Secretary Antony J. Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at a Joint Press Availability

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at a Joint Press Availability

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  Let me first say what an absolute pleasure it is to have my friend and colleague Annalena Baerbock here in Washington for what have proven to be, as always, very, very good consultations and conversations on an incredibly wide array of issues.  And I think that’s evidence of the fact that the United States and Germany are partners quite literally around the world on all the issues that matter to our people in this moment, at this time.  So I don’t think either of us can cover everything we talked about in the interest of time, in the interest of people getting lunch.  But let me just touch on a few things, and I’m sure the foreign minister will want to do the same.

Of course, we spent part of our conversation focused on Ukraine and Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine.  Both of us have recently returned from Ukraine, so we were able to compare notes on our visits but also make clear that we are both deeply committed to continuing the strong support that we and dozens of other countries around the world have been providing to Ukraine – military, economic, humanitarian.  And that support is being manifested in everything that we’re doing right now to help Ukraine as it prosecutes the counteroffensive to take back more of its territory.

But also as we think about the longer term and the importance of all of us being able to support Ukraine in all of these areas in a sustainable and effective way as it builds a military for the future, as it tries to develop a strong economy, and as it continues to deal with the humanitarian – the horrific humanitarian consequences of Russia’s aggression.

Ultimately, the objective, of course, is for Ukraine to succeed in its efforts to regain its sovereignty, its territorial integrity – but not only to survive the Russian aggression, which it has and will, but to thrive in the future and to be able to stand strongly on its own feet.  And we compared notes on the efforts that we’re undertaking with many other countries to enable Ukraine to do that.

I would just note as well, and as we discussed, that on the economic side, just yesterday we named a very highly respected senior official and colleague of many years, Penny Pritzker, our former secretary of Commerce, to take on the role of being our special representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery, to work closely with Germany, with the European Union, with G7 partners, and many others who are working on this.

And ultimately here, even as governments and international financial institutions support Ukraine – and that will continue – ultimately the most sustainable way for Ukraine to succeed economically is through private-sector investment.  And so we are focusing many efforts on these.  Penny Pritzker brings remarkable expertise, remarkable knowledge, remarkable networks of contacts around the world to help do this.

Of course, both of us continue to strongly urge a return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which, when it was in force, enabled Ukraine to export well over 30 million tons of grain, enough for 18 billion loaves of bread.  Of course, that agreement never should have been necessary in the first place.  It was only necessary because Russia blocked Ukraine from exporting its food to the world.  But when the agreement was in force, it at least enabled that food to get out.  Since Russia has torn it up, the food is not getting out.  The people who are suffering the most are in developing countries.

Greater food scarcity, rising prices for everyone, even those countries that were not directly getting the food from Ukraine – and we know, of course, that most of the grain getting out of Ukraine under the Black Sea Grain Initiative was going to developing countries.  So I think Russia has only reinforced the opprobrium that it’s getting from countries around the world by its actions on Black Sea grain.  Of course, we continue to work on alternate routes to get grain out of Ukraine.

We also discussed our common approaches to China, and we very much welcome Germany’s China strategy.  It is very coincident with our own.  I think it reflects something that we’ve seen around the world, both in Europe, in Asia, as well as in the United States, which is a growing convergence in our approaches to China.  Both of us, among other things, share the goal when it comes to our economic relationships of de-risking, not decoupling.  This was further articulated in, I think, the very strong speech that President von der Leyen gave in her State of the European Union remarks just the other day.  We’re also very much aligned in our support for peace and stability, and maintaining the status quo when it comes to Taiwan, as well as throughout the region.

Finally, I think it’s worth highlighting that we spoke about regional security in Europe, and particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina.  We very much appreciate Germany’s leadership when it comes to limiting some of the financial flows to the Republika Srpska’s President Dodik, to both rejoining and strengthening EUFOR’s ALTHEA program.  And we talked about how the European Union can maintain pressure on actors who are putting Bosnia and Herzegovina at great risk – notably, Mr. Dodik – using all necessary tools, and boosting the capabilities of the stability mission.

Finally, I would just note that Germany has been such a critical partner when it comes to NATO and our work for security and stability more broadly.  Its leadership in fulfilling the Vilnius commitments on NATO capabilities has been instrumental.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t note as well that when it comes to Ukraine, among individual nations, Germany is the second largest provider of support to Ukraine in the world after the United States.

