MODERATOR: Good afternoon everyone. Please join me in welcoming three foreign ministers to talk about visions for Ukraine, the most important vision of which is peace. Annalena Baerbock – (applause) – Antony Blinken – (applause) – and of course, Mr. Kuleba – (applause) – wonderful to have you.
When we’re thinking about Ukraine, I think all of us want to think about a future Ukraine that is at peace, but how do we get there – and most importantly once we do get there – how do we ensure that Ukraine remains at peace because Russian aggression may return. So I’d like to start with you, Minister Baerbock, and ask you: How do you see the end of the war? What is – what are the steps that you think need to be achieved? And do you see this as potentially a negotiated solution at the end of the day, or will it – can it only be achieved through military victory by the Ukrainians?
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: Well, in the end, there must be peace, and it has to be just and endurable, a peace. And there’s one easy way that this war will end and that we have peace again, and this is Russia stops bombing and just – Russia withdraws its troop. And we can do this tomorrow. If Russia decides to withdraw their own troops tomorrow, then we do have peace again, not only in Ukraine but peace around the whole world, because we see the negative effects.
And I think we have to be aware of three points on the path if Russia doesn’t take this decision. Russia – and we debated it within the last two days here also in Munich – is counting on that at some point we are too exhausted, and we as an international community – and would give in – and meaning that saying stop the fighting and stop the military support from other countries in the world. But what would that mean? Would that mean peace? No, because part of Ukraine, which is now still under the control of Russian would remain under the control of Russian. And those who are saying, “Just stop the hostilities right now and this is automatically peace,” this peace would mean that we would give those people of Ukraine towards Russia. And this would also mean that this is the end of the international order and the end of international law.
Because this is my second point – and I think the chancellor and also President Macron made that clear yesterday as well – if at this moment we would say Russia should just take part of Ukraine, then Russia would have won with a method that one aggressor can just conquer another country, and then it would be the end of the culture of the United Nation. And my third point I would like to make, because also in Germany, I think always around the world, people ask, “But if you wouldn’t have delivered weapons in the beginning, maybe there wouldn’t be so much fighting.”
I think we have to ask the question the opposite way around: If we wouldn’t have decided on the 27th of February in German parliament – or on the 24th around the world – to support Ukraine, there wouldn’t be 13 million refugees in Ukraine or outside of Ukraine – one million in Germany. The total population of Ukraine is 42 million people. If we wouldn’t have supported Ukraine since February 27th, then we would have seen Bucha, Mariupol, everywhere in the whole country.
So those of the people asking around the world: So what were the effects from the sanctions? What were the effects from the international support? The effect was that unfortunately we could not bring back peace to Ukraine because Russia still wants to destroy Ukraine, but we could save millions of people’s life, and that was worth every day. And we will save these life and protect these civilians every single day as long as Russia attacks Ukraine.
MODERATOR: I want to bring you in, Mr. Blinken. Is – when we talk about peace, are we talking about Russia returning to February lines or are we talking about post-2014? Because Crimea is an issue that Ukrainians care a lot about. And I’m sure you’d like to comment on this, Minister Kuleba.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first let me say how wonderful it is to be here in Munich again, but especially wonderful to be surrounded by my two good friends and colleagues. Germany has been absolutely extraordinary in its leadership over the last year: the third largest donor to Ukraine in total, taking steps that I think few of us in this room would have imagined possible before the Russian aggression, and that’s due to the leadership of the chancellor and it’s due to the leadership of my friend Annalena Baerbock, who has been extraordinary from day one. We have been shoulder-to-shoulder from day one. And of course, Dmytro Kuleba has been the voice and the face in many ways of Ukraine around the world, not just with us but literally around the world, building support on every continent. And his own personal courage and the way he does his work on behalf of his country is extraordinary, so I thought it was important to acknowledge that as well as all of you.
Look, simply put, fundamentally these are decisions for our Ukrainian friends to make. This is their country, their future, their decision. I am, as usual, in violent agreement with everything that Annalena said. And I think we have to be wary of two things. First, we have to be very wary of this somehow false equivalence – and never lose sight of the fact that there is an aggressor and there is a victim. And we – the world should not in any way expect of Ukraine things on parallel with what we need to expect of Russia. As Annalena said, if Russia withdraws its troops today, the war is over. Of course, if Ukraine stops fighting today, Ukraine is over. And it’s as simple and basic as that.
