SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good afternoon.
Today is the seventh day of President Putin’s full-scale war against Ukraine.
The assault continues by land, by air, by sea.
And as I noted in my remarks to the UN Human Rights Council just yesterday, Russian strikes are hitting schools, hospitals, residences.
They’re destroying critical infrastructure which supplies millions of people across Ukraine with drinking water, with electricity, with gas to keep from freezing to death.
Buses, cars, ambulances being shelled.
Yesterday, Russian strikes in Kyiv struck the capital’s main television and radio tower and destroyed part of the Babin Yar Holocaust Memorial.
Apartment buildings outside of Kyiv were hit, partially collapsed.
A huge explosion occurred in the main square of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
These aren’t military targets; they are places where civilians work and families live.
Kharkiv is one of the largest Russian-speaking cities in Europe.
It’s fewer than 50 miles from Belgorod, its sister city in Russia.
And Belgorod is where the missiles against Kharkiv were likely fired.
President Putin, among the many false justifications he’s given for invading Ukraine, has cited the need to protect against an imaginary threat to Russian ethnic and Russian-speaking peoples.
How is assaulting and bombing the population of Kharkiv – again, one of the largest Russian-speaking cities in Europe – advancing that purported goal?
As President Zelenskyy said after the assault, there was never a border between Kharkiv and its Russian sister city. The two cities are joined in the hearts of the Ukrainian and the Russian people living on either side.
Among the great damage we see from war, we’re seeing that in Kharkiv. We’ve also seen that the International Court of Justice has announced that it will hold hearings on Russia’s actions.
Already, the human costs of the Kremlin’s unwarranted, unprovoked, and unjustified war on Ukraine are staggering.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians have been killed and wounded.
There are now more than 874,000 refugees who have sought safety in nearby countries.
Millions of Ukrainians still in Ukraine are sheltering wherever they can – including children receiving cancer treatment who are now living in the basements of Ukraine’s children’s hospitals, with doctors and nurses doing their best to care for them as explosions boom overhead.
This is shameful.
The numbers of civilians killed and wounded, the humanitarian consequences, will only grow in the days ahead.
In the face of this violence, the courage of the Ukrainian people is inspiring the world.
As President Biden said in his State of the Union address last night, the response to Russia’s war has been unity – unity among world leaders, unity in Europe, unity among people gathering around the world to protest President Putin’s war of choice, including thousands of people in Russia and Belarus coming out to protest peacefully even though they know what they risk in so doing.
Because the Biden administration dedicated its first year to repairing and rebuilding our alliances and partnerships in Europe and around the world, and because we spent the better part of the past several months raising alarms about looming Russian aggression, declassifying and sharing our intelligence nearly in real time, and relentlessly exposing President Putin’s lies, we were ready.
In fact, one reason why we’re seeing the unified response now is because we made the decision late last year to publicize to the world what we knew was underway and the playbook we were convinced Russia would follow.
I went to the UN Security Council two weeks ago to walk through, step by step, the pretexts for war that we were sure President Putin would invent and the subsequent military invasion that he’d planned to order.
And that’s precisely what he did – while Russian officials continued to deny it right until the invasion began.
Seeing that duplicity and premeditated aggression play out exactly as we predicted has generated outrage and solidarity across Europe and around the world.
And that’s turned into unprecedented action.
We said that if the Kremlin ordered an invasion, we would help Ukraine defend itself while imposing costs on Russia.
Last week, the President approved $350 million in military assistance to Ukraine to help with the armored, airborne, and other significant threats it now faces.
That brings our total security assistance to Ukraine in the past year to more than $1 billion – more than in any previous year.
Over the past several days, I authorized the expedited transfer of U.S.-origin defensive equipment from allies to Ukraine, and we are coordinating efforts to get this equipment – including anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry, as well as small arms and munitions – into the hands of Ukrainian fighters, who are defending their country with skill and determination.
We’re sending humanitarian assistance to the people of Ukraine as well.