That’s the kind of leadership we’ve seen from Germany.  That’s the kind of leadership that I’m so appreciative of coming from Foreign Minister Baerbock, who’s been among my closest colleagues throughout this past year and a half when it comes to dealing with Ukraine and so many other issues.

So Annalena, with that, let me turn it over to you.  I guess we’ll also have the pleasure of spending the week together in New York at the UN General Assembly.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  Well, thank you very much, and thank you very much for the warm welcome today and also yesterday evening.  I will speak in German also for the German media.

(Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, the German-American relations are a bit like it is with good friends.  It’s not only about picking up the phone.  It is important to feel a real connection, especially when you’re not – and also knowing when the other is not there but that he’s still there in the background and that you can rely on him.  And in these times, the Biden administration is making a huge contribution to that, and also the trust-based relationship between the chancellor and the U.S. president, and also the close exchange between the two of us.  And I would like to thank my colleague, Tony Blinken – Tony, thank you so much – for that.

One could also say you – the Atlantic has shrunk a bit thanks to you, and we’ve seen it over the last one and a half years again and again that we’re not divided by an ocean but that this ocean is linking us.  During my visit to Texas, I was able to see that it is worth every effort to invest in this friendship, in the diversity of the people who carry this friendship forward, because it is this diversity that is the strength of our democracies.

Investing in our friendship is something that we have done early on, a bit – and willingly, if I may say so, when we let one of our biggest or tallest export hits, Dirk Nowitzki, who went to Dallas to play in the NBA.  But as we can see, early investments are never harmful, and we can see this with the finals that have taken place last week, and the semi-finals.

But we are also linked even more by another thing:  We stand up for each other’s security in freedom.  We Europeans and especially we Germans have taken our own security too lightly for too long.  These times are over once and for all.  In Germany we have flipped the switch.  We are investing an additional 100 billion euros in our Bundeswehr.  Our allies can rely on us.  Two percent is the promise we all made within NATO.

And we’ve also made a promise to the people of Ukraine.  We will support Ukraine’s – we will support Ukrainians, the people there, as long as it takes.  For one and a half years, Putin has been going nowhere with his mindset that at some point Europe and the United States and the whole world will just get used to this war because there were other important things that matter.  But no one in our transatlantic alliance and basically no one in the world wants and will get used to this brutal war of aggression.  Every state in the world knows that this would be a risk for their own security.

And we also see that no one in the world will get used to the fact that immeasurable suffering is being inflicted upon people in Ukraine, not only in military trenches but in every village where Russian troops have been ravaging.  Children have been separated from their parents, which is not normal.  No one will get used to that.  Villagers have been locked up in cold basements.  It’s not normal, and no one in the world will get used to that.

And both of us have made clear again and again that a war is not only about abstract figures and sticking to territorial integrity and sovereignty, but that behind every figure there is a victim, a human being, a face.  Putin’s sledgehammer of fate will not bend the Ukrainian will to survive; it is strengthening their will to fight for their freedom.

And this brutality also strengthens the determination of the international community.  We in the world stand up for everyone in Ukraine being able to live in freedom in the future.  We’ve made it clear during our visits to Kyiv as well it’s not only about the delivery of arms.  It’s about humanitarian effort as well, the protection of infrastructure, bringing children back who have been deported.  And we spoke again today about how before the winter we can step up our support to Ukraine and dovetail it even more, because we see that interaction in military support, economic support, and also humanitarian aid is so important.

Even if Europe is literally an ocean away, during my talks at the U.S. Congress yesterday, I could sense so much goodwill for further support to Ukraine and also further support for peace in Europe, because many of the people I met there told me it is economically difficult but you can clearly see that Ukraine is defending our own values, the values we share.  And this is the message that we will take to New York – both of us.  The message is that the whole world is longing for freedom.  And with his peace plan, President Zelenskyy has opened the door in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  Countries from all over the world also have put one foot through that door to peace.  And in New York, we will both make the case in different formats for the peace plan of Ukraine becoming the peace plan of the world, being peace for the world.  And we will make clear that it is in the interest of all states.

We’ve asked many countries for support over the last one and a half years, and we need to be self-reflective here.  Many countries, especially in the beginning, asked us again and again why should we support you now that your peace in Europe is at stake when you’ve been so busy with yourselves when we needed you.  And this is also something that shows that these are different times than 30 or 40 years ago.  We work together in formats like the G7, NATO as well, but also many other international bodies.  We’ve made it clear, yes, some things we’ve done in the past were not the right thing to do, but we want to shape the future together.  We want to do better, not only for our own countries and our own regions but together with others.

