Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken holds a joint press availability with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Department of State, June 1, 2022.
Good morning everyone. It is a pleasure to welcome the NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, Jens, my friend and colleague back here to the State Department and to Washington, we’ve seen each other quite a bit over the last 15 months, mostly in brussels. In fact, we did a little calculation and it turns out I’ve spent more time in brussels than any other city other than Washington D. C. And that’s no coincidence it’s because NATO is there, of course are friends of the European union as well, but it has been a center of our engagement, the center of our activity and that’s been made all the better by the exceptional partnership that we have with Secretary General Stoltenberg and NATO. I joined people across Europe and indeed around the world and being grateful to the Secretary General for his strong and steady leadership during such a consequential period for the alliance and for the world. And we’re very, very glad that he agreed to extend his tenure through next fall. Today’s meeting was an opportunity for us to touch base on the upcoming NATO summit, which will take place in Madrid, as you know, in just a few weeks’ time, They’re the alliance will adopt a new strategic concept, the first one since 2010 to make sure that we’re ready to meet the challenges of today and the challenges that we anticipate for tomorrow. That includes everything from malicious activity occurring in cyberspace, people’s republic of china’s rapid militarization. It’s no limits friendship with Russia and efforts to weaken the rules based international order that is the Foundation for Peace and security around the world and of course the security implications of climate change, which are profound. We will strengthen our relationships with the European union and with partners in the indo pacific we will bolster NATO’s budget and we will renew our alliances, defense and deterrence capabilities. Of course, the chief concept will reflect what we are now dealing with and that is a new security landscape in Europe. And President Putin’s decision to launch a senseless war of aggression in Ukraine. Now, in its fourth month, the people of Ukraine continue to fight with extraordinary courage and skill and with military humanitarian and financial support from the United States and countries around the world, including virtually all of the members of NATO. Just this morning, President Biden announced a significant new security assistance package to arm Ukraine with additional capabilities and advanced weaponry precisely what they need to defend themselves against the ongoing Russian aggression that includes more advanced rocket systems so that they can strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine from longer distances. This is a continuation of a strategy that began even before Russia’s invasion. We moved quickly to send Ukraine significant amounts of weapons and ammunition so that they can repel Russia’s aggression and in turn can be in the strongest possible position at any negotiating table that may emerge. This isn’t only the Committee of the United States. As I said, all NATO allies remain engaged, aligned committed to ensuring that Ukraine can protect its sovereignty, it’s democracy, its independence. Our countries along with other partners imposed severe consequences on the Russian government and its enablers with unprecedented sanctions, export controls and diplomatic pressure. Together, we responded to the humanitarian crisis provoked by Russia’s war of aggression. More than six million Ukrainians forced to leave their Homeland. Many others displaced within Ukraine countries across Europe and beyond, including the United States, have welcomed Ukrainians fleeing the violence. Countries worldwide are helping provide essential services to communities close to Ukraine that have taken on the most refugees. President Putin hoped that his war on Ukraine would divide NATO. Instead, he’s United NATO in support of Ukraine and in defense of its own members. He’s brought countries around the world together to support the fundamental principles of sovereignty and independence. They see what’s happening in Ukraine as a direct result, excuse me, a direct assault on the foundation of their own peace and security. That is why we will continue to stand with a democratic independent sovereign Ukraine