SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good evening, everyone.
Two weeks after my last trip here with President Biden, we’re back in Brussels as part of this administration’s ongoing and urgent efforts with allies and partners to counter the Russian Government’s war of aggression in Ukraine and to stand up for the principles necessary to maintaining international peace and security.
Together, we are sustaining and building on our support for Ukraine – security, humanitarian, economic. Together, we’re sustaining and building on pressure on the Kremlin and its enablers, including with unprecedented sanctions. Together, we’re bolstering the defense of NATO itself, including by hardening our eastern flank.
Just over the past 48 hours, I’ve had an opportunity to meet with my NATO counterparts. For the first time ever, foreign ministers from the United States Indo-Pacific allies – Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea – participated as a group in a NATO ministerial. Ministers from Georgia, from Finland, from Sweden, and Ukraine also took part, as did the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.
In addition, I met with my counterparts from the G7, the world’s leading democratic economies.
The participation of all of these allies and partners highlights the remarkably broad coalition of countries from around the world that are united in standing with Ukraine and against the Russian Government’s aggression – countries that recognize Moscow isn’t just attacking one country, but the entire international rules-based order.
The sickening images and accounts coming out of Bucha and other parts of Ukraine have only strengthened our collective resolve and unity. In Bucha, a woman described how Russian soldiers forced her and around 40 other people to gather in a small square. The soldiers brought five young men there and ordered them to kneel. Then, a Russian soldier shot one of them in the back of the head. He turned to the people gathered and said of the victim – and I quote – “This is dirt. We’re here to cleanse you from the dirt.”
That’s just one person Russian soldiers killed in Bucha. According to Ukraine’s prosecutor general, they’ve already found 410 bodies of dead civilians in that one town alone. And it’s not just Bucha.
In Motyzhyn, the body of the 50-year-old mayor, Olga Sukhenko, was found in a shallow grave, along with her hands bound, alongside the bodies of her husband and son. They were last seen alive being taken away by Russian soldiers.
In Kharkiv, a woman who was sheltering at a school with her five-year-old daughter and neighbors when a Russian soldier picked her out and forced her to accompany him to an empty classroom. He cut her face and knife with a neck – neck with a knife, excuse me – threatened to kill her, and raped her repeatedly at gunpoint.
With each day, more and more credible points of rape, killings, torture are emerging. And for every Bucha, there are many more towns Russia has occupied and more towns it is still occupying, places where we must assume Russian soldiers are committing more atrocities right now.
Here’s what we’re doing together with our allies and partners to stop this aggression, to stand with Ukraine, and hold accountable those who are responsible.
First, we continue to work in close coordination with allies and partners to raise the costs on the Russian Government for its aggression. Yesterday, we announced new sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution and one of its largest private banks, on 21 members of Russia’s national security council, on the adult children of President Putin. President Biden also signed an executive order prohibiting new investment in Russia by any person in the United States.
The European Union is also actively considering robust new measures, including bans on Russian coal, on Russian vessels accessing EU ports, on transactions with four key financial institutions.
Second, the United States continues to work at an unprecedented pace to help Ukraine defend itself. Last Friday, the Department of Defense announced $300 million in new security assistance. On Tuesday, I authorized an additional 100 million to meet Ukraine’s urgent needs for more Javelin anti-armor systems. This will bring total U.S. security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February to over $1.7 billion and over $2.4 billion since January of last year.
More than 30 countries have joined us in delivering security assistance to Ukraine, aid that our Ukrainian partners are putting to very effective use, as we see in the Kremlin’s retreat from Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities and towns. Today, I met again with my colleague and friend, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, to discuss how we can continue to provide Ukraine’s courageous defenders with what they need to keep pushing Russia back.