And this is why our global outreach, as we call it in technical terms within the G7 and within NATO, within United Nations, is also a place where we dovetail our initiatives.  We want to work more closely together with countries whose partnership we might have taken for granted too often over the last years.  So we also talked about the fact that not only Germany has opened an embassy in Fiji, but I learned that there are four new embassies also on the American side in the region.  And daring more democracy, especially in times of this brutal war of aggression, is also something that unites us.

So as the federal government – and we talked about this today – we are pooling our effort in the Indo-Pacific region as well, which is an important region for you, where you play a special role also with regard to China.  And we are looking for how we can engage in a policy of de-risking with many other partners in the world too.

Secretary, Tony, on both sides of the Atlantic many people are – especially young people in both our countries, and that’s something we share as well – are concerned about divisions in our societies driving people apart in our own countries.  So it is so important that we stand up for peace and democracy in the world, and this – in that regard also important to strengthen or own democracies.  It makes us stronger when we as democracies also challenge ourselves and show that working together, democracies working together, will strengthen us mutually.

As friends and partners, partners in values, the U.S. and Germany have a solid foundation to build on in the future.  And we will especially focus on the younger generation for whom “transatlantic” is a bit of an abstract term.  We will get them onboard.  And this is also something that we cannot take for granted.  We cannot just repeat the recipes of the past.  We need to see how we can transform the transatlantic partnership and strengthen it for our young people.

In that sense, thank you very much for spending so much time together with us.  And in one and a half years of this brutal war of aggression, we’ve addressed many topics, also bilateral topics, that have been on the top of our agenda before.  I would like to thank you for your hospitality.  I am delighted that our new ambassador is here now, Andreas Michaelis.  You know him well, and we have a very popular face here with him.  And not only in terms of foreign policy but also on a bilateral level, we will be working closely together, and then we will enjoy the weekend before we meet again in New York.

MR MILLER:  Thank you.  The first question today goes to John Hudson with The Washington Post.

QUESTION:  Thank you, and thank you, Mr. Secretary.  The Biden administration is pushing hard for a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and a lot of average Americans have questioned why should the United States be giving something up so that these two countries can get along better.  Since Biden took office, Israel has rebuffed requests to open a consulate, it has rebuffed requests to stop the expansion of settlements, and it has rebuffed requests to rethink the reforms of the judiciary that threaten its democracy.  Saudi Arabia, by turn, has ignored several requests to not slash the production of oil.  And the leaders – Netanyahu and MBS – barely disguise the fact that they would prefer a Trump presidency over a Biden presidency.

So I wonder:  Does it make the United States and, by turn, the Biden administration look weak by so obsequiously catering to what these countries want who are not actually at war with each other right now?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  John, I love the formulation of the question, especially the obsequious part.

A few things.  First, normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, were it to be achieved, would, in my judgment, be a transformative event in the Middle East and well beyond – transformative because we’ve now had four decades-plus of turmoil in that region in one way or the other going back to 1979.  You can go back, of course, even further.  Moving from a region of turmoil to one of much greater stability and integration would have profound benefits for people in the region and, I believe, profound benefits for people around the world.

And of course, in one way or another, we’ve been drawn in time and again to that region when it was in turmoil, when it was in conflict.  Having a region defined by normalized relations between Israel, its neighbors, and countries beyond; defined by integration and people working together in common cause on common projects that will benefit and improve people’s lives, I think, would be a singularly positive event.

Having said that, first, as important as it would be, it could not be and would not be a substitute for Israel and the Palestinians also resolving their differences and indeed, in our judgment, continuing to move toward and ultimately achieving a two-state solution.  And it’s clear from my own conversations, for example, with Saudi leadership that any agreement that might be reached between Israel and Saudi Arabia when it comes to normalization would need to include a significant component for the Palestinians.

Second, even as we are working on this, it remains a difficult proposition.  The specifics of any agreement in terms of what the different parties are looking for are challenging, and so while I believe it is very much possible, it is not at all a certainty.  But we believe that the benefit that would accrue were we able to achieve it would certainly be worth the effort.

Third, who’s to say that in an arrangement that involves at least three countries, were we able to get there, there would not be concrete benefits for all three countries, to include the United States?  And we would expect progress on a number of issues in a number of areas that clearly are in our interests.  So while I believe that normalization in and of itself would be very much to the benefit of the United States and many other countries around the world, as well as the countries in question, it’s also very clear that there may well be specific things that will be important for us with regard both to Saudi Arabia and to Israel, as well as things they will need from each other, as well as things that other parties may well need.

