destabilizing conflict, that every country around the world would make that point clearly in unambiguous language in their engagements with the Russian Federation.
QUESTION: On the —
QUESTION: Can I – sorry, can I just follow up on Khan’s visit? On the timing of his visit, is it the U.S. read that he’s indirectly endorsing Putin?
QUESTION: But I’m asking your read.
MR PRICE: You would have to ask the Pakistani Government. I’m just not in a position to offer an assessment on the timing of foreign counterparts’ travel to another country.
QUESTION: Do you have a different assessment of Vladimir Putin than the one that this government had – that this President had – after Geneva, or was the previous assessment wrong?
MR PRICE: The previous assessment and the assessment now is that we would prefer a relationship with Russia that is stable and predictable. But at every turn before Geneva or just about every turn before Geneva and at turns since Geneva, the Russian Federation has indicated that they have apparently little interest in that type of relationship. So we’ve always said that – and we said this before Geneva when we responded decisively in response to interference in our elections, in response to the Russian Federation’s use of weapons of mass destruction against dissidents on foreign soil, for SolarWinds – that we would respond decisively, strongly in response to these types of activities. We have. The same is true if Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine. Same principle applies.
QUESTION: A separate question on a different subject, if I could ask a quick question about Iran?
MR PRICE: Okay. Any final questions on Russia/Ukraine before we move on?
QUESTION: Yes. Yes.
MR PRICE: Okay, please. Please.
QUESTION: On sanctions.
MR PRICE: Yes.
QUESTION: Today the Russian ambassador to Washington said that he doesn’t remember a single day that – when Russia lived without restrictions from the Western world. Putin proved he’s immune to sanctions. He has $600 billion in federal reserves. He has been in the driving seat making decisions to which the West is responding now and was responding since 2008. Are you thinking of a strategical approach to deal with this? You just said that they are trying to change the world order.
MR PRICE: So to the statement from the Russian Federation that they have been under sanctions since 2014, that is of course accurate. The sanctions that we have put in place and that we will continue to put in place are qualitatively different from any measures that the United States or any other country has imposed on the Russian Federation, including in 2014. So if they are comparing what they’ve been under now to what they will be under in – going forward if this invasion moves forward, that would be a profound miscalculation on their part.
When you talk about and think about the sanctions that we’ve already put in place, Nord Stream 2 is off the table. The Germans have taken decisive action. We have taken decisive action. That’s an $11 billion project that is now a piece of steel at the bottom of the ocean. We have, in lockstep with our allies, put in place blocking sanctions against the fifth-largest Russian financial institution. That’s $50 billion in assets. We’ve put in place blocking sanctions against another bank that funds the Ministry of Defense with some $35 billion in assets. In other words, these institutions can no longer make any transactions with the United States or with Europe, given Europe’s – the EU’s own corresponding actions in this regard.
Here’s the other point: With the authorities we have, with the intent we have, no Russian financial institution is safe if the invasion proceeds. As you heard from Daleep Singh yesterday, we are ready at the press of a button to take action against the two largest financial institutions in Russia. Together, these are institutions that hold three-quarters of a trillion dollars in assets, $750 billion in assets, half of the total Russian banking system. There are other measures and moves we have in store and that are ready if Russia continues with this invasion, including export controls, targeted sanctions against oligarchs and elites, and other measures.
So the Russians can depict these moves however they would like. I think it is noteworthy what we heard from our Ukrainian partners yesterday. You heard from Foreign Minister Kuleba as he was standing right next to Secretary Blinken here at the department. He said that, quote, “[W]e do appreciate…the sanctions which were announced today. They target Russia. They’re very specific. They are painful.”
MR PRICE: Please. Please, go ahead. Yeah, Joel.
QUESTION: Thanks, Ned. I arrived with a couple questions of my own and have a couple follow-ups for this interesting conversation, from what you told my colleagues. First, do you think that China, given their desire for the world order that you just described, regards Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a step towards bringing that about?
MR PRICE: It is certainly not a step in the direction of the principle that the PRC claims to prize, and that is state sovereignty. You – I think everyone in this room is familiar with the position the PRC has taken in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine since 2014. I wouldn’t want to characterize that, but it suggests a level of deep unease.
