QUESTION: Joining me now from Moldova, the latest stop on his European trip, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Secretary Blinken, thanks for joining us.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, Jake.
QUESTION: So you say Russian strikes are hitting schools, hitting hospitals, targeting drinking water, targeting electricity grids. I understand that the U.S. doesn’t want to hurt European economies, the U.S. doesn’t want to risk direct military confrontation, but it seems clear that the sanctions that have been implemented so far have not immediately stopped Putin’s advance, that the line that’s being drawn right now is not likely going to be enough to stop him. So what do you say to the innocent Ukrainian civilians who are saying, “Why has the West not directly intervened to save them from the slaughter?”
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, Jake, I’m here in Europe working with NATO Allies, European Union partners, and others working on, among other things, increasing even more the extraordinary pressure that’s already been exerted on Russia with unprecedented actions and sanctions that are having a crippling effect on the Russian economy as well as additional steps that we can take to help our friends in Ukraine, including getting them even more assistance on top of the historic aid we’ve gotten them to date and that has been effective.
Vladimir Putin has, unfortunately, the capacity, with the sheer manpower that he has in Ukraine and the overmatch that he has, the ability to keep grinding things down against incredibly resilient and courageous Ukrainians. And I think we have to be prepared for this to last for some time. But just winning a battle is not winning the war. Taking a city does not mean he’s taking the hearts and minds of the Ukrainian people. On the contrary, he is destined to lose. The Ukrainian people have demonstrated that they will not allow themselves to be subjugated to Vladimir Putin or to Russia’s rule. But it could take – it could take some time, and meanwhile the suffering is real. It’s terrible. I’ve met with people who are refugees from Ukraine who have been forced to flee, women and children who are in neighboring countries, the men remaining in Ukraine to fight.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’re doing everything that we can to bring this to an end as quickly as we can, but this still may go on for a while.
QUESTION: So you point out accurately that the sanctions are unprecedented. They are. They’re stronger than they’ve ever been. But the U.S. still has not moved as quickly as the EU has on sanctions against the Russian political elite. I mean the Duma, the national security council, the cabinet, their families, the top 100 oligarchs. The U.S. has not banned imports of Russian oil. The U.S. has not rolled out trade sanctions. We’re still working with the Russians on the Iran deal. Why not do everything we can now? Speaker Pelosi said she’s willing to cut off all imports of Russian oil.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’re adding to the sanctions virtually every day. We’re doing it in coordination with Europeans. When there’s a difference between us, if there’s a loophole on one side or the other, we’re closing it. That’s part of the work that I was doing here. And when it comes to oil, Russian oil, I was on the phone yesterday with the President and other members of the cabinet on exactly this subject, and we are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil while making sure that there is still an appropriate supply of oil on world markets. That’s a very active discussion as we speak.
QUESTION: The U.S. has ruled out a no-fly zone for fears of getting into direct military conflict with Russia. Zelenskyy said, quote, “Then give me the planes.” Now, you’ve said you’re in active discussions about providing U.S. planes to Poland so that they can give planes that the Ukrainians are familiar with to Ukraine. Are you going to do that? And can you explain why the U.S. cannot give Ukraine the planes directly?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So we are working with Poland as we speak to see if we can backfill anything that they provide to the Ukrainians. We very much support them, providing MiGs, SUs, planes that Ukrainian can fly, to the Ukrainians. But we also want to see if we can be helpful, as I said, in making sure that whatever they provide to the Ukrainians, something goes to them to make up for any gap in the security for Poland that might result. We’re actively talking about that right now.
QUESTION: The International Criminal Court is opening an investigation into Russian war crimes. The U.S. Embassy said it’s a war crime to attack a nuclear power plant. They’ve tweeted that out – the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. But then the State Department told other embassies around the world to not retweet it, which is a confusing step. Has the U.S. seen evidence that Russia is committing war crimes or not?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Jake, we’ve seen very credible reports of deliberate attacks on civilians, which would constitute a war crime. We’ve seen very credible reports about the use of certain weapons. And what we’re doing right now is documenting all of this, putting it all together, looking at it, and making sure that as people and the appropriate organizations and institutions investigate whether war crimes have been or are being committed, that we can support whatever they’re doing. So right now we’re looking at these reports. They’re very credible. And we’re documenting everything.
QUESTION: Western intelligence suggests that China asked Russia to not invade Ukraine until after the Olympics. You talked to the Chinese foreign minister yesterday. You noted that, quote, “The world is watching to see which nations stand up for the basic principles of freedom, self-determination, and sovereignty,” unquote. China’s not doing that, are they?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Jake, you’re right; I spent about an hour on the phone with my counterpart, the Chinese foreign minister, the other day. And one of the things that I said to him, as I said actually before Russia committed this aggression against Ukraine, is that China speaks often about the sanctity of this principle of sovereignty, and here you have a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, the council that came into existence with the responsibility of keeping peace and security around the world, respecting the sovereignty of states; you have one of its permanent members violating that very principle.
And so we would expect China, based on everything it’s said in the past, to stand up and make its voice heard. Its voice is very important in this. And 141 countries in the UN system came forward to condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and to stand up for Ukraine. So we are looking to China to make its voice heard. That voice counts, and I hope that they’ll do that.
QUESTION: More than 1.5 million refugees have already fled Ukraine. Millions more are expected to do so. The UN says it could be the largest refugee crisis in Europe this century. And I know you visited with some of these refugees in Poland yesterday. Is the U.S. willing to accept Ukrainian refugees, and if so how many?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Of course, we’ll look at that. In fact, you’re right; I was on the border. There was a terrific CODEL from the House led by, I think, someone you’re going to have on shortly, Mike McCaul, and Greg Meeks, the – Mike the ranking member and Greg the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a bipartisan delegation. We all looked at this. We met with many of the women and children who have been forced to flee Ukraine. We’re committed – the United States is committed to doing anything we can, first of all, to support the countries that are bearing the immediate burden of taking in Ukrainians. And then as appropriate, if people seek refugee status in the United States, of course, we will look at that and I’m sure act on that.
QUESTION: Secretary of State Antony Blinken, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you, Jake. Good to be with you.