Where this goes – as Annalena said, we will support the decisions of our Ukrainian friends about the future of their country. But I think we all have a profound stake in, as Annalena said, a just and durable peace. And what do we mean by that? Just in that any peace has to be consistent with the principles of the United Nations Charter. It is fundamentally against the interests of every other country around the world to wind up with a result that somehow vindicates the seizure by force of territory, that validates that. Because if we do that, we will open a Pandora’s box around the world, and every would-be aggressor will conclude that: If Russia got away with it, we can get away with it. And that’s not in anyone’s interests because it’s a recipe for a world of conflict.
What does durable mean? Durable means that wherever this lands, we have to do everything in our power to make sure that Russia won’t simply repeat the exercise a year, five years later. And among other things, that means making sure that Ukraine has the capacity to deter aggression and, if necessary, to effectively defend against it. So even as we’re doing everything we can to provide Ukraine with the assistance it needs now to deal with the Russian aggression, we have to be thinking – and we are – about what the post-war future looks like to ensure that we have security and stability for Ukrainians and security and stability in Europe.
MODERATOR: I’d like to come back to – I’m told my mic wasn’t working, so I hope everyone can hear me now. I’d like to come back to the durable peace. But Minister Kuleba, what does victory look like for you, and how far are we from victory?
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: It’s the third time I’m invited to answer this question since 7:13.
MODERATOR: Well, you’ll be very well rehearsed then.
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: So I don’t want to bore those who had – who heard my previous answers, but for us there is a short notion of victory, and that’s full restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and there is a long victory which includes compensations for the damage inflicted, accountability for perpetrators of crimes, and most importantly Russia must change. Because I have no doubts that, as we will become members of the EU, of NATO, this is going to happen, but in the end, the only durable peace in the Euro-Atlantic space will become possible after Russia poses no threat to the Euro-Atlantic space. And for that to achieve – to achieve that, we need to – we need Russia to change.
There is a long road to this result, but if we keep it as our ultimate objective, if we base our policy and decisions on the premise that this is our goal – durable security in the Euro-Atlantic region with Ukraine being fully part of the Euro-Atlantic region – then it will end up – it will end when Russia will not be able to pose threat. And everything between now and then – I don’t want to sound too tough, but will be a war, one way or another.
MODERATOR: That brings me to the issue of security guarantees, and I’m going to jump between the future and the present. But I think that President Zelenskyy has been talking to some allies about security guarantees from NATO, not just for the end of the war but even from now, because it is important for the morale of troops and also for the morale of a population that’s fighting. Do you think that that’s a possibility, some kind of security guarantees postwar but that are communicated and agreed by the time you’re all in Vilnius?
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: Well, the biggest security guarantee has been made already, and this was giving Ukraine but also to Moldova the candidate status for the European Union. Because the European Union is our life insurance in Europe. And we do not have only in NATO a solidarity clause – we do have that also in the European Union. And underneath this decision – I mean, every step we are taking within this process – this is a process which secures the security of Ukraine also for the future. And as everybody know, NATO has an “Open Door” policy. This was true in the past; it’s still true. And what we are doing now also with the military support is helping Ukraine immediately every day, but we have short-term, mid-term, and long-term perspective.
And this is also nothing new in February 2023, but we have decided and started this process in March, April, May last year, and then at the Bucharest Summit together at NATO where we underlined that the support for self-defense is required now – what we can deliver now – but for example IRIS-T systems. The next ones, they are coming in the next months, but also in the next years. So every weapon delivery support is already looked at. Also, it’s the standards we are having ourself, so I think this guarantee has been given already last year. And this is because we always see the glass half empty, and I mean, for Ukraine it’s more than half empty. It’s totally destroyed because so many people have been killed.
But we should never forget what we have achieved together within the last year. Not only we are more united than ever – at the OSCE meeting we have been attending, both of us, there was this question: Is the OSCE dead? No, not at all. We are also within the OSCE more united than ever. Countries from Central Asia like Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan are saying: We want to work closer with you. We are sending as the European Union now mission to Armenia, because Armenia is saying: We trust in you for our further peace. So I think we should never forget this because we need still some breath probably for the next months, and we don’t know how long we need it. But we always have to remember for what it’s worth, for peace in Ukraine but for peace on the whole European continent. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Secretary Blinken, how about these security guarantees?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We have demonstrated right now an enduring commitment to Ukraine’s security. We’ve demonstrated that through really unprecedented assistance being provided to Ukraine so that it has in its hands the tools that it needs to defend itself every single day. And as Annalena suggested, this is an enduring commitment because, first, many of the things that we’re providing now will also be very beneficial to Ukraine’s long-term defense and its deterrent capacity. And at the same time, we’re thinking and talking very actively about what we can do, not just in the immediate but over time, to put Ukraine in the strongest possible position going forward, again, so that we can prevent a repeat of this Russian aggression or, if God forbid, that were to happen again, that Ukraine would be in a very strong position to deal with it.