So again, I would refer you to the PRC for any comment they might have on what Putin has in store, but if we are to judge the PRC based on what they have said consistently on the world stage in any number of fora, a direct assault on the sovereignty, on the territorial integrity of another state, that would not be consistent with what we’ve heard.
QUESTION: Yeah, I was just trying to clarify, because I thought I heard you say they’re – they’ve combined forces somehow.
MR PRICE: It was a reference to the burgeoning partnership that we’ve seen between these two countries over the course of many years now.
QUESTION: Okay. On Ukraine’s Plan B, fighting for every inch, Senator Risch, who is of course ranking on Foreign Relations and on Intelligence, or a senior member of the Intelligence Committee, has said that Russia could sweep across Ukraine pretty quickly, their first day would be their best day, they’d immediately face resistance movements. So I wonder, would the United States as a member of NATO either encourage or object to other NATO members offering this Ukrainian resistance cross-border safe haven?
MR PRICE: Countries are going to make their own sovereign decisions. We have in recent weeks, as you know, worked with a number of our NATO Allies to authorize them to provide U.S.-origin equipment to our Ukrainian partners – this is defensive security equipment – with an understanding that our Ukrainian partners need supplies, need materiel to defend themselves. The United States has provided them with this. We have – a number of our NATO Allies have done the same.
But when it comes to the decision that NATO Allies or other countries in Europe might make along those lines, I’d need to refer you there.
QUESTION: And I guess I wonder, do you see any lessons from Afghanistan for the kind of risk that we’re of course – when the Taliban could retire across the border to a place where they couldn’t be attacked, then that was difficult for a modern military to defeat.
MR PRICE: I – look, I would hesitate to make battlefield comparisons between two very different countries.
QUESTION: Finally, what I hope are truly a couple of quick ones. Those Nord Stream 2 sanctions, are those permanent or do you think that, like, the permanent punishment for this, that that’s gone, or do you regard that as something that could be lifted again later in exchange for de-escalation? And can we also get an answer to Foreign Minister Kuleba’s request for a Lend-Lease program? Do you expect that to proceed?
MR PRICE: Look, the fact is that sanctions are a means to an end. There is no sanction in any responsible sanctions program around the world that is permanent, and that is precisely because we don’t sanction countries just with the goal of enacting sanctions. This is not a policy to be purely punitive; this is a policy to change behavior. In this case, this is a policy to deter a further Russian invasion of Ukraine, to deter a war – a bloody, costly, devastating war that would take place on European soil and that would constitute the greatest threat to peace and security since the conclusion of World War II, certainly since the end of the Cold War.
QUESTION: Wait, so now the imposition of sanctions is a deterrent? I thought we just spent the last, like, couple months – you and the administration spent, like, the last couple months arguing that the threat of sanctions was the deterrent, and that if you imposed – that if you actually imposed them, then you would lose that deterrent.
MR PRICE: Matt, you’ve heard us say —
QUESTION: But you can’t have it both ways.
MR PRICE: We’re not having it both ways, Matt. You have heard us say very clearly, if Russia’s invasion escalates, if Russia’s actions escalate, so too will our response. We are prepared to enact an escalating series of measures against the Russian Federation if – unless – until and unless the Russian Federation changes course.
QUESTION: No Lend-Lease program?
QUESTION: Can I —
MR PRICE: So look, I don’t have any response to that, but – specific response to that, but I will make the point that this has not been Lend-Lease; this has a been a program of provision. We have provided our Ukrainian partners with, over the course of the last year, $650 million worth of defensive security assistance. We’re in a constant conversation and dialogue with our Ukrainian partners about their defensive security needs, and that will continue. As I mentioned before, if the Russian invasion continues, we will not only continue with that provision of security assistance, but we’ll double down on it.
QUESTION: Could I change topics? Just a very quick one on the Palestinian —
MR PRICE: Anything left on Russia-Ukraine?
QUESTION: I have on Ukraine.
QUESTION: Ukraine, Ukraine.
MR PRICE: In the very back, please.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. So – but you – we listened to the Russians also, and they present also, as they say, their legit security grievances. And it seems the West in a way or another did not reach any common – to which extent the U.S. and NATO now is really going into this offer of diplomacy? Where is the West going to give an in into the security demands from Putin?