Three days ago, we announced nearly $54 million in additional support, on top of the more than $300 million we’ve provided in recent years.
USAID has deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team, our top international emergency responders, to lead the U.S. humanitarian response in coordination with European allies, partners, and international organizations. And USAID Director Samantha Power was, as you know, just in Poland along the border with Ukraine a few days ago, along with other senior officials from the State Department.
And we’re working to support the frontline countries – including Poland, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia – that have welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees, including many children, elderly people, people with disabilities, all of whom are fleeing Ukraine to escape Russia’s violence and facing harrowing journeys to reach safety.
We and our allies and partners will work to keep people safe, manage the flow of refugees, keep border crossings open, and provide critical supplies.
At the same time, we’re holding Russia accountable, including Russia’s economy.
Back on December 1st, I said that Russia would face massive consequences for attacking Ukraine, including severe and lasting economic costs.
The United States and more than 30 allies and partners, representing more than half the world’s economy, have made good on that commitment with powerful sanctions and export controls on Russia, including additional actions just today.
We’ve now sanctioned most of Russia’s largest financial institutions and its sovereign wealth fund.
The European Union removed key sanctioned Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments network.
We’ve restricted Russia’s ability to seek funding beyond its borders.
Thirteen of the most critical Russian state-owned enterprises, including Gazprom, are now extremely limited in raising money through the U.S. market.
We’ve imposed sanctions on individuals, including President Putin, other members of Russia’s security council, and elites and their family members.
And we and our allies and partners are launching a task force to identify, track down, and freeze the assets of sanctioned Russian companies and oligarchs.
We will freeze and seize their yachts, their private jets, their opulent estates in world capitals.
Today, we’re also imposing sweeping sanctions on Russia’s defense sector.
In total, 22 Russian defense-related entities will be designated, including companies that make combat aircraft, infantry fighting vehicles, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare systems – the very systems now being used to assault the Ukrainian people, abuse human rights, violate international humanitarian law.
We’re also imposing export controls on Belarus to hold the Lukashenka regime accountable for being a co-belligerent in President Putin’s war of choice.
We will choke off Belarus’s ability to import key technologies.
And if Lukashenka’s support for the war continues, the consequences for his regime will escalate.
All told, these sanctions and restrictions have had a powerful effect on Russia’s economy.
The value of the ruble has plummeted; the Russian stock market closed at – as fear of capital flight rose; interest rates more than doubled; Russia’s credit rating has been cut to junk status.
The value of President Putin’s “war fund” has vanished.
And by choking Russia’s access to technology, we’re delivering a blow to its economy and military that will be felt not just now, but for years to come.
President Putin may have assumed that the United States and our allies were bluffing when we warned of massive, unprecedented consequences.
But – as President Biden likes to say – big nations can’t bluff.
The United States doesn’t bluff.
And President Putin has gravely miscalculated.
As President Biden made clear last night, this is President Putin’s war.
This isn’t the Russian people’s war.
It’s becoming clearer by the day that the Russian people oppose it.
Members of the Russian military oppose it and had no idea what they were being sent to do.
And now the Russian people will suffer the consequences of their leaders’ choices.
So my message to the people of Russia – if they’re even able to hear it, as the Kremlin cracks down even harder on media outlets reporting the truth – my message is that we know many of you want no part of this war.
You, like Ukrainians, like Americans, like people everywhere, want the same basic things – good jobs, clean air and water, the chance to raise your kids in safe neighborhoods, to send them to good schools, to give them better lives than you had.
How in the world does President Putin’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine help you achieve any of these things?
How is it going to make your lives better?
The economic costs that we’ve been forced to impose on Russia are not aimed at you – they are aimed at compelling your government to stop its actions, to stop its aggression.
And just as millions of us around the world stand together against Moscow’s aggression, we also stand together with you as you demand that your leaders end this war.
If President Putin wants to demonstrate leadership, he should allow Russian soldiers to go home to their families.
Finally, the United States is continuing our diplomatic efforts.