So it’s a long way of saying that we’re not there.  There’s no guarantee we’ll get there.  We believe it’s profoundly important if we can achieve it, but I would wait to see, if something emerges, all of the details that come with it.

QUESTION:  And you would acknowledge that there’s no active hostilities between Saudi Arabia and Israel?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I would certainly acknowledge that there are no active hostilities, but I think we would all acknowledge what we’ve seen over the past decades, and I suspect we would all acknowledge the powerful, powerful impact normalization between the leading country in the Islamic world and Israel would have not just in terms of relations between them but well beyond the region.  The custodian of the holy sites, Mecca and Medina, normalizing relations with Israel I think would resonate very, very powerfully.

So look, I don’t think there can be doubt about the benefits of this, but the details of achieving it, again, remain challenging.  But we’re working on it, and we believe that working on it, if the result can be achieved, would be, as I said, quite literally transformative.

MR MILLER:  Next question goes to Stephanie Bolton with Welt.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Secretary Blinken, did you ask Minister Baerbock if the German Government was willing to exchange a Russian spy who killed an opposition politician in Berlin for the Wall Street Journal correspondent currently imprisoned in Russia?

And secondly, there are reports today that the U.S. Government believes that the Chinese defense minister has been placed under investigation.  Can you confirm this?  And what conclusions does your government draw from the apparent turmoil in Beijing?  Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  With regard to the first question about detainees in Russia, no, that’s not something that we discussed today.

With regard to the question of the Chinese defense minister, I don’t have anything to offer on that.  I don’t know about the status of the defense minister, and in any event, ultimately these are issues for the Chinese Government to decide.  We remain fully prepared, as we’ve been, to engage with the Chinese Government, whoever happens to be holding the positions of responsibility at any given time, just as I did when I went to Beijing earlier this summer, and we expect that to continue irrespective of who’s holding what portfolio.

MR MILLER:  Next question goes to Elizabeth Hagedorn with Al-Monitor.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  I’d like to ask you both about Iran.  Minister Baerbock, Iran has threatened to respond to the E3’s move yesterday on sanctions.  Have you coordinated with Washington on how to offset that response?

And also, after speaking with your Iranian counterpart on Wednesday, are you any closer to securing the release of U.S. resident and German national Jamshid Sharmahd?

And Secretary Blinken, what do you make of the recent growth in Iran’s stockpile of 60 percent enriched uranium but the apparent slowdown in the pace of enrichment?  Does this motivate the U.S. to pick up where the P5+1 left off a year ago, or instead work with third countries to cap the program in some sort of lesser deal?

And also, as Iranians mark the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death, there are those on the ground who say they don’t want to see the U.S. negotiating with – any deal that could see the freeing up of funds that could be used nefariously by the Iranian leaders who oppress them.  What’s your response to that?


FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  I will speak in German again.

(Via interpreter) We have not only exchanged today but over the last months and actually since I took office, and we’ve often talked about the Iran dossier, especially with regard to the nuclear threat, after the Iranian regime having violated and having continued their nuclear program, and also with regard to the second part of your question with regard to the massive reprisals against their own population.  And the E3 partners – France, Great Britain, and the Federal Republic of Germany – yes, we made it clear yesterday that we uphold the remaining nuclear sanctions due to the fact that the Iranian nuclear program is so advanced.  And these are direct impacts from the severe and continuing Iranian violations against the JCPOA that have been ongoing since 2019.  At the same time, we remain open to a diplomatic solution because the goal needs to be to avoid regional proliferation.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m sorry.  Go ahead.

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  And then the consular cases.

(Via interpreter) I think we both share the opinion that we will not mutually comment our consular cases from the sidelines.  And these are very sensitive issues, so I personally cannot comment on individual cases at this point.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Elizabeth, with regards to nuclear matters, we of course – both of us and many other countries, have longstanding concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.  And the agreement that was reached some years ago, the JCPOA, had the very important benefit of putting that program in a box.  Unfortunately, in leaving that agreement, we created an opportunity for Iran to get back out of the box that we put it in.  And we’ve now been dealing with some of the consequences of that decision over the last couple of years, including things like enrichment at higher levels, greater accumulation of stockpiled enriched material, et cetera.