MR PRICE: So this is something we’ve spoken to at great length. It’s actually something that we put in writing at some length. Subscribers of El País can see it with their own eyes. But we’ve been quite clear that there are some, quote/unquote, “demands” that the Russian Federation has put forward that are non-starters for us. The very principles that are at stake in terms of the rules-based international order, those are not negotiable. The idea that any other country can dictate the policy choices, whether foreign policy or domestic policy, of any other country – that is not something we’re going to negotiate. International borders, internationally recognized borders, sovereignty, the inviolability of borders – that is not something that is up for negotiation.
But what we – there are some areas that would improve our security, our own security environment, the security environment of the transatlantic community, and could address some of the stated security concerns of the Russian Federation. And we’ve delineated a series of those: discussions regarding the placement of offensive missiles in Europe; broader arms control protocols; protocols regarding stability and transparency; confidence-building measures. There are a number of areas that we think have the potential to be fruitful if we find a negotiating counterpart in the Russian Federation that operates in good faith. We have not found that yet, and I think at this stage those sort of broader areas may not take precedence to the first priority that we have, and that’s averting a bloody, costly, devastating war in Ukraine.
So I think our diplomacy going forward, at least for the foreseeable future, if, again, we find a counterpart in Moscow that is willing to sit down in good faith to discuss these issues in good faith, we are going to be very focused on saving lives, on preventing a war, on seeing to it that the plans Putin has set in motion over the course of many months now do not go forward.
QUESTION: Two very quick ones on Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan. Do you have any indication that their cases are being treated separately from all this? Any concerns that the crisis would affect their detentions?
MR PRICE: We always treat the cases of U.S. hostages separate and apart from geopolitical issues and geopolitical dynamics. It remains an absolute priority for us to see the release of Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, both of whom have been held unjustly, traveled to Russia as tourists, have been imprisoned on false charges that entire time. So it’s a priority of ours.
QUESTION: You do, but do you have any concern that the Russian Government would not?
MR PRICE: Again, human beings should not be held as pawns in terms of state-to-state relations. It is our priority to see them released, to do everything we can to achieve their release as quickly as we can.
QUESTION: And then secondly, do you have any new estimate of the number of Americans that would be in Ukraine at this moment in time?
MR PRICE: So as we’ve told you, late last year, October of last year, it was our assessment at the time that there were some 6,600 Americans who were resident in Ukraine. Now, that timeframe is important because the very month – October 2021 – that this assessment was last updated was the very month that we started urging Americans not to travel to Ukraine. In more recent weeks, as you know, we have been recommending and, even more recently, urging Americans to leave Ukraine.
So I think there is every expectation that the number of Americans who are resident in Ukraine late last year, October of last year, is far lower now than it was then. I can tell you procedurally we have been in repeated contact with Americans who remain in Ukraine. We have asked them to provide us with their contact information so that we can continue to be in communication with them to urge them to leave the country, to avail themselves of commercial and private options that continue to be available, and to provide any form of support that they may need in doing so, and that includes a repatriation loan if they’re not able to afford the return travel on their own.
When – in addition, we have provided specific guidance on overland crossings that Americans can take, providing specific recommendations about border crossings. We have been engaged in diplomacy with our Polish allies to see to it that Americans need not have any sort of advanced authorization to travel across the border. We’ve even established a welcome center across the Polish border to assist Americans should they need any assistance, whether it’s a passport application, whether it’s any form – other form of consular assistance.
QUESTION: You just used the word “hostage” to describe Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan.
MR PRICE: They’re Americans who are unjustly detained.
QUESTION: So do you regard them as hostages? I haven’t heard that formulation before, but maybe I missed it.
MR PRICE: They are – they are Americans who are held unjustly against their will.
QUESTION: I know, but do you regard them as hostages?
MR PRICE: I – we’ll get back to you if there’s a – if – on that. i
QUESTION: (Inaudible) about Latin America, the fact that Putin is looking for new partners in Latin America – for example, Argentina, Brazil. What’s the position of the State Department? And do you think this is a way to increase the pressure on the United States, talking about the close relationship of United States with Latin America?
