Home World Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at a Joint Press Availability

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at a Joint Press Availability

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at a Joint Press Availability

FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA:  (Via interpreter) (In progress) All of the matters that – all the issues that matter, but first of all I would like to thank Tony for standing with Ukraine, for having stood with Ukraine since the very beginning of the all-out war.  We met at the Ukrainian-Polish border, at the border crossing point, and since then, the State Secretary has provided every possible support to Ukraine. 

Of course, today that – we’ve discussed almost all of the issues on our agenda.  We focused on Kharkiv and Donetsk oblasts, the most challenging and taxing areas of our frontline.  And Tony’s visit today is a signal of support to our defenders.  The USA is standing by, assistance is coming, and it will make our resilience and our standing up to the enemy more effective and stronger.  This terror can be stopped only with force, with determination, and agility of the entire collection of our partners – chaired, of course, by the United States of America. 

And today you can message the key issue that we’ve discussed together concerned not only the scope of the military assistance, including equipment and ammunition to be delivered to Ukraine, but also about the speed of this delivery.  Speed now is a key factor.  The armaments, the equipment, and the munitions should be coming as swiftly as possible to prevent aggressive plans of Ukraine – against Ukraine, against the rest of Europe, and Euro-Atlantic community.  I’m extremely thankful to the State Secretary for his untiring efforts to speed up the delivery of the military assistance to Ukraine.

A separate topic of our discussion was the development of the military industrial base of Ukraine, and we also focused on investment in the industrial – military industrial base that will make Ukraine stronger and more independent when it comes to defense.  I would also like to thank the USA for allocating additional funding for the congressional decision for adopting this package of assistance, and another topic that also takes a lot of our attention and time is the delivery to Ukraine of additional Patriot systems. 

We looked at the entire inventory that can be accessible, that can be brought to Ukraine, and the State Secretary is working with each of the respective countries – again, putting in a lot of effort – and we appreciate that.  He will remember that we urgently need seven batteries, of which two batteries are necessary and they were necessary yesterday, so that we could protect the City of Kharkiv and the entire region of Kharkiv.  This is the focus of our attention and efforts.  We have to make life of Kharkiv citizens safe, and we have to protect our positions against this offensive by the Russian troops.  And we understand that there are available systems, and we are working together to make their delivery the speediest possible and the most effective.  I am glad that we are approaching to the achievement of this goal, but we should speed up this effort.  

We also discussed sanctions against the Russian Federation and the topic of the practical use of frozen Russian assets.  And we here see eye-to-eye on the fact that the recovery of Ukraine should be funded by the aggressor.  Russia should pay for the destruction and ruination that it has caused.  And the U.S. is also taking a lead in the G7, and I asked the State Secretary to continue pushing so that other members of G7 could go as far as the U.S. in what concerns the confiscation, the seizing of the Russian frozen assets. 

There can be no meeting between the foreign ministers of the USA and Ukraine that would not focus on Ukraine’s potential membership of NATO.  Two very intense, very busy days.  I appreciate that.  Thank you very much, Tony, for them.  This is a very powerful message to both our friends and our enemies. 

Thank you.  Over to you. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, Dmytro, thank you very much, and I remember very well standing with you just inside Ukraine next to the Polish border, and I think back to that.  I think about the road that’s been traveled since then.  If you count that, I’ve been here five times since the Russian re-invasion, four times to Kyiv.

Yesterday I had a chance to speak about the work that we’re doing, the steps the United States is taking to help ensure Ukraine’s strategic success.  We’re working to ensure that Ukraine can deliver on the battlefield today as it continues to protect the country from Russian aggression, but also put itself in a position where it can deter and defend against future attacks and fundamentally secure for the Ukrainian people the right to decide their own future.