Third, we continue to provide significant aid to address the acute humanitarian crisis caused by the Kremlin’s war. More than a quarter of Ukraine’s population – over 11 million people – have been displaced. That’s roughly equal to displacing the entire population of Belgium, the country we’re in now, in the space of six weeks. President Biden announced that the U.S. Government is prepared to provide more than $1 billion in new humanitarian assistance to those affected by Russia’s war of aggression. That comes on top of $293 million we’ve provided in 2022 alone to vulnerable communities in the region, including to neighboring countries that have opened their arms and opened their homes to four million Ukrainian refugees.
The global harm caused by the Kremlin’s aggression is growing, including the disruption it’s caused to the production and distribution of wheat in Ukraine on which so many countries rely, something that I heard about and saw firsthand just a week ago when we were in, among other places, Morocco and Algeria. In Africa, where a quarter of the population is now facing a food security crisis, Russia’s war of choice has raised the costs of basic staples, worsening the hardship that people were already feeling. So at the G7, we discussed in some detail ways that we can mitigate the war’s impact on the most vulnerable people around the world.
Fourth, the United State continues to work methodically to collect, to preserve, to analyze evidence of atrocities and to make this information available to the appropriate bodies. We’re supporting a multinational team of experts that’s assisting a war crimes unit set up by Ukraine’s prosecutor general, with a view toward eventually pursuing criminal accountability. These efforts will also ensure that Russia cannot escape the verdict of history.
Just moments ago, as I was coming into this room, I learned that UN member states had come together once again to condemn Russia’s aggression and suspend it from the Human Rights Council. A country that’s perpetrating gross and systematic violations of human rights should not sit on a body whose job it is to protect those rights. Today a wrong was righted.
Fifth, we discussed ways we can shore up the collective security of our NATO Allies. As the President has said, we will defend every inch of NATO territory. We now have 100,000 U.S. troops in Europe. NATO’s established four new multinational battle groups in Romania, in Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, in addition to those already in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, to reinforce our eastern flank.
Sixth, we discussed the additional support that NATO Allies can provide to partners like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia, who are most vulnerable to Russian aggression and threats, from cyber security to combating disinformation.
Finally, we discussed at length a new NATO Strategic Concept. This is the public blueprint for how the Alliance will continue to safeguard transatlantic security in what is a rapidly changing landscape. We’ll release that document at the NATO summit in Madrid in June. President Putin thought, among other things, that he would weaken and divide NATO. This Strategic Concept will make clear that NATO is in fact stronger, it’s more united, it’s more capable of addressing 21st century threats.
And I can say unequivocally from my discussions with many colleagues here in recent days, colleagues from around the globe, the revulsion at what the Russian Government is doing is palpable. There’s a greater determination than ever to stand with Ukraine, to shore up and revitalize the international order that Moscow is trying to upend, to bring to bear even greater costs on the Russian Government, to ensure that people are held accountable for their crimes.
MR PRICE: We’ll now turn to questions. We will start with Vivian Salama from The Wall Street Journal.
QUESTION: Thanks, Ned. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Two questions, if you’ll indulge me. UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss said today that allies have agreed to help Ukrainian forces move from their Soviet-era equipment to NATO standard equipment on a bilateral basis. She used very specific language there. And so is the U.S. going to match that pledge, and if so, can you tell me a little bit about the timeline or when you plan on doing that?
Second question is Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Kuleba said today that as long as the West continues buying Russian gas or oil, it is supporting the Russian war machine. That’s a direct quote. Are you pressing Europeans to commit to a timeline – a more aggressive timeline for banning Russian oil and gas? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Great, thanks. So on the first question, first, as you know and as I said, we have been individually as the United States and collectively as partners – more than 30 countries – providing to Ukraine the weapons and systems that we believe it can use most effectively and that it needs to push back against Russian aggression. And we’re not going to let anything stand in the way of getting Ukrainians what they need and what we believe can be effective. So we’re looking across the board right now not only at what we’ve provided and continue to provide but whether there are additional systems that would make a difference and that we could provide them. And we’re doing that in close consultation with the Ukrainians as well as with allies and partners.