MR PRICE: Well, it goes back to what we were discussing before, and this is the fact that what we are seeing is autocracies around the world band together, and we’ve seen in some ways Russia at the vanguard of this activity. When it comes to their motives or intentions, that’s not something I would want to speak to from here. I would refer you to the – to Moscow to speak to their own foreign policy decisions. But we have certainly seen Moscow reach out to some of the most repressive, autocratic, undemocratic governments in this hemisphere. That includes Nicaragua. That includes Cuba. That includes Venezuela.
QUESTION: Thank you. I want to move to the Palestinian issue and I have a quick one on Iran. On the Palestinian issue —
QUESTION: Yeah, okay. Yeah. On the Palestinian issue, I know I have asked in this room many times before on your position regarding the practice of administrative detentions by Israel, to which all Palestinians at one time or another probably experience. There is one particular case, a 14-year-old boy who has been falsely accused. One Israeli judge after Israeli judge threw it out of court, but the authorities keep him in prison. They keep renewing this. He has a neuromuscular disease. He might die in prison. Will the United States call on Israel to quit this practice, especially against children who have not – who have been found innocent by their own judicial system?
MR PRICE: Said, you’ve heard this from us before, but we urge —
QUESTION: And the boy’s name, by the way, is just, for the record, Amal Nakhleh.
MR PRICE: We urge the full respect for human rights in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. As we’ve said many times, Palestinians and Israelis alike equally deserve to live safely and securely, to enjoy equal measures of freedom, of security, of prosperity.
QUESTION: With all due respect, the Palestinians do not arrest Israelis and put them under administrative detention.
MR PRICE: Said, we – and again, you have heard this from us before, but we continue to elevate the role of human rights in our foreign relations and to encourage, to your question, legal reforms that advance respect for human rights of all individuals.
QUESTION: My second question also pertains to the holding of dead Palestinians, killed Palestinians, those who have been killed by the Israeli soldiers for years on end. Is that the – is that a form of collective punishment? Does the – does this administration view this as a collective punishment?
MR PRICE: We have stressed to Israel both publicly as well as privately our strong hope that any measures that Israel takes would be designed to avoid further escalating tensions and to take into consideration the impact of any such measures on the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: And lastly, on Iran, should we expect some sort of a deal or returning to a deal over the next few days, as was suggested?
MR PRICE: Well, you’ve heard this from my colleagues, but there has been significant progress, and we are close to a possible deal, but at the same time, a number of very difficult issues remain unresolved. What we know is that there is very little time remaining to reach a deal, to resolve these remaining issues given the pace of Iran’s nuclear advances. You’ve heard us say this before, but it remains true that even as we are narrowing the set of issues we’re discussing, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
If Iran shows seriousness, if it demonstrates serious of purpose in Vienna, we believe that we can and should reach an understanding on a potential mutual return to compliance in short order, potentially within days. But anything much beyond that, if this were to drag on any longer than that, would put the possibility of return to the deal at grave and profound risk.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) issues, whether they involve equipment, centrifuges, compliance, verification? Broad categories, Ned.
MR PRICE: I really can’t, and that is primarily because we are at this decisive stage where it is incumbent on the Iranians and all parties to do everything we can to narrow those differences. We’re going to be a little bit more circumspect at this especially sensitive period, but again, if the Iranians demonstrate seriousness of purpose, we believe that we can achieve an understanding in relatively short order.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) anything more on travel?
MR PRICE: On travel?
QUESTION: By the Secretary.
MR PRICE: Oh, by the Secretary. We – look, we do not have any travel to announce or to preview at this time. The Secretary has been working the phones. He has been on with Josep Borrell of the EU today. He spoke to his British counterpart, Elizabeth Truss, earlier today as well. And I expect you will see him continue to engage with his counterparts around the world.
QUESTION: On Yemen, we saw the designations today, and in the statement you said they are intensifying the humanitarian crisis. When you removed them last year from the terrorist organization list, you said you did that for humanitarian purposes. Is the State Department – my first question: Is the State Department objecting designating them as a terrorist organization?
MR PRICE: So as you know, there’s a review underway regarding that very question, so I’m not in a position to speak to it in any great detail. What I can say is that we have a number of tools at our disposal, including the tools we use today in mounting sanctions and designations against these Houthi-affiliated individuals and entities, that can hold the Houthis accountable for their reprehensible behavior. We are committed to doing so; we will continue to do so. We will use every appropriate tool to hold accountable those Houthi leaders who are responsible for the terrorist attacks for – against our partners in the region, for the violence in Yemen itself, for the humanitarian emergency, which by many estimations is now the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe with some 16 million people who are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition.