We have, of course, the supplemental, and the assistance from the supplemental is on its way.  In fact, some of it’s already been delivered.  But today I want to add to that by announcing that we will provide an additional $2 billion in Foreign Military Financing for Ukraine, and we put this together in a first-of-its-kind defense enterprise fund, and it has three components.  One is to provide weapons today, so this will assist Ukraine in acquiring those weapons.  Two is to focus as well on something that Dmytro just talked about: investing in Ukraine’s defense industrial base, helping to strengthen even more its capacity to produce what it needs for itself but also to produce for others.  And finally, using this fund to help Ukraine purchase military equipment from other countries, not just the United States, for Ukraine’s use.

All of this, and particularly as we’re thinking about the defense industrial base, builds on an incredible spirit of innovation, of ingenuity, of entrepreneurship that we here see – we see here in Ukraine and that I again had a chance to witness for myself.  I saw it at the BRAVE1 Facility, which is doing extraordinary work, innovative work with entrepreneurial vision.  I saw it in the extraordinary work as well at the company producing world-leading prosthetics, and we saw it in the way that Ukraine has adapted to deal with the Russian onslaught against its agricultural enterprise, but the work that it’s done to find ways around that and to continue to be a leading exporter of food and a breadbasket for the world.

Of course, everyone’s eyes are focused on the situation in the east and the northeast, in Kharkiv in particular.  And so the newest support that I just announced, but particularly the $60 billion supplemental, we know is coming at a critical time.  Ukraine is facing this renewed brutal Russian onslaught, and we see again senseless strikes at civilians, residential buildings.  I emphasized to the president and my conversations with the foreign minister the substance of the work that we’re doing to get the aid to Ukraine.  We’re rushing ammunition, armored vehicles, missiles, air defenses – rushing them to get to the front lines to protect soldiers, to protect civilians.

And on air defenses, as Dmytro said, this is of course a top priority, and we focused in our own conversations in detail on the work that we’re doing to find more air defenses and to get them to Ukraine.  And I can tell you that that for us is a matter both of urgency and priority.

Another major issue that we talked about is the bilateral security agreement between Ukraine and the United States.  And as you know, there are now 32 countries that have negotiated or will soon complete negotiations on these bilateral security agreements, agreements that will sustain assistance to Ukraine for the next decade and enable it to build this future force that can deter aggression and defend against it.  We’ve done very good, productive work between our teams on this.  We’re going to finalize the text I think very, very shortly, but the heavy lifting has been done and we’re there, and I imagine we’ll be able to sign that agreement in a matter of weeks. 

And as I said, many other countries are doing the same thing.  I think this demonstrates to Ukraine but also to Putin that many countries will be supporting Ukraine for a long time to make sure that, again, it can deter aggression and as necessary defend against it.

As important as well is the economic progress that Ukraine is making.  As I said, I saw firsthand some of the initiatives that have enabled it to continue to succeed economically even under the most incredibly difficult circumstances.  The fact that as a result of the Black Sea and as a result of pushing the Russian navy out of the way, exports through the Black Sea are pretty much equal to what they were before the Russian re-aggression – that speaks volumes.  The fact that Ukraine has found ways with help from many of us to find other export routes, whether it’s the Danube, whether it’s across land – all of these things are helping Ukraine to maximize its exports.  And I mentioned the extraordinary innovation we’ve seen in so many of its other enterprises.

Finally, let me say that maybe the best word to describe Ukraine – the Ukrainians in this moment is resilience.  It’s been truly extraordinary.  The constant examples of bravery, determination, courage, resilience are here in every corner of society.  And it’s also a commitment on the part of Ukrainians, as I said, to write their own future, even as they’re dealing with a very difficult present.  And we see that of course from the soldiers, we see that from so many citizens, we see it from a dynamic civil society, which is one of the things that’s at the heart of Ukrainian democracy.  And here, pushing for the reforms necessary for Ukraine’s eventual entry into the European Union, to NATO, that remains critical.