We’re keeping the door open to a diplomatic way forward. That’s going to be very hard to happen without military de-escalation. It’s much more difficult for diplomacy to succeed when guns are firing, tanks are rolling, planes are flying. But if Russia pulls back and pursues diplomacy, we stand ready to do the same thing.
Meanwhile, our intensive diplomacy with allies and partners continues. I’ve been in virtually daily contact with my friend and counterpart, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Kuleba, and I’ve made clear that we’ll support any diplomatic efforts by the Ukrainian Government to reach a ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian forces. If there are diplomatic steps that we can take that the Ukrainian Government believes would be helpful, we’re prepared to take them – even as we continue to support Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.
Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Brussels, where I’ll meet with our NATO, European Union, and G7 allies and partners to continue our coordination; to commend them on the unprecedented steps that they’ve taken to support Ukraine and hold Russia to account; and to reaffirm our Article 5 commitment that an attack on any NATO member is an attack on all. From there, I’ll travel to Poland, which is already hosting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, with tens of thousands arriving by the day; and then to Moldova, which is also hosting Ukrainian refugees, and where Russian troops have been occupying territory against the will of the people for years.
And then I’ll go on to the Baltic countries – to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia – which are facing a renewed threat from Russia themselves, as President Putin seeks to reassert Russia’s dominance over former Soviet republics. Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are our NATO Allies, and as President Biden has said, we will defend every inch of NATO territory against any aggression from Russia or otherwise.
Finally, I want to note the consequential and historic vote that just took place in the United Nations. A hundred and forty-one member states voted in favor of a resolution reaffirming Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and condemning Russia’s invasion of another member state. As this vote revealed, the overwhelming majority of the international community stands in strong support of the core principles of the United Nations and upholding the UN Charter – and stands against Russia’s reckless attempts to change the borders of another sovereign country by force, to replace its will for the will of the Ukrainian people.
As 141 member states of the United Nations know, more is at stake, even, than the conflict in Ukraine itself and the freedom and security of Ukraine and its people. This is a threat to stability in Europe, and to the entire rules-based order, which has been the foundation of security and prosperity for people around the world for nearly 80 years.
In this time of uncertainty, we have a clear way forward: help Ukraine defend itself. Support the Ukrainian people. Hold Russia accountable. And persist with diplomacy.
President Putin is more isolated from the world than ever before. As President Biden predicted last night, when the history of this era is written, Russia’s war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger. And in the days ahead, we will continue to draw inspiration from the iron will of the Ukrainian people.
With that, happy to take some questions.
MR PRICE: Humeyra.
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Secretary. Thanks for being here. I just want to ask you, what is the U.S. assessment on Putin’s state of mind? You said that he’s more isolated than before. Do you worry that this isolation might prompt him to lash out and do something even more dramatic than we’ve so far seen on the ground?
And I also want to ask you: I’m sure you’ve seen that there are Americans who have expressed their desire to go and join the fight in Ukraine. What is your message to them? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks. I can’t put myself in President Putin’s mind or state of mind. All that we can focus on are the actions that he’s taking and our response to those actions. I’ve said before, one of the Achilles’ heels of autocracies is the inability to speak truth to power. I don’t know who said what to President Putin before he launched this aggression. I don’t know who’s saying what to him now. But again, all of that is speculation. We can’t put ourselves in his mindset. All we can do is what we’re doing, which is to be very clear in how we’ll respond to the actions that he takes; to continue to work in unity with allies and partners in support of Ukraine, in defense of Ukraine; to help its people; to help those who have been forced to flee; and if there are any diplomatic opportunities to pursue, to pursue those. But we’re focused less on what President Putin thinks or may think and more on what he does.
And with regard to the second part of your question, look, we’ve been very clear for some time, of course, in calling on Americans who may be – may have been resident in Ukraine to leave, and making clear to Americans who may be thinking of traveling there not to go. For those who want to help Ukraine and help its people, there are many ways to do that, including by supporting and helping the many NGOs that are working to provide humanitarian assistance; providing resources themselves to groups that are trying to help Ukraine by being advocates for Ukraine and for peaceful resolution to this crisis that was created by Russia. Those are the most effective ways that people who want to help can do so.