So we are committed to doing everything we can to bring this conflict to an end, knowing that only through a diplomatic resolution will we be able to, on a sustainable basis, calm the violence, ease the humanitarian suffering of the Yemeni people, and mitigate the threat that the United States and our partners face from the Houthis, including in the context of these attacks.
QUESTION: On Iran, do we expect anything regarding the detainees ahead of the deal?
MR PRICE: Again, this is an issue that is of the utmost importance to the United States. At every single opportunity, we make the release of Americans, of other third-country nationals, a priority of ours. We have been clear that the nuclear negotiations in Vienna and our efforts to see our unjustly detained citizens released, these operate on separate tracks precisely because a potential return to the JCPOA has always, at best, been an uncertain proposition, and we want the release of our citizens to be a certain proposition.
So we have not explicitly tied our Americans – tied these individuals, these detainees to progress in the nuclear talks. But as Rob Malley has made clear, it is – certainly it colors our engagement in Vienna and elsewhere knowing that this is a government that is unjustly detaining Americans and other third-country nationals.
So in every other context we’re doing this, but certainly in the case of Iran we’re making every effort to see our Americans, to see other third-country nationals released just as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Back on Yemen and the Houthis.
MR PRICE: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And I realize that a lot of people probably think this is just a semantic thing, so I’ll keep it short, but the – these designations were made under an executive order that is a counterterrorism executive order. And you – in the Secretary’s statement and in the Treasury’s statement, it refers to the Houthis committing terrorist acts, but it doesn’t identify them as terrorists. And the EO – they’re being used – they’re being designated under a counterterrorism EO simply because of their affiliation with the IRGC Qods Force, which is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
So my question is: Do you believe that the Houthis as a group are terrorists? You say that – you’ve designated them under a counterterrorism executive order. You accused them of staging, launching terrorist attacks. But you won’t call them terrorists. Why not?
MR PRICE: Matt, so this is a question that’s based on semantics, but we’ve been very clear that —
QUESTION: Well, and —
MR PRICE: — that the Houthis have launched reprehensible terrorist attacks —
MR PRICE: — against our partners in the region. These may be attacks that are targeting our partners, but these types of operations have the potential not only to harm citizens of Saudi Arabia, citizens of the United Arab Emirates, but Americans —
QUESTION: Yes. Yes.
MR PRICE: — who may be in the region as well. So we have been very clear that these are terrorist attacks.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you’re not saying that the Houthis themselves are terrorists, and I’m just wondering why. And yes, it’s a semantic argument, but I’m just looking at a statement that came out from Senator Murphy and a bunch of his colleagues urging you not to reinstate the Foreign Terrorist Organization designation against the Houthis. So – because it would cause grave damage and economic – humanitarian – even worse humanitarian disaster. But yet, today you have designated these individuals and entities under a counterterrorism executive order and accused them of committing terrorist attacks. So what’s the problem? Why can’t you identify the Houthis as terrorists?
MR PRICE: It is completely consistent that a certain label and a certain authority – in this case, the FTO – not be applied to a group that can commit terrorist attacks. There are any number of examples of groups that aren’t FTOs that you know well that have committed, over the course of years, consistent terrorist attacks. This is a question of semantics. This is a question of legal authorities.
QUESTION: So what – well, it’s a question of political will, right? Or —
MR PRICE: It is a question of us demonstrating that we have a number of tools and a number of authorities to hold Houthi leaders and others affiliated with this movement accountable for their reprehensible actions —
MR PRICE: — including the terrorist attacks that they’ve undertaken in recent days against our partners in the region.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you give me an example of a group that has been committing terrorist attacks for decades that has not been labeled an FTO?
MR PRICE: Matt, I think there are a number of examples. You could look at the Taliban as a group that is not an FTO that I think you would probably agree has committed terrorist attacks.
Thank you all very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:24 p.m.)
i Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed are not officially categorized as hostages. We continue to be deeply concerned over their treatment. Both men traveled to Russia as tourists, were arrested, and were then convicted without credible evidence. We are pressing the Russian government to release Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed immediately and unconditionally.