Bottom line is this:  For anyone who’s tempted to bet against Ukraine, don’t.  It would be a big mistake.  We’ve heard the same thing sometimes about the United States.  Never a good bet to bet against us; never a good bet to bet against Ukraine.  We’ve been through challenging times together.  I have every confidence that together we will get through these difficult moments and together help build a country that is free, that’s prosperous, that’s secure, that writes its own future.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Excellency.  We have a short time for a few brief questions.  Let’s start with Washington Post, Michael. 

QUESTION:  Thanks very much to both of you.  Secretary Blinken, the Biden administration has made clear it doesn’t want Ukraine using U.S. equipment to strike onto Russian territory.  The situation in Kharkiv right on the border is pretty dramatic right now, and it seems like your restrictions are making it very hard for Ukraine to respond to the Russian attacks, since a lot of them are coming from Russian territory.  Does that ban make sense right now and are you considering relaxing it?  And President Zelenskyy asked you yesterday for two Patriot batteries for Kharkiv.  What do you say to that?  What are your plans?  Last, is there a chance of Ukraine negotiating an end to this war before the end of this year, and do you think that’s something that would be desirable? 

And Minister Kuleba, how much of what you’re seeing now in the front lines, the situation there, is caused by the delay in U.S. aid to Ukraine?  And Secretary Blinken, yesterday and perhaps today, spent a lot of time talking about corruption in Ukraine and pushing you to do more about it.  Do you agree with him that corruption remains a major problem in this country?  And how much should Americans be worried about corruption when they are sending Ukraine aid? 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Great.  Thank you.  So first let me be very clear about one thing, which actually shouldn’t require clarity, which is that the United States is committed to helping ensure Ukraine winning this war.  And I think we’ve shown that through the extraordinary support that we’ve provided and that we continue to provide.  We have not encouraged or enabled strikes outside of Ukraine, but ultimately Ukraine has to make decisions for itself about how it’s going to conduct this war, a war it’s conducting in defense of its freedom, of its sovereignty, of its territorial integrity.  And we will continue to back Ukraine with the equipment that it needs to succeed, that it needs to win. 

On the Patriot batteries, as I mentioned, we are intensely focused on Patriots and other forms of air defense and making sure that we can find them, bring them to Ukraine.  Kharkiv, of course, is one urgent priority.  There are others.  All I can tell you is this is something we discussed in detail and that we’re actively and urgently working on. 

Finally, in terms of negotiations, these, again, are decisions for Ukraine to make, not the United States or not any other country.  So if – I imagine that if Putin showed any interest in seriously engaging in negotiations, I’m sure Ukrainians would respond to that.  But what Putin is demonstrating every single day is exactly the opposite.  But fundamentally, these are questions for Ukraine to answer.  We’ve been very clear:  We support Ukraine, we support Ukraine in its decisions, and there will not be, never will be anything about Ukraine without Ukraine. 

FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA:  Every delay of supply results in setbacks on the front line.  This is the general rule.  So the answer to your question is yes.  We appreciate the sincere commitment of the United States to compensate deliveries – delays in deliveries with new announcements and new deliveries.  And this is why I so much emphasized the issue of timing in both our talks and in my opening remarks.  But it doesn’t apply only to the United States.  I mean, every country – we encourage every country to make new announcements and to deliver on them.  Because in the end, we have seen it hundreds of times:  When a Ukrainian infantryman or artilleryman has everything that he or she needs, we are winning.  Every time there are delays in supplies and insufficient supplies, we are not winning.  The law of the war is cruel but very clear.  It allows us to know what and how needs to be done. 

On your second question, there is a perception of the level of corruption and there are facts about the level of corruption.  And when I read reports and assessments produced by the most prudent watchdogs on corruptions – on corruption like the European Union or the International Monetary Fund, we see that they commend Ukraine for taking anti-corruption measures, for introducing anti-corruption reforms.  And there is always a very simple criteria:  If we were as corrupt as the perception says, they simply wouldn’t be giving us any money; they wouldn’t be opening accession talks with Ukraine to accede the European Union, and the United States wouldn’t have trust in Ukraine. 