On the energy situation, so we’ve seen over many years a dependence buildup in Europe on Russian gas especially as well as on Russian oil. And I think what I’m hearing very clearly is a commitment to end that dependence. We’ve seen again and again Russia use energy as a weapon, as political leverage, and of course, the proceeds that it gets from the sale of its energy is now – yes – helping to fuel its aggression against Ukraine. And my strong sense is that Europeans are very much committed, as I said, to ending that dependence. But it’s also not like flipping a light switch. You have to do it methodically. You have to put in place the necessary alternatives. The United States is doing a great deal to help in that regard. As you know, for this winter alone we’ve worked to make sure that there were sufficient supplies, for example, of LNG to compensate for any losses from decreased sales of Russian energy or a cutoff in Russian energy.
Going forward – you heard President Biden talk about this a couple weeks ago when he was here – we’re committed to increasing the supply of LNG. Other countries are taking steps to increase supplies of different kinds of energy. And as I said, Europeans seem committed to moving forward on this.
I think it also tells us how imperative it is that we accelerate the transition to renewables. And we can, I think – and Europe can make a virtue out of necessity not only by moving away from Russian energy, from Russian gas and oil, but moving toward sustainable energy and toward renewables. But it’s a process. It takes time. But my strong sense is that Europe is committed to doing that. Thanks.
MR PRICE: Missy Ryan, The Washington Post.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I have two questions for you. Foreign Minister Kuleba also today said that as Russia prepares for its concentrated offensive in eastern Ukraine that Kyiv needs new kinds of weapons and more weapons in days, not weeks, or else more people will die. Has the United States committed or will the United States commit to providing new kinds of weaponry to Ukraine within that timeframe?
And then the second question for you: Do you believe that the apparent Russian atrocities revealed in Bucha and in other parts of Ukraine make it harder to attain a negotiated settlement to the war? Thanks.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So Missy, again, on the weapons, we’ve been doing this all along. And by the way, the provision of weapons to Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression, President Biden moved out on that aggressively many, many months before the aggression took place because of our concern that Russia was planning and preparing for it. We did an initial drawdown the President instructed back at the end of last summer, another one in December, and then, of course, many since the aggression. So one of the reasons that Ukrainians have been able to be so effective in pushing back this Russian aggression, of course, it starts with their extraordinary courage, but it’s also because they already had in hand the weapons necessary to do that. And then since the aggression, we have repeatedly and continuously, along with many allies and partners, supplied them with the most effective systems that we believe they need to deal with the armored vehicles, to deal with the tanks, to deal with the planes, to deal with the helicopters.
But as I just said, we are looking at day in day out what we believe they most need, to include new systems that have not heretofore been provided. We’re listening to them in terms of their assessment of what they need. We’re putting that all together and we’re proceeding, and we have a strong sense of urgency. That was something that I think was felt among all allies and partners here, here today.
When it comes to Bucha, the atrocities, the war crimes, accountability in and of itself is absolutely necessary. And this is – we’ve seen this in past conflicts where atrocities have been committed, where war crimes have been committed, and where we have determined to get the evidence, get the facts, build the case, we’ve been able to do that. And sometimes it’s taken a long time. The conflicts have come to an end, often through diplomacy. Accountability has continued. Sometimes it’s actually not come to a conclusion until many years after the conflict’s ended, but it has. And one day, one way, there will be accountability.
QUESTION: Does Bucha make it harder to reach – negotiate a settlement?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: The Russians will have to decide if they want to meaningfully engage in diplomacy and in negotiations. The Ukrainians have made clear that – repeatedly – that they’re prepared to do that, but we have heard – they have heard nothing from the Russians suggesting that they’re serious about it. I don’t think in a sense Bucha has anything to do with that – it has everything to do with what President Putin’s calculus is, what he decides.