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: Well, technically speaking, of course, the best security guarantees between now and NATO membership: sanctions, weapons, and money. But I think the most important security guarantee that partners can give to Ukraine is to firmly and unconditionally believe in the victory of Ukraine. If this is the founding principle of policymaking, everything else will follow. And people here share – with whom I’m sharing this stage, I know they believe in it. And I know I don’t have to preach to them, I don’t have to convince, because I know that their policy, the decisions they will be making in Berlin, in Washington, in their respective institutions will be based on the assumption that Ukraine must win. So if you agree with this conceptually, if this is the starting point of your consideration, of your decision making, everything else becomes technical.
MODERATOR: But do you have any doubt about that commitment today? You don’t have any doubt?
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: No, not among the people present at this stage.
MODERATOR: Do you want to tell me who?
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: No. (Laughter.) We are working with them.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Can I say, too, I know – and I think I can safely speak for my friend – we have no doubt at all about Ukraine’s victory and success. And there’s a simple, powerful reason for that. Irrespective of anything else, including the support that we’re providing, the biggest single difference is that Ukrainians are fighting for their own country, for their future, for their land. The Russians are not. (Applause.) And that will be the biggest difference maker.
MODERATOR: So I’m going ask you a question that I’m sure you have been asked before but I would still like to hear your answer, is: Is there any chance of Ukraine being safe in the long term if Vladimir Putin is still leading Russia?
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: If he doesn’t change by 360 degrees, no.
MODERATOR: But everything that happened over the last year – and it’s truly remarkable what’s happened over the last year, not just in terms of the Ukrainian willingness and capability to fight but even in Germany – and yet he does not appear to have gotten the message at all.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: Well, I didn’t say no without this half-sentence beforehand, because I believe in humans and I believe in human beings. And we have changed by 180 degrees, because we decided on February 27th – and this is why I’m always referring to this – that we change totally our export policy with regard to weapons. Before, also myself, I said no, we are not living in conflict areas. But this is a good thing about human beings: If you’re still a human being and if you still see the suffering – that you can say either I’ve made a mistake – and I mean, if you never learned from mistakes you will never end the phase of being a baby – but also, if you recognize, well, this might have been right in the past but now the world has changed.
And on the 24th of February, at least my world – I think all of our world – has changed totally. And then we reflected and said, “If our world has changed, our European peace order has been under attack,” which I never had to realize in all my life living in Western Germany and being born there. So when we realized this, that we woke up in another world, we said, obviously, the policies from before won’t work anymore with regard to our understanding of weapon delivery. This is why we changed by 180 degrees. And if President Putin – and this is why I said it in the beginning – it’s in his hand. He can make his own decision. He can decide that he changes his course by 360 degrees tomorrow. The whole world would be happy again. Stop the bombing. It’s in his hand.
And this is why I also think that we should really differentiate – and I’m really thankful to Tony, and he said that first time in Security Council in September – we always have to differentiate who is the aggressor and who is the victim. And if we start to blame the victim, then the aggressor wins, but we can give the aggressor the chance – and we ask him every single day of the last year: Please change your mind. So we asked him again, “Please change your mind,” and if he changes his mind then we have peace again in Ukraine and in the world. And if he doesn’t change his mind, we stand on the side of Ukraine until they have freedom, peace, and liberty again. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Mr. Secretary is it – is it possible that the step-by-step approach that Ukraine’s allies have taken, often for good reason – but this step-by-step approach appears as hesitancy in Moscow, and that it is interpreted in Moscow as: Well, help is not really forthcoming, it’s not enthusiastic, and therefore I will always have a chance to either divide Ukraine’s Western allies or maybe force them to pause. I’m sure he’s now thinking: There’s an election in the U.S. in 2024; maybe I try to wait it out.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So first, just to follow up quickly on what Annalena said, I think there has to be a day of reckoning for Mr. Putin, because this has been a strategic debacle for him, going back to 2014 when he first came and seized Crimea and parts of the Donbas. Ever since then, what we’ve seen is Putin precipitating everything he said he was trying to prevent. Ukraine is united. Back in 2014, before the Russian aggression, attitudes toward Russia in Ukraine – and Dmytro can confirm this – were largely positive. Desire to join NATO was probably about 25 percent. After the initial aggression in 2014, that of course flipped, and since the renewed aggression last year, on steroids.
For the foreseeable future, Ukrainians will hate their Russian neighbors because of what’s done, understandably. And Ukraine’s own unity is stronger than ever; our own unity is stronger than ever. Putin thought he could divide NATO; of course we’ve seen exactly the opposite. In my 30 years of doing this, I’ve never seen this Alliance more united and on the verge of welcoming in two new members. That, too, no one was thinking about before Putin engaged in this renewed aggression.