So there are issues which we are addressing together, but I think it will be true to say that since his first day in office, President Zelenskyy – and since the first sessions of the Ukrainian Government and parliament, we’ve been consistently tackling issues of corruption and achieved serious results on this track.

MODERATOR:  (In Ukrainian.)

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) I’ve got question to the State Secretary, if I may.  You said that the USA would not either ban or encourage the use of American armaments for hitting the Russian territory.  Recently David Cameron said that the UK would not object to using the UK armament to hit the territory of the Russian Federation.  When will you be ready to follow suit?  Thank you. 

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Again, we are determined that Ukraine win this war and succeed for its people and for its future.  We’ve been clear about our own policy, but again, these are decisions that Ukraine has to make, Ukraine will make for itself.  And we’re committed to making sure that Ukraine has the equipment it needs to succeed on the battlefield.

MODERATOR:  Next one goes to BBC. 

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  Tom Bateman from the BBC.  Mr. Secretary, President Putin has announced he’s going to visit China this week.  We were with you three weeks ago in Beijing, where you warned of consequences if China didn’t stop its exports to Russia of tools and parts that make weapons used here in Ukraine.  Have you been able to tell your Ukrainian counterpart that you are now imposing those consequences, or have the Chinese listened to your warning? 

And if I could ask you about Gaza, Israel has taken control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing in the last week.  That means that the last territorial connection to the outside word –world for ordinary Palestinians in Gaza is now occupied by Israeli forces, which has the potential to create a very serious crisis with Egypt.  And there have been quite a few warnings about this.  How long can Israel stay in control of that crossing, and where is the line in where a limited operation in Rafah turns into something that you’ve said you oppose?  And we see nearly half a million people now displaced from Rafah over the last week or so.

And Mr. Foreign Minister, if I may, we heard from the Secretary of State yesterday the U.S. is with you for the long term on this.  But I just want to ask the question that there is a U.S. presidential election later this year – it may be a promise for the Secretary of State to make but not necessarily one for him to keep.  And are you concerned about what that may mean for the long-term support for Ukraine?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Tom, thank you.  First, with regard to China – and you’ve heard – you heard me talk about this at some length when I was in Beijing and since then, as well as other colleagues in the government – the concern that we have is this.  It’s not about China providing weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine.  North Korea is doing that; Iran’s doing that; others may be.  China’s held back from that.  But what we are deeply concerned about is the support that China’s providing to Russia to rebuild its defense industrial base in ways that are materially contributing to and making a difference in its aggression against Ukraine. 

As I said when we were in Beijing, we see that the overwhelming majority of machine tools that Russia is getting from abroad are coming from China.  The overwhelming majority of microelectronics that Russia is getting from abroad are coming from China.  And these are going directly to strengthening that defense industrial base that, over the last year, has been able as a result to churn out more tanks, more armored vehicles, more missiles – all used in the aggression against Ukraine. 

So what I shared with Chinese counterparts and I’ve said here as well is that not only are we looking and watching this very carefully, but as necessary, we have and we will continue to take action, including sanctioning entities involved, companies involved.  We’ve already levied something like more than 100 sanctions against enterprises that are involved in this kind of support.  And as necessary, we’re going to continue to do that. 

Now, the other thing that’s important about this, as I said then – and I think you’re seeing this play out, too – is that to the extent China is looking to have stronger relations with countries in Europe, it can’t on the one hand seek to do that while on the other hand remain responsible for fueling the biggest threat to Europe’s security since the end of the Cold War.  Because the threat posed by Russia is both the immediate threat here in Ukraine as a result of the aggression, but also as it works to try to get around sanctions, export controls, et cetera in rebuilding its defense industrial base, an ongoing and potentially growing threat to many other countries in Europe.  So this is of acute importance to many Europeans that I’ve talked to, and I imagine that they’re making that known to Beijing as well.