What we can do about it and what we are doing about it is making sure that the Ukrainians have everything that they need to defend themselves and also strengthen their hand at – in any negotiation; that we make sure that we’re keeping the pressure on Russia and indeed increasing that pressure through unprecedented sanctions; and as well, that we shore up NATO’s defenses to take away any notion in Russia’s mind of extending the aggression being committed against Ukraine to a NATO country.
MR PRICE: Nick Schifrin, PBS.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you. Der Spiegel and others are reporting that German intelligence picked up over open lines Russian soldiers specifically talking about indiscriminately killing civilians. Can you confirm that West – the West has recordings of Russian soldiers talking about that? But the larger question is: What does it say that Russian soldiers were apparently discussing this over open communications?
And one on diplomacy: In the lead-up to the war, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov either lied to you or didn’t know what he was talking about. Can you deal with him in the future? And the connected question: Today, as European capitals are evicting Russian officials, will the U.S. follow? Thanks.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, Nick. I can’t comment on the specific report that you’re referring to, but what I can say is this – because we’ve said it before: We said before Russia committed this aggression that if it did, part of its campaign plan was to inflict atrocities, was to target individuals, was to commit the kinds of crimes that we’re now seeing, to terrorize civilian populations. And so this, as we saw it, was part of the game plan all along. Now, horrifically, the world is seeing it as we see what happens in Bucha.
And I’ve described it as it’s – there’s a strange thing going on in the sense that, look, our TV screens have been filled for the last 42, 43 days with images coming out of Ukraine thanks to incredibly courageous Ukrainians who are filming things on their smartphones and incredibly courageous reporters who stayed in Ukraine and are trying to bring this to the world. And yet, sometimes this constant flow of images almost normalizes and trivializes things to the point that people kind of see it as something that’s in the background and don’t respond to it. But then, something so stark, so outrageous emerges like Bucha that it hits people. And again, to me, it’s like we’ve seen – as Ukrainians have pushed back this Russian tide, we see with the tide receding what’s left behind, and that is horrific death and destruction.
With regard to diplomacy, look, there are diplomats from various countries that one deals with in the course of doing your job who occasionally have or more than occasionally have an adversarial relationship with the truth. That’s part of the job.
QUESTION: And the Russian officials? Will the U.S. follow European —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We are always looking at this and we’ll continue to do so.
MR PRICE: We’ll take a final question from Teri Schultz.
QUESTION: I’m up here. Sorry. Okay.
Hi. Thanks, Mr. Secretary. Sorry, just to follow up on Missy’s question, you yourself called what happened in Bucha outrageous. Everyone knows the secretary general says that we are preparing for more such atrocities in Mariupol – in Donbas as a major offensive is coming. How do you sit across the table from Dmytro Kuleba and said, well, we’re looking at what else we think you might need, when he surely comes with a list? He tells us he came with a list; he gives us his list. So – and he says he doesn’t have the days that you are taking to look at this. How do you explain that to him?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I talk to Foreign Minister Kuleba multiple times a week, and we’re constantly going over what it is Ukraine needs, what it is we’re providing, what it is we’re helping other allies and partners provide. And again, you’ll have to ask him, but I think we were just together maybe an hour ago, and I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think he said very clearly the appreciation that he has and that Ukraine has for the support that we have been consistently providing.
So as we’re speaking, we continue to provide what Ukraine needs. But it’s also a constantly evolving picture. They are coming – they’re coming forward with new systems that they think that would be helpful and effective. We put our own expertise to bear, especially the Pentagon, to help determine what indeed we think could be effective, what Ukrainians would be ready to use as soon as they get it, and what we actually have access to and get to them in real time.
So it is an ongoing process. And again, the fact that the Russians have been pushed out of Kyiv, that they’ve been pushed back to eastern Ukraine, is the product of two things: first, as I said, the extraordinary courage of Ukrainians; but second, the fact that they’ve had in hand, including from before the aggression started, the tools necessary to help achieve that.
MR PRICE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks.