Thank you to the Atlantic Council for having me back here today. Ministers, colleagues, friends, I’m really delighted to be part of this conversation, and in particular this panel, which is just so well-timed, just a couple of days before the Ukraine recovery conference that will take place next week on Tuesday and Wednesday in Washington—excuse me—in London.
Our delegation will be headed by Secretary Blinken, which reflects the abiding commitment of the Biden administration to stand by Ukraine, and our understanding that even as the Ukrainian armed forces continue working on the battlefield to reclaim their sovereign territory, we need to be working together with the international community to lay the foundation for reconstruction and the emergence of a prosperous, democratic, European Ukraine in the future. So this is a terrific panel on an absolutely vital set of issues.
Since coming back to Washington as assistant secretary, the Ukraine part of my life has focused on two complementary goals. One, of course, is our immediate imperative to help support the resilience of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and help Ukraine to defeat Vladimir Putin’s efforts to weaponize the winter against the Ukrainian people. And I’ll return to that in just a minute. But also, working just as hard as we can, jointly with our allies and partners around the world, to lay the foundation for a future Ukrainian energy system, which will be cleaner, greener, more sustainable, more resilient, and reflecting the highest European standards, that I know the Ukrainian people are so interested in achieving.
I came to this job after nine years working as a US ambassador in Europe. I lived through the war from my vantage point in Athens but, critically, of course, I served three years in Kyiv during the first period of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of a sovereign European country. I know firsthand the strength and the resilience of the Ukrainian people. And I know that all of us—and I speak for everybody in this room – in expressing extraordinary admiration for how the Ukrainian people have demonstrated again and again, over the past fifteen months now, their determination to prevail in this epic struggle.
In terms of the energy story, and in particular the Ukrainian response to the systematic Russian attacks on the energy grid, which began last October, I think we all stand in admiration of the Ukrainian energy workers who have been out on the field working to maintain the integrity of the Ukrainian energy grid. There is no question that starting with the attacks last October, Vladimir Putin believed that he could use attacks on civilian infrastructure to accomplish what he had failed to achieve on the battlefield, to force the Ukrainian people to relent.
That failed. That failed in part due to the courage and resilience of the Ukrainians themselves, but also a lot of hard work by the US government, by our interagency community here, including the State Department, the Agency for International Development, Department of Energy—all of whom are really all-hands-on-deck to mobilize assistance from the US side. But critically, also our partnership with the European Union, with the European energy community. We have ensured that just as Putin failed in his effort to weaponize his oil and gas resources against Europe, starting early in 2022, he failed in the winter of ’22-’23 to weaponize the winter against the Ukrainian people.
But Russia continues its brutal attacks. Today, the Ukrainian energy grid is about fifty percent degraded. There are billions of dollars of investment that will be required to undo the damage that Putin has done with his attacks on thermal power plants, on auto transformers and the transmission grid. And we saw just in the past few days, with the attack on the Kakhovka Dam a further example of attacks on civilian energy infrastructure, which has further destabilized the system. In the case of the dam, the loss of that asset and the billions of dollars of future damage that have been done by that attack has also rippled across the energy system as Ukrhydroenergo has been forced to cut back on hydrogeneration further upstream in order to warehouse water that will be necessary to hopefully refill the reservoir at some future date.
So we have been working systematically through a G7+ coordination group, that I have been leading at the request of the White House, in order to both dialogue with our Ukrainian counterparts, Deputy Prime Minister Kubrakov, the CEO of Ukrhydroenergo Kudritsky, Minister Galushchenko and the team at the Ministry of Energy, in order to understand in pretty close to real time their immediate requirements for support, and then to identify where that support can come from.
Secretary Blinken himself has led a number of G7+ foreign ministers meetings, jointly first with Germany as G7 president and now with Japan as G7 president, to elevate that focus up to the political level, in what Foreign Minister Baerbock called the energy Ramstein, an effort to parallel what we have done on our military and security assistance coordination in the area of grid and energy equipment.
As Secretary Blinken likes to say, we’ve all become a lot more expert on the supply chain for nine hundred kVA auto transformers, and also the difficulty of quickly repairing the damage that Vladimir Putin has done. Together, we’ve delivered more than eighty-four thousand tons of energy equipment, more than five million pieces of gear, which has flooded into Ukraine in order to give Ukrainian energy workers—and I know we have Maxim here from DTEK who will be able to speak more eloquently about the work that is actually being done at the ground level.