But here’s the other point that’s so important, and I’ll come to the question. Look at what has happened, what Putin has done to his own country. We now have, by public accounts, something like 200,000 Russian casualties in Ukraine – think about that for a minute – in less than a year. We have more than a million Russians who have left their country because they do not want to be part of this war and the direction that the country is being taken in. We have 1,000 or more companies from all of our countries who used to do business in Russia who no longer do, because the reputational cost of that is far too high.
And all of Russia’s connectivity with so much of the world has been cut off, piece by piece, as a result of the actions that President Putin has taken. So to Annalena’s point, one would imagine that there will be – and one would hope, on his behalf – a time of reckoning to realize that the course that he is on is a strategic failure for him in the most graphic terms possible. So I think we have to look at that.
As for what Russia is seeing and what Putin may be concluding, no, I think it’s exactly the opposite – I think precisely because he thought, first of all, that they would rapidly erase Ukraine from the map in a matter of days, and of course that didn’t happen because of the extraordinary courage and bravery of Ukrainians, but also because they already had in hand some of the tools that they needed to repel the aggression from Kyiv, move it to the east and the south.
But then everything he’s seen over the last year is an extraordinary coming together of dozens of countries – and not just in Europe, beyond as well, because countries like Japan, recognize the implications that this war has for them and for their interests. Everyone around the world is watching. And he’s seen us systematically, time after time, working closely with our Ukrainian colleagues, try to assess what they need, and make sure that we can get it to them.
But what’s so important – and I think all of you know this very well – is we tend to get fixated on individual weapons systems, and that’s understandable. One thing or another gets in the news and people start focusing on that. But we all know very well that it’s not just the weapon systems – it’s the training, because if you can’t use it, it doesn’t help you much. It’s the maintenance, because if it falls apart in a week, it doesn’t help you much. And it’s making sure that all of these things are being used in a comprehensive way with an actual strategy to be successful. And this is exactly what we’ve been working on. I think Vladimir Putin sees that very, very clearly.
MODERATOR: Minister Kuleba, can you foresee a time when Ukraine is at peace, Russia has withdrawn completely, and you’re having discussions, new relations with Russia that is led by Vladimir Putin?
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: Well —
MODERATOR: I know this is a bit much —
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: Everything except Vladimir Putin is my retirement plan. (Laughter.) That’s – I want to end the war, I want to go to the village, to the countryside, live there in peace, raise – see my children. And I don’t have to get old for that to happen. I’m ready to do it the moment war is over. As long as Putin is in power, we will be in troubles, because he is – Ukraine is his personal obsession for various reasons which will require another panel to focus simply on this one issue. I believe that the period between the moment when Putin is gone and the new leader emerges will be the period of opportunity for all of us, but we cannot forecast when it’s going to happen. This is – so we – really what we have to do now is just to focus on fighting, fighting on the battlefield, fighting in diplomatic arena.
Because yes, we see an unprecedented unity of one part of the world that stands for principles and rules this world is based on, but we also see other parts of the world. Some are neutral, which means effectively the support of Russia. Some are calling on – to seize the supply of weapons to Ukraine, which also means that Russia is going to win. Some are asking questions whether Ukraine will be capable to restore its territorial integrity in full, which is about casting doubts and – basically posing your question, what was it all for if in the end you don’t get everything that belongs to you?
And those who have this idea of going back to the 2014, so-called 2014 line, or Ukraine becoming – abandoning NATO plans, I would like to recall two things. First, in 2014, Ukraine, by the law, was a non-bloc country. We were not pursuing membership in NATO, and still Russia attacked. And second, we had the separation line for eight years. We were very constructive. We were painfully trying to find diplomatic solution. Did it help us to prevent the war? No, it didn’t. So probably that means that the solution is not going back to another separation line and to changing – abandoning some of our choices. The way forward is to believe in your choice, to be smart enough to defend it and to make it happen. I have no doubts it is going to happen. And – but what inspires me the most is meeting and talking and working with the people who also have no doubts on this matter.