With regard to Gaza, one of the deep concerns that we have is the impact of this limited operation that we’ve seen to date in Rafah on the ability to provide humanitarian assistance.  Because the two main points of access in the south – Rafah itself, and Kerem Shalom – have been affected by the resulting conflict in the south.  And we’ve seen – at the very time when Israel was taking important and much-needed steps to improve the provision of humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza – we’ve seen a negative impact on the fact that we have this very active conflict in the Rafah area.  We also see Hamas firing at the crossings themselves, making it also more difficult.

So in and of itself we have this urgent problem of restoring the full operational capacity of Rafah and of Kerem Shalom to make sure that assistance gets in.  Now, we’re also seeing real progress in the north where more is coming through.  But what we don’t want to see is a situation where we’ve basically reversed what’s happened recent months – where assistance was working its way through in the south but very little was getting to the north – to have that reversed – and have improvements in the north that are much needed and need to continue but then to see steps backward in the south.

More broadly, we’ve been very clear that when it comes to the future of Gaza, we do not support and will not support an Israeli reoccupation.  We also, of course, do not support Hamas governance in Gaza.  We know and have seen where that’s led all too many times for the people of Gaza and for Israel.  And we also can’t have anarchy and a vacuum that’s likely to be filled by chaos.  That only underscores the imperative of having a clear, concrete plan for the day after the conflict in Gaza – in terms of governance, in terms of security, in terms of rebuilding Gaza for its people.  And here it would be important for Israel to focus on that as well.

We have been doing a lot of work on this, as I mentioned the other day, with partners in the Arab world and beyond over several months.  But it’s imperative that Israel also do this work and focus on what the future can and must be.  Because again, it cannot – and says it does not want responsibility for Gaza.  We cannot have Hamas controlling Gaza; we can’t have chaos and anarchy in Gaza.  So there needs to be a clear, concrete plan, and we look to Israel to come forward with its ideas.

FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA:  Well first, Secretary Blinken always keeps his word, and I know that if he cannot promise something, it doesn’t mean that he is not working on it.  He just gives his promises when he is confident that he can deliver, and I sincerely appreciate it.

The Secretary mentioned the security agreement that Ukraine and the United States, our two leaders – presidents – will sign.  And this is the document that will be signed not on behalf of the State Department or the Biden administration; this is the document that will be signed on behalf of the United States of America.  And it will cover a long range of – wide range of security cooperation issues, and the United States will undertake certain commitments under this document. 

And we all know there is a very fundamental rule in diplomacy.  It sounds in Latin: pacta servanda sunt – agreements must be implemented.  So this will be the promise that no future administration, irrespective of the outcome of this or any other – any future elections in the United States, will be able to ignore until this agreement will be in force.

MODERATOR:  (In Ukrainian.)

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Good afternoon, esteemed State Secretary – Minister, sir.  We know that in mid-June there will be the peace summit.  It will focus on Ukrainian peace formula.  Will we see a representative of the USA, and at what level?  And the minister has mentioned that the security agreement will be signed by the leaders of the countries.  Does it mean that very soon the two presidents are going to meet?  And are there any plans on President Biden’s part to visit Ukraine?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  With regard to the peace summit, we strongly support it, we want to make sure that it’s a success, and we will be robustly represented there.  I don’t have any announcements to make on that, except to say we’re working on it to make sure that we support this very important initiative and that it produces real results. 

And with regard to the two presidents meeting – and I fully anticipate that they’ll have the opportunity to do that in the weeks ahead, as Dmytro said.  Among other things, we want to sign the bilateral security agreement that we’re on the verge of concluding. 

FOREIGN MINISTER KULEBA:  (Via interpreter) For understandable reasons, we do not disclose information on the dates of visits or contacts, of comings to Ukraine or goings from Ukraine.  But Presidents Biden and Zelenskyy have got very trustful relations through dialogue, and I’m sure that they will be able to talk in detail about all of the things in the agreement.

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Excellencies.

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