But we can’t relent. There are only about fifteen weeks left before the next heating season. So we will not take our foot off the gas in terms of working to deliver Ukraine’s urgent infrastructure needs. The Agency for International Development has tenders out for autotransformers. The first two new autotransformers delivered to Ukraine are now in the final stages
of delivery, financed by Japan, manufactured in Korea, and delivered by UNDP. The European energy community itself has a very elaborate procurement system in place now in order to deliver what the Ukrainians need to undo the damage that Vladimir Putin has done.
I will—I will say, however, that what has really inspired me, including when I was back in Kyiv in December, is the degree to which, even amid this military and security challenge, and amid the energy emergency of last winter, Ukraine continues to work towards the vision of a cleaner and greener energy system, a system that meets the highest European standards, rather than rebuilding the Soviet-style centralized grid that was the legacy of Ukraine’s independence. We are absolutely committed to our dialogue and listening to the Ukrainians in this effort. That will very much be part of the work when we’re together in London next week. And we’re delighted that we will have such senior representation from the Ukrainians themselves in London.
But this is not just about hardware. It’s also about software. And I know from my own time in Kyiv how central energy has been, both to the Ukrainian economy but also to the challenges to Ukrainian democracy. Energy has been one of the traditional vectors of Russian malign influence in Ukraine. That’s why it’s so important that, on my watch as ambassador, Ukraine ceased to depend on Gazprom as a supplier. And we developed the infrastructure for reverse flow from Europe and other non-Russian sources of energy.
Energy has also been a traditional driver of corruption. It is not a coincidence that so many of the oligarchs, including several who are either in jail or who have fled to Russia since this all began, made their money first in oblenergos—in local energy networks. And again, our Ukrainian colleagues today can speak to that. The United States is committed and has made a very large financial commitment to helping the Ukrainians to build a European energy grid for the future, and to continue to push the envelope on the greening of that grid. So more green hydrogen, more biogas, restoring Ukraine’s status as a clean energy supplier to the rest of Europe.
Deputy Prime Minister Kubrakov and Energy Minister Galushchenko like to talk about Ukraine as a power brick for the rest of Europe, which it truly should be as we look to the future. Ukraine, once it restores its sovereign territory, will have a very large nuclear resource, has some of Europe’s best terrain in terms of wind, in terms of solar, and ample possibilities to develop new lines of energy generation—for instance, in the area of clean hydrogen.
It is critical, however, that we bring the private sector along in this effort. That’s going to be another big part of the conversation in London, and why I think it’s so important that the Ukrainians themselves will be there to talk about reform, to talk about the business environment. And I know that’s also a priority for our hosts in the FCDO.
And, of course, that new investment—that future investment environment, if it’s going to attract American and other companies, is going to have to be built on principles of transparency, rule of law, competitive markets—all the reform principles that our colleagues who are here today from Central and Eastern Europe understand so well, because you have—you have traversed exactly the same transition.
So let me just finish up, first of all, as I always do, by quoting my president, President Biden, who has been so eloquent in making clear that we will stand by Ukraine as long as it takes, but also in highlighting the State Department’s extraordinary focus on this particular facet of our broader support for Ukraine. And my optimism that we’re actually coming into a very important and positive period in terms of the Ukraine energy story, and the benefits that the rest of Europe will derive from a Ukraine that is restored to its sovereign borders and has the ability to reestablish its role as one of the energy powerhouses of the continent.
And also something I’m sure Roger will talk about, Ukraine’s prospect as well to become part of this energy transition supply chain, which we need so urgently to develop because we don’t have enough wind nacelles, we don’t have enough non-Chinese silicon wafers and solar cell manufacturing facilities. We’re going to need all of the resources that we can—that we can identify, including in the area of critical minerals, as part of our own energy transition in Europe and here in the United States. And Ukraine is extremely well-positioned to be part of that story as well.
So thank you, again, Olga. And thank you to colleagues. And I very much look forward to hearing especially from our friends and colleagues in Kyiv today. So thank you very much.