MR PRICE: Andrea.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you just quoted the President as saying big nations don’t bluff. Do you think that President Putin is bluffing by putting his nuclear forces on alert? And I have another question, if you don’t mind.
Are you surprised that we have not seen more – we’ve seen some denial of services, but are you surprised that we have not seen a more massive cyber attack against Ukraine or against other of the NATO nations or against us? Do you think that the legislation that just passed improves our ability to defend against such attacks?
And if I could impose on you one more question. I talked today to Daria Kaleniuk, who was part of the President and your democracy summit this year, and you know how passionate she is. Perhaps you saw her questioning. And she says that despite everything that has been done, and I would – I would say it’s an extraordinary amount of coordination and agreement with the allies, it’s not going to get there in time. That convoy is sitting outside Kyiv and poised to encircle Kyiv, and they’re not going to get those supplies. What more can be done to help those people?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Andrea, thank you. Let me take them in not quite reverse order. First, just on the cyber piece, two things. First, yes, the legislation that you referred is extremely helpful. But beyond that, and before that, we have been very focused on the potential for cyber attacks not only against Ukraine but against us, against allies and partners. We’ve been working for months first with Ukraine and also among ourselves to harden, to sharpen defenses. All of that work is very much underway, including with the private sector. And so I think we have to be very much on guard about that possibility. We are.
With regard to assistance to Ukraine, here’s what I can – here’s what I can tell you. We are very actively working every day, every hour, to provide that assistance and to make sure that, to the best of our ability, it gets to where it needs to go. And this is not just us; this is many countries in Europe. We’re coordinating a lot of efforts to do that. And my own assessment right now is that the vitally needed assistance is getting to where it needs to go.
With regard to President Putin’s statements on Russia’s nuclear posture, first, as you know, Russia and the United States have long agreed that the actual use of nuclear weapons would be devastating and have devastating consequences for the entire world. And as we’ve stated many times, including earlier this year following the meeting between President Biden and President Putin in Geneva, both of our countries have stated that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. That was a key reaffirmation coming out of the meeting between President Biden and President Putin back in June.
Provocative rhetoric about nuclear weapons is the height of irresponsibility. It’s dangerous. It adds to the risk of miscalculation. It needs to be avoided. We’ve assessed President Putin’s directive and his statements, and at this time we see no reason to change our own alert levels.
MR PRICE: Matt.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Matt.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you. You mentioned the vote in the UN, which was by – it was overwhelming, as you said. And the countries that voted against, the five countries who voted against, no surprise: Belarus, Eritrea, North Korea, Syria, and Russia. But I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about the abstentions, particularly from Latin America: Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, who stayed out. These are countries that are no stranger to larger powers, who might – shall go unnamed, getting involved in their internal politics. And I’m wondering if that says anything to you.
And then secondly, on the prospects for diplomacy with Russia, which you said you’re keeping the door open to, I mean, really, what are the prospects for – what are the chances of that happening? And are – and is there – if there is an open door, is it just for Ukraine and potentially the Iran talks in Vienna? Or are you open to the whole gamut of things – arms control, climate, all – any number of other things? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Matt, first of all, to put the vote in the UN in perspective, it is both overwhelming and, I would even say, historic. Go back to 2014, when the General Assembly pronounced itself on Russia’s initial aggression against Ukraine. The votes in favor of that resolution were 100. Then go to the horrific actions that the Assad regime took in Aleppo. The vote there was 120 in favor of a resolution condemning the actions of the Assad regime. Today 141 votes. That speaks powerfully and eloquently about the overwhelming majority of the world and its views about what Russia is doing in Ukraine.