MODERATOR: Let me, let me bring some of the audience in. Young man there.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. I’m Linas Kojala, director of Eastern Europe Studies Centre in Vilnius, Lithuania, and part of Munich Young Leaders. Well, Ukraine is fighting a war for its existence, but Russia also poses existential threat to countries on NATO’s eastern flank, the Baltic states, my country, Poland, and others. So before NATO summit comes to Vilnius in the next five months or so, what needs to be done to send the clear message that Ukraine is not a gray zone on the map of Europe in terms of security, and that NATO’s eastern flank is capable of withstanding the threat that comes from Russia, at least before Ukraine joins NATO? Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Mr. Secretary – and perhaps if you’d like to also add. Go ahead.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Sure. Thank you very much for the question. This actually follows on with what we were talking about earlier about Putin precipitating everything he’s trying to prevent. One of the things that he’s precipitated is a very strong movement of strength for NATO to the eastern flank. And we’ve had to take, all of us, necessary precautions precisely because of the fear that Russia would expand its aggression beyond Ukraine. And that’s exactly what the Alliance has done. And if you look at the decisions taken at the last summits and then the deployment of additional forces, additional capacities to the eastern flank countries already, we are in the business of making sure that all of these countries can feel safe and secure. President Biden has been very, very clear, and he’s said it repeatedly: We will defend every square inch of NATO territory. And that guarantee means something.
Going forward – and we’ll have an opportunity in Vilnius to talk about this – one of the things that we’ll be looking at is what further steps do we need to take to strengthen the eastern flank and, for that matter, in the south as well. One of the ironies of the situation we’re in is that Vladimir Putin seems to believe erroneously that NATO has designs on Russia, that we pose a threat to Russia, that we aim to commit some kind of aggression against Russia. That has never been the case; it never will be the case. But because of his actions, NATO has been dramatically reinforced.
And again, if you go back to 2014 when this first started with Ukraine, look at the trajectory NATO was on then. Budgets were actually going down. Forces from the United States were coming back. Equipment, tanks, planes were coming back. Ever since 2014, as much as I’d like to think that in some part our engagement and leadership played a role, I have to give credit where credit is due. Vladimir Putin has done more than anyone on Earth to strengthen the NATO Alliance.
MODERATOR: Let me take another question there. Yeah.
QUESTION: Thanks very much. My name is Katarzyna Pisarska. I’m the chair of the Warsaw Security Forum from Poland. And I have a question to, well, the entire panel, but particularly to Secretary Blinken and Dmytro Kuleba. President Biden is coming to Poland this Monday and he’s expected to have a speech in front of the Polish public. What are your expectations from that speech, how significant? What should we be preparing for?
And Dmytro, if you can tell me – because I’m sure that Vladimir Putin is also preparing something for this week of this anniversary, something horrific – are we prepared also for a week that I think will be symbolic on the one side – we want to we want to show our full support for Ukraine, we want to show that this year has – we’ve been in unity, we want to commemorate also the heroes of Ukraine – but at that time, at the same time, we know that we will probably see more attacks this week and probably vicious heinous attacks. So how do we prepare to that? Thank you.
MODERATOR: So Mr. Secretary, first you’re gonna give us the scoop on the President’s visit, and then perhaps both Minister Kuleba and Minister Baerbock might want to address the second question. Go ahead.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think it’s safe to say that the President will make a very significant speech in Poland next week. (Laughter.) Other than that, I’ve learned one thing: never get ahead of your boss. So I’ll let him speak for himself. But in all seriousness, I think it’s safe to say that as well, that he’s likely to talk about the road that we’ve traveled together over the last year, where we are today, and, as I said, our enduring commitment to Ukraine’s success, which is all of our success.
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: I believe the speech of President Biden will be far more significant and consequential than the speech of President Putin. Thank you. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Thank you. Artur Gerasymov, MP, Ukrainian parliament, European Solidarity faction. Mr. Blinken, Ms. Baerbock, first of all, thank you very much for supporting our country. Believe me, Ukrainian people and Ukrainian soldiers really value that. Your countries, together with UK, are the biggest supporters of Ukraine right now. And I want to ask you the same question earlier today I asked prime minister of Great Britain: Which steps, from your point of view, can be done, with purpose drastically increase the speed of decision making while supporting Ukraine and while sanctioning Russia? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: Well, we can always do better and we can always be faster, and this is what we are trying. But on the other hand, I should – we shouldn’t resignate of saying because we haven’t been quick enough in the past we just give in. So we are improving every day, and this is why I related to the last year. The first months were very, very difficult because we took decisions we never took before in our lives. We didn’t even discuss it before in our lives. So saying what is wrong or what is right, this was always a balancing thing. And I think the important thing was that we always came back to: We have to be united. And our frame is the international law, because we are defending also the international law at this moment.