We are determined – President Biden is determined that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon one way or another.  We continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to achieve that result, but there’s no active diplomatic engagement on that question right now because of the steps that Iran has taken as well as its refusal or inability to get back into mutual compliance with the JCPOA.  The steps that you’ve alluded to would certainly be positive in the sense that moving away from further enrichment, further accumulation of stockpiles, is a good thing.  But in the moment, we’re not engaged in discussion nor in negotiation with Iran about the nuclear program.  But it would be important to see steps by Iran to continue to move back away from the thresholds that it’s been moving towards since the JCPOA was ended.

Tomorrow is indeed the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s death.  Just this week, we have imposed additional sanctions on Iranians responsible for the crackdown against peaceful protestors and those responsible for repression.  This follows numerous actions that we took in the wake of her death and during the protests a year ago when the Iranian Government began firing on peaceful protestors, disrupting internet access, taking other steps to repress its own people.  We took action, both in terms of the sanctions that we imposed on those responsible for the crackdown from day one; we provided means by which Iranian citizens could continue to communicate with one another and with the outside world; we strongly supported an unprecedented session at the United Nations Human Rights Council; we created a factfinding mission to look into, on behalf of the international community, the aggression by the Iranian Government against its own people.  And we continue, as I said, by the actions we took just yesterday in marking Mahsa Amini’s death, to do just that.

When it comes to funds and resources for the Iranian regime – and I think you’re referring specifically to the agreement that we’re in the process of implementing to return home five Americans who have been unlawfully detained in Iran, one going back eight years – I’d say two things.  First, when it comes to getting Americans out of jail and back home who have been unjustly detained anywhere in the world, I’m happy to be – to take any criticism that comes my way for that.  I view it as job one to do everything I can to bring Americans home.  And under this administration, we’ve brought nearly 30 Americans home from places around the world who are being unjustly detained, in many cases in the most horrible conditions.  I know the impact this has on them, on their families.  I’ve talked to virtually all of the families in person or by video over the last two and a half years.  And so this is very, very important to me.  It’s important to the President.  And we’re willing to make hard decisions to make that happen.

In this specific instance, the resources in question – Iran’s own money that it had accumulated as a result of selling oil, at the time legally and lawfully, our sanctions have from day one exempted the use of these funds for humanitarian purposes.  And the agreement in question is simply allowing the transfer of these funds from one bank and one country to another bank in another country where they can be used exclusively for humanitarian purposes.  I view that as a sensible arrangement.  And if it’s facilitated the return home of Americans who are being unjustly detained, I think that’s a good deal for the people in question and a good deal for the United States.

MODERATOR:  For the final question, Paul-Anton Krüger with Süddeutsche Zeitung.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much and allow me to take you back to where you both started off, Ukraine.  You both reiterated that the ultimate goal of the support to Ukraine is that she regains her sovereignty and her territorial integrity.  Both governments, nonetheless, are hesitant to provide certain weapon systems to the Government of Ukraine that it has been asking for, namely ATACMS ballistic missiles and Taurus cruise missiles.  Apparently, the concern is the range that they would be suitable to attack also facilities in Russia, deep in Russia.  My question would be if Ukraine were to defend herself in the most efficient way, wouldn’t it be necessary or unavoidable in the end to lift those restrictions and allow Ukraine to use Western weapons in exercise of her right to self‑defense on Russian territory?

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  (Via interpreter) I have commented on that question several times, so I will be short and will keep it brief.  Both of us have seen, during our visits, how important it is that the Ukrainian Government and the Ukrainian military is able to defend and to free their people in eastern Ukraine because the people there, to what we know, really live in hell.  And in Ukraine, in Kyiv, I met people who have been deported from Ukraine as so-called civilian hostages, even though, I think, this is the wrong term.

They were brutally torn from their lives because they worked for the local government or because they were just standing on the streets.  They were deported to Russia, to other places.  They were tortured.  And some of them still haven’t come back yet, and we don’t know how many of them are there because for one and a half years, there has not only been this terrible war, there has not only been a full invasion of the east of Ukraine, for one and a half years there has – no real humanitarian aid has reached eastern Ukraine.  Neutral observers cannot see what’s going on there.  And for one and a half years, these villages, these cities, have not been freed.

In order for them to be free, a huge belt of mined area has to be overcome behind which the Russian occupants have been entrenched.  So it needs military systems, weapon systems, that can overcome this belt of mined area.  So we are talking to one another about how we can support Ukrainians, but have made it clear several times already these highly modern weapon systems are also very effective weapon systems.  And it’s not only about reach.  It’s not only about Ukrainian territory because if that was the theory, you could also travel to the north of Ukraine and just take you 500 kilometers of range, but maybe 50 kilometers, and you could hit Russian territory.

