SECRETARY BLINKEN: I just thought I’d say a few words before we head off to Brussels and reflect for a minute about what we did yesterday in Ukraine as well as what we can expect today in Brussels. This was my fifth trip to Ukraine as Secretary and in many ways the most meaningful because it took place coincident with the beginnings of this counteroffensive that Ukraine is engaged in to liberate the land that has been seized by Russian forces as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
We had a chance yesterday to hear directly from President Zelenskyy and his team about the state of their efforts in this counteroffensive, and I had an opportunity to share with him and his team additional significant assistance that the United States is providing both in the near term and longer term on the security side – an additional $2.8 billion. This assistance combined with the extraordinary courage and resilience of Ukrainian forces and the Ukrainian people has been the recipe for success thus far in the Ukrainians pushing the Russians back, and now engaging in this counteroffensive.
I told President Zelenskyy on behalf of President Biden and the American people that we have been with Ukraine. We’re with Ukraine today. We will be with Ukraine tomorrow and for however long it takes to deal with Russia’s aggression. And I come away, again, very confident in Ukraine’s future because the Ukrainians are fighting for their homeland. It’s their homeland, not Russia’s.
We head now to Brussels. I think I’ve spent more time in Brussels than in any other city other than Washington, D.C., these past 18 months or so, and there’s good reason for that. It’s home to the NATO Alliance, the European Union. Allies and partners come together in Brussels to work together on the major challenges of our time; Ukraine now being at the top of the list.
So, I’ll have an opportunity in Brussels to debrief NATO Allies, other partners, on what I learned in Ukraine and to work with them on a number of issues that are of concern to everyone, starting with the situation in and around Zaporizhzhia, where Russia has seized as part of its aggression a nuclear facility, and that’s of real concern to many of us; making sure that food which needs to get out of Ukraine after it’s been blocked by Russia – make sure the agreement that was reached continues; support for Ukraine, not just security support but economic support and humanitarian support; thinking about longer-term reconstruction needs – all of this is going to be part of the agenda in Brussels.
And I think I’ll have a chance to reflect a little bit on what I saw yesterday just in terms of the human toll of Russia’s aggression – seeing kids at the children’s hospital who are victims of that aggression; going to Irpin, a city that was devastated by Russia’s aggression. You see just miles from downtown Kyiv these bombed-out buildings, civilian dwellings. The only thing you can say when you see it is, at best – at best, these were indiscriminate attacks on civilian buildings, and at worst, intentional, deliberate, designed to terrorize the population. It’s important that we remember this, because all of this comes down to the effect it’s having on the lives of real people in Ukraine.
But finally, the most important reason I think we’re in Brussels is because what has worked so well for us thus far has been our unity – unity of purpose, unity of action. When it comes to helping Ukraine defend itself, when it comes to making sure that there’s significant pressure on Russia to end this aggression, when it comes to making sure our own Alliance is as strong and resolute as it can be to deter any additional Russian aggression, I think you’ll see that unity in action, once again. And I’m confident that based on every conversation I’ve had, every engagement I’ve had, it’s going to continue.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, going into the Brussels visit, how concerned are you that the energy challenges facing European countries, including the high prices and the supply challenges, are going to erode the unity that you just mentioned of the anti-Russia coalition and the support of Europeans for what’s happening in Ukraine?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, President Biden said from the start that standing up for what’s at stake with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was not going to be cost-free. And countries have stepped up. They stepped up because, in the first instance, the aggression on a human level is abhorrent but also because, fundamentally, it’s an aggression against the basic principles of the international system that helped us keep the peace, that helped us maintain security, that allowed countries to grow and move forward. And if we allow this to stand, this aggression to stand with impunity, it opens a Pandora’s box for a world of conflict, for a world of hurt going forward.
But it comes with costs, but the cost of inaction, of not doing anything, of allowing this to go forward, would be far greater.
Now, when it comes to energy, we have taken and we’re taking significant action to deal with the challenges that exist. The United States has released significant oil from our strategic petroleum reserve. We have redirected liquefied natural gas to Europe to help alleviate some of the challenges that Europe is facing with the reduction in energy coming from Russia. We have a task force with the European Union looking at how we do this effectively not just in the immediate, but for the long term. And of course the fact that Russia has cut off the Nord Stream I pipeline, again, is further evidence that it is so vital strategically for Europe to move away from dependence on Russian energy, because Putin has shown repeatedly that he will use it as a weapon. And it’s not going to stop now.
So, the challenge is to get through the coming winter. Europe has taken very significant steps to put itself in a position to do that, and I’ll hear more about that later today. And we’re doing everything we can to help. But there’s also a tremendous opportunity born of necessity. The opportunity is finally, once and for all, to move away from this dependence on Russia – to get rid of the chokehold that Russia has on Europe, using energy as a weapon, and to diversify supply, diversify roots, but also do it in a way that addresses the climate challenge.
This is a real, genuine opportunity. We see decisive action being taken by Europe. And again, from what I’ve seen and heard so far, I’m confident this is moving in a good direction. Is there going to be a cost to this? Is it going to be challenging? Yes, but I think we’re looking at landing in a place where manifestly Europe, the United States, countries around the world will be better off.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Mr. Secretary, on the offensive in the east and south, what would have to happen? You talked with Mr. – President Zelenskyy. What would have to happen? What would they have to achieve with those offensives for it to make sense to go to the negotiating table, and for the West to support negotiations between Ukraine and Russia?
MR PRICE: That is for Ukraine to decide. That’s for President Zelenskyy, the democratically elected leader of Ukraine, to decide. They have to decide the terms upon which they would want to engage and pursue diplomacy. President Zelenskyy said very clearly that when this ends, it will end with diplomacy, but it takes two to engage in meaningful diplomacy. And one is not – it’s not present and shows no signs of being present, and that’s Russia.
So, unless and until Russia demonstrates that it’s serious about engaging in diplomacy, there’s not much, alas, to be done. And as to the specific terms, that is up to Ukraine. Their country has been aggressed. Russia has seized territory in southern and eastern Ukraine. It’s Ukraine, it’s not Russia. And ultimately, territory needs to go back to Ukraine. Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence needs to be reaffirmed. I have no doubts with – about that. I think we’ve already seen that Putin’s efforts to erase that sovereignty, to erase that independence, to try to make good on his conviction that Ukraine is not its own country and belongs to Russia – that’s already game over. Putin’s lost on that, but, meanwhile, doing tremendous damage to Ukraine, to lives, to livelihoods. That has to stop. The exact terms upon which it stops, again, will be up to Ukraine.
MR PRICE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Again, all of this is up to the Ukrainian people through their democratically elected representatives. We are working closely with them to support them and to make sure that if and when there is a negotiation, that they’re in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table to conclude it successfully.
MR PRICE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you. Thank you, everyone. Thank you.