And this counts also to our weapons delivery. This is why – and this is a strength of democracy. We are having debates also about these kinds of steps, and then we are asking ourselves: So where can we learn from the past? And we learned many things. We learned, for example, that, unfortunately, even though we have all NATO standards, that NATO standards alone doesn’t help – that your military has to be compatible with each other. So with the Howitzers, we thought we have the same Howitzers as the Dutch. And then we realized, yeah, we do have the same Howitzers, but unfortunately they don’t function together. So this is like we always have to improve. So now with the – this decision we took right now with the tanks, we are trying – and this is also what we did here in Munich – trying to form a group of those who can support us as Germans with regard to the Leos – and it’s the Leo 2 – and the best would be the A6 – and you learn many things about this question because maintenance is crucial. So if we don’t think the chain afterwards – and this was all learning from this spring last year – then it doesn’t really help.
So what can we do to become better – coming back to your questions – getting together the right group of countries, and this is my appeal to everybody in the room. I think everybody knows who does have the tanks we need now to form together a battalion, and that we set up the supply chains, that we set up the maintenance hub directly at the border, in order to help every day to save your people.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: And just very quickly, to add on, as democracies, we have processes and procedures. Sometimes that can be frustrating, but it’s important to stick to them and to learn from them. And we did. And just as Annalena said, we learned a lot from the first months. One of the things that we did now some time ago is our Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stood up in Germany the so-called Ramstein process to make sure that we were doing a better job of coordinating the supply of military equipment to Ukraine, and making sure not only that it was coordinated but that it was moving faster, that we could identify where we had challenges, but also where we could identify who had what to provide. And that has worked incredibly well.
We’ve done the same thing together when it comes to trying to help Ukraine repair and replace the energy infrastructure that’s being destroyed by Russia every single day. With Annalena’s leadership, we stood up for the G7 a process to do that. The G7 itself, we met again this morning – it’s now under the chairmanship of Japan; it was under Germany’s chairmanship last year. We met I think a dozen times as foreign ministers last year through the G7. The typical meeting rate usually is about two times a year. So this was all a way of making sure that we were working together in real time. And I think that we’ve done that.
MODERATOR: Minister Kuleba, is there – what are the three things that you want speeded up right now? Not seven.
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: Yes, I was going to say seven. (Laughter.) Ammunition, artillery, and tanks.
MODERATOR: What is the problem with ammunition? Because there – it does seem that while the debate has been very focused on tanks and now jets, the real big problem right now is ammunition. Why are we here?
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: Because we thought that we would never have a war again on European soil. I’m sorry that I’m always coming back to this point, but I think it’s not us to blame that we believed in peace. It is Russia to blame that he, Putin – and not Russia, every Russian – yeah, we see also the Russian suffering – that he destroyed peace in Europe. And therefore, we didn’t have stockpiles of ammunition for a war like this because we thought that war would be over in Europe again. But because we cannot wish the world as we want it to be, we are building the world, we are building the future. This is why we are building now, new ammunition production lines, for example, in Germany. So we hope to fill these gaps by June, July for the Gepard ammunition. We still need to bridge the time in between.
And as you might know, I’m a fan of open words. There are a couple of countries in the world who do have this Gepard ammunition, and again, we are calling on them. Please help us to purchase time that, until we have built this new production line, we could use this ammunition, and making it even in a bigger picture. And I would like to thank all those countries who are in other corners of the world and said in the beginning: This is a European war; you haven’t been there when we asked you for help. And this is true. Too often, we ignored also other conflicts of the world. But there are so many countries who realized if they would not take a position in this war, then it would only help – not Russia – maybe they didn’t care if it helps Russia – but it would destroy the culture of the United Nation.
And this where they took a side because this old saying of Desmond Tutu. In a case, you see justice and injustice and aggressor and the victim. Neutrality is not an option, because then you are standing on the side of the aggressor. And this is a plea we are also giving next week to the world again: Please take a side, a side for peace, a side for Ukraine, a side for the humanitarian international law, and these times this means also delivering ammunition so Ukraine can defend itself.
MODERATOR: Secretary Blinken, would you like to comment on the ammunition question?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Again, I think Annalena has covered it very well. But one of the things that we know is that we’ve had different types of weapons systems that use different types of ammunition. Ukraine has had in its own inventories a lot of Soviet era weaponry that uses one type of ammunition. Some of the NATO systems that are being supplied to Ukraine use another type, so that’s been a challenge. And – but exactly as Annalena said, some of the stockpiles were not accounting for this. And at the same time, getting these production lines moving again is not like flipping a light switch. It takes real effort; it takes real time. And quite honestly, those who produce these weapons also want to know, if they’re going to start a production line again, that it’s not going to be turned off in six months. So all of these things factor into it, but I can also tell you that pretty much every single day we are scouring every corner of the earth for the appropriate ammunition for Ukraine.