So I think this alone is not an argument to me.  The argument is that there are sensitive issues to be clarified, especially for our system, Taurus, and it’s not as easy as it might sound in the first place.  So as the federal government, the minister of defense, the chancellor, and I have talked about this repeatedly over the past weeks, and we’ve made it clear again and again we’re in intensive discussions and we’re examining what we can do.

The second part of your question pertains to attacks on – possible attacks on Russian territory, and I made it clear to the German press also the right to self-defense means that you can defend oneself.  We have other cases in the world where states that are attacked from the outside have a right to defend themselves and to fight back.  This brutal war is not only about what is legally admissible, we have made it clear again and again the basis for arms deliveries is international law, humanitarian international law.  That’s the basis for our arms deliveries.

But it’s not only about legal questions, and I think we’ve made it clear at this press conference as well.  It is about the world’s broad support for Ukraine, for peace in Ukraine.  And this is about trust.  And in addition to legal questions, including the – and with regard to the right to self-defense, they are quite clear.  But for us, as NATO partners as well, it was important for us that we have – that we strengthen trust across the globe, trust in our own actions, and that this is about strengthening Ukraine’s capabilities for self-defense.  So we told the Ukrainian military from the beginning that our arms deliveries are limited to defending their own territory, the territory of Ukraine.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I could simply say, “What she said,” because as always and as usual, we are in full synchronization.  But let me just add quickly a couple of things.

First, I think it’s important to note from the outset that President Putin has already failed in what he was trying to achieve in Ukraine.  His objective was to erase Ukraine from the map, to eliminate its independence, to subsume it into Russia.  And again, that has failed and it cannot succeed.

Now, where this aggression settles, that is fundamentally up to Ukraine.  And we’re determined to do everybody we can to help Ukraine regain territory seized from it by Russia in this aggression.  If you go back a year ago, I was, along with Annalena, just in Ukraine a week ago. Previous to that, my last visit was almost exactly a year before.  In that space of time, Ukraine’s recovered more than 50 percent of the territory taken by it from Russia since February of 2022, and of course it’s now engaged in this important counter offensive to try to regain more of the land stolen from it by Russia.  And both of our countries and dozens of others are deeply engaged in working every single day to try to make sure we’re providing Ukraine what it needs to succeed.

And that is a constantly evolving question.  As the nature of the fight evolves, changes, the needs evolve.  And so we have adjusted, from day one, every step along the way.  And we’re constantly reviewing what additional support might be useful and effective for Ukraine in the moment as well as it works to build – and as we work with it to build – a longer-term military for the future that can successfully deter and defeat any future aggressions.

So different systems are constantly under review, and it’s very important to emphasize that the systems themselves are critical, but that – but that’s not sufficient as a prism through which to look at this.  Ukrainians have to be able to use them effectively, and sometimes with new, sophisticated systems, that requires training, and of course we’re engaged in that.  They need to be able to maintain them, and that doesn’t happen automatically.  And then they need to fit into a coherent military program that makes sense in helping Ukraine achieve its objectives.

So all of those factors are taken into consideration.  I can just tell you that any given system that’s discussed, including the media, is probably under active review if it’s something the Ukrainians have asked us to look at.  And we are.

When it comes to how Ukrainians use these systems, the targeting decisions are theirs.  They’re not ours.  And they have to make judgments about what can be most effective in working to regain their full sovereignty, their territorial integrity.  As a matter of our own policy, we do not encourage, nor do we enable, the use of our weapon systems outside of Ukraine.  But again, fundamentally these are Ukrainian decisions.

And the only reason we’re talking about those decisions is because of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and because of the fact that, as the foreign minister alluded to and has talked about so powerfully, every single day Russian bombs, Russian rockets, Russian drones are raining down on the people of Ukraine, destroying, tearing apart innocent lives; destroying, tearing apart Ukraine’s infrastructure, its energy infrastructure, the food and grain silos, and ports that have been responsible for getting food around the world to people who need it.

That is the day in, day out reality of Ukraine, and that is why we and so many others are supporting Ukraine, and why Ukraine has difficult, challenging decisions to make about how it can best and most effectively defend itself and regain territory that’s been taken from it.  We respect what it is doing.  We’re determined to do everything we can to help.  And at the end of the day, we both are looking for, on behalf of Ukraine, a just and durable peace that can finally make a real difference in the lives of the Ukrainian people.

Thank you.

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