I’m not going to parse the individual votes. I think in some cases an abstention actually speaks loudly itself as opposed to a no vote, so I think you have to look at some of the individual countries, assess their relationship with Russia, and look at how they voted in that context. For the small number that voted against – Belarus, the DPRK, Eritrea, Syria, as well as, of course, Russia – as Groucho Marx once sort of said, this is not very much a club that I would want to be a member of.
MR PRICE: Olga Koshelenko.
QUESTION: Oh, wait, sorry, on the prospects for diplomacy.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Oh, I’m sorry, yes. Look, as I said a moment ago, with regard to Ukraine itself, we of course remain open to pursuing any reasonable path, but it’s very hard to see any path when the bombs are dropping, the planes are flying, the tanks are rolling. So de-escalation, pulling back forces – that would open a path to diplomacy, and we I think demonstrated very clearly in the months leading up to Russia’s aggression that we were prepared to engage Russia diplomatically on any legitimate security concerns on a reciprocal basis that remains.
Unfortunately, tragically, horrifically, I think we’ve seen – and you don’t have to take my word for it; just listen to President Putin’s own words – that virtually everything the Russian Government professed to be concerned about was not really what was at issue – for example, Ukraine joining NATO. What President Putin has said loudly and clearly and has now demonstrated by the actions that Russia has taken is that what this is about for him is Ukraine being absorbed in one fashion or another into Russia. He sees Ukraine as having no independent existence. He wants to reincorporate it into an empire; short of that, to make it part of a renewed sphere of influence or maybe, at the very least, to make it totally neutral. So this is about way more than the issues that we were prepared to engage Russia on.
So two quick pieces on the diplomacy now. One, with regard to Ukraine itself, first and foremost, the question is if Ukraine thinks there is a path that would help advance its interests, protect it, end the war, and we can be helpful in that, of course. We’re fully prepared to do that. But we really look to the Ukrainian Government to see what, if anything, might make sense. They’re engaged in talks with Russia. They had one round. There may be another one; we’ll see. But, of course, the demands that Russia put on the table were beyond excessive. They were, of course, non-starters, and what we’ve seen repeatedly is that Russia goes through the pretense of diplomacy to distract and continue on its aggressive path.
More broadly, even as we’ve imposed and continue to impose massive costs on Russia for its aggression and actions in Ukraine, if we determine that there are areas that it’s in our interest to continue to pursue and that in one fashion or another may involve some engagement from Russia, we’ll continue to pursue that. We’re not going to let Russia dictate in any way what’s in our interests and how to pursue them.
MR PRICE: Time for a final question from Olga Koshelenko.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Media, Ukraine. Just a few days ago European Union proposed to donate their fighter jets to Ukraine to protect our sky, but as far as I know, for now this deal has fallen apart. I know that you were on a phone call with Foreign Minister Kuleba today discussing this topic as well. Could one expect that after your travel to Europe, something could change and Ukraine will get access to those jets?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. I can’t comment in detail on my conversations with Foreign Minister Kuleba. We talked about a lot of things, including the ongoing provision of security assistance to Ukraine, and that is something that I will be talking to European allies and partners about in a couple of days in Brussels. Again, I can tell you, as I mentioned in response to Andrea’s question, that when it comes to vital defensive military equipment that Ukraine needs, we are very actively coordinating its provision, and that assistance is getting there. But we’ll probably have more to say in the next couple of days.
MR PRICE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR PRICE: Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, everyone.
MR PRICE: Thank you very much. Thank you.
QUESTION: Just one very quick one. Sir, do you think that Russia is deliberately targeting civilians? You said they’re hitting schools and hospitals.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: They’re – are they doing it deliberately?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We have certainly seen in the past that one of Russia’s methods of war is to be absolutely brutal in trying to cow the citizenry of a given country, and that includes at the very least indiscriminate targeting and potentially deliberate targeting as well. We’re looking very closely at what’s happening in Ukraine right now, including what’s happening to civilians. We’re taking account of it. We’re documenting it. And we want to ensure, among other things, that there’s accountability for it.
MR PRICE: Thank you all. Thank you all.