MODERATOR: There’s a gentleman down there. Yes. No, no, sorry. In the middle. Yes, you who are trying to get the – now – sorry. Yes.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: Too many gentlemen here – so many gentlemen. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So thank you very much. First off, all – I wish you all, but specifically the people of Ukraine, a acceptable, respectful, and peaceful solution for your country. We as Afghan – I’m from Afghanistan. We know what the Russian invasion is. And I wish you all the best. Specifically Secretary Blinken and Madam Baerbock, allow me to take you for a moment out of the subject. Afghanistan. Please don’t abandon Afghanistan. We are in a very bad position in the moment, and this is also a big pressure on our neighboring countries and (inaudible) for the European countries, because if it is continuing like this, you will have 100,000 of refugee again on the border of Europe. Please find some solution acceptable for the Afghan nation. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you for that. Sorry, yes, now – yeah, go ahead, please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) from Saudi Arabia. My question to Secretary Blinken: Successfully and correctly you have been able to mobilize a lot of your alliances in the world to stand on this crisis in support of Ukraine. The Gulf country have taken a semi-neutral position, and the neutral position mean we did not support the aggression. We fought in the UN. We have issued our condemnation for the Russian invasion. But at the same time, they did not decide to cut the relation with Russia or China in that one. Did that harm the U.S. relation towards the Gulf by not standing fully on the position that you want them, and because they have taken this sort of balanced position, although they have contributed to the humanitarian side and they have condemned clearly the invasion and using the aggression? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. As Annalena said, there is no neutral position when it comes to a war of aggression. There is no balance. At the same time, different countries have responded in different ways. They’ve contributed in different ways. Some have focused on humanitarian contributions. Those are hugely important given the suffering of the Ukrainian people. Some have focused on economic contributions. That’s also incredibly important given the damage that’s being done to the Ukrainian economy by the Russian onslaught. Others have focused on security support, and of course that is vital. Some countries have done things that they don’t advertise. That – but as long as the result is there, that’s what matters. So we’re constantly engaged with partners around the world who have different perspectives on this, different ways that they can help. And from our perspective – first of all, again, you really can’t be neutral, but if there’s a way to provide support in any of these areas, that’s valuable and it’s something that we welcome.
MODERATOR: Very good. I think there’s a question over there, and then we’ll come closer. Yeah. Go ahead, please.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is Lisa Yasko, a member of Ukrainian parliament, member of foreign affairs committee, Servant of the People party. I want to ask you – our panelists – about what would you recommend me as Ukrainian politician to tell to Ukrainian people when they ask me how long we need to go through all of this. I know that this is the question that really bothers us. I mean, in political circles we start talking about different types of weapons. We know what is happening. But still for me, as Ukrainian politician, it’s very hard to keep answering that, yes, this weapon will come in two, three, five months. Can we give some timeline that will bring more confidence and peace to Ukrainian hearts because we understand that we’re in these shoes already for one year, and we need to calculate how much energy we still have and we will have in the future? Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: My frank and honest answer is I don’t know, because we cannot give a promise to the people of Ukraine when this war will end because we don’t know, and it always comes back to the point because it lays in the hand of the Russian president. But what we can promise is that we are trying to do everything to give you, to give the people of Ukraine as much as help as you need. And you were asking so when are the next system coming. I was speaking about ammunition or the Gepard systems.
We are now training soldiers with regards to the tanks, so we can do the tanks delivery in the upcoming months together with our other partners. We are looking that – how we can bridge also the time with the IRIS-T because – and this is what Tony has mentioned – that we are thinking also so much about air defense to protect infrastructure, because we know that the attack on infrastructure, on electricity is on the purpose that people will freeze to death or don’t have water in wintertime anymore when everything has been frozen because you don’t have electricity. So we are talking also to partners for the IRIS-T system that we get short-range systems to protect their systems better.
But the frank answer is: I don’t know. And I cannot even imagine how you deal with this as a parliamentarian, as a foreign minister, as a father, or as a mother. When I was in Kharkiv and realized what this means, that you have in Kharkiv 45 seconds – and they told me when we heard the alarm, “You just count until 45,” and then you see whether the rocket hit you or didn’t hit you. And I had to experience it once when we both were there. But speaking to school children experience it every day, and this is a reason why they cannot go to school, because they cannot count the whole day to 45 – and there are no shelters. Then we totally understand how high the pressure is.
And what I realized there is also – and this is why I think all the three of us are so frank and open here also on this panel – because I at least realized there that the war is also not over when the troops are withdrawing from the territory, because rockets in Kharkiv are coming 40 kilometers away from Russia. And this is why, on the second track, next to the weapons delivery, we are trying to work so hard every day to convince other partners, to convince other P5 members of the Security Council that they have a responsibility to ensure the world peace. This is why you are sitting at the Security Council because you have the veto right, because you’re also responsible to ensure the world peace. And this is why we have to work so intensively together that this peace will come to Ukraine, but unfortunately we cannot say when it will be.
MODERATOR: Let me just follow this up with – you’ve talked about the P5, and obviously the P5’s been completely paralyzed in this case, but China has a very important role to play. Have you had recent conversations, maybe even today or yesterday afternoon, with your Chinese counterpart – all three of you – about what – how China can help?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think it’s very clear that there are things that China cannot and should not do to hinder, and by that we mean providing Russia with military equipment that can further its aggression or engaging in the systematic evasion of sanctions that are designed to put pressure on Russia to end its aggression. And that’s something that President Biden made very clear to President Xi Jinping from almost day one. They had a conversation by video maybe two or three weeks into the aggression. And we’ve made clear to our Chinese counterparts ever since that we would view any provision of military assistance or evading sanctions as a very serious problem for us and for many other countries around the world.
So it’s something we watch very carefully. Of course, China continues to spread Russia’s narrative in the UN and in other places. It advances the propaganda. To date, as best we can tell, it has not engaged in the systematic supply of military equipment or sanctions evasion, but it’s something that we watch very, very carefully.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: Yes, we had a meeting. This is a good thing. This is a transparence conference here. Here’s where you —
MODERATOR: Yeah, but we want – we also want to know whether Secretary Blinken had a meeting?
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: Well, I – we had a meeting as well —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We did.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: — a couple of meetings.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’ve had lots of meetings.
FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK: Well, I think why we are also all arguing so much what peace means is because of the role of China. Because obviously we are going next week not only to the General Assembly – we are also going to the Security Council. We have heard – I have heard at also in the meeting, but you can read it also in media – that China said they will present a paper for peace, which is good because we need everybody in the world to be ready to stand up for peace. But the question will be: What kind of peace will this be? And this is why I think all the three of us try to underline that there is a difference if you call on everybody to stop delivering weapons – and we call also on China or everybody in the world to not deliver weapons to Russia.
But if there’s a request of saying, “So we should stop supporting Ukraine,” than there’s a huge difference, which Tony Blinken made in September in the Security Council, when he was saying – and if I may, I quote you again: If Russia stops fighting – and we hope this is the plea also from China next week when they propose their peace program – call on Russia to stop fighting, because then this war is over. But if Ukraine stops defending itself – and this could be another plea –then Ukraine is over, and we cannot accept this because then also the (inaudible) of United Nations is over.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: And I think to —
To Annalena’s point – and it’s understandable to people around the world who may not follow this day-in, day-out, who are living with their own challenges – in fact, many challenges that have been exacerbated by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine – things like a ceasefire sound very attractive. Who doesn’t want guns to stop firing? Except we have to be incredibly wary of the kind of traps that can be set. It may come to be that Putin decides, because things are going badly for him, that his best bet is to call for an immediate ceasefire but in effect a frozen conflict that will freeze the existing lines in place. He will never negotiate the territory that he seized. And meanwhile, he’ll use the time to rest, to refit, to rearm, and to reattack. So we need to be very wary of allowing any kind of situation to develop.
One last thing. One of the very powerful things that Annalena has done over the last year is to constantly remind us that what is happening in Ukraine is about real lives. It’s not an abstraction. And hearing from the parliamentarian is another reminder of that. And one of the things none of us can allow is we cannot allow this to be normalized. We cannot be anesthetized to what’s going on, and that’s easy to happen. We – it’s relentless on our TVs, and then it becomes background noise for too many people. But the kind of conduct that Russian forces are engaged in in Ukraine, we can never allow that to be normalized. And when we have children who are being taken from their families and sent to Russia, and then adopted by Russians in a program that is deliberately designed to do that and in its own way try to erase Ukraine’s future, that can’t be normalized. So one plea for all of us is to make sure that we don’t allow that to happen either.
MODERATOR: I’m going to give the last – we have run out of time. I’m just going to give the last 20 seconds to Minister Kuleba to tell us what he wants to see in this Chinese peace plan.
FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA: I don’t think it makes sense to speak about Chinese peace plan before seeing it. I mean, we’ll understand what – where it stands. But whatever happens, whatever kind of plans will appear from different quarters of the world, I think we should all be focused on one thing: Even if we are deadly tired, we cannot allow ourselves to get tired of fighting for freedom.
And then you have one plan or another or the third one – it’s all secondary, because you know what you are fighting for. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you to the panelists and also to the audience, and I’m terribly sorry that I couldn’t get to all your questions. Let’s give the panel a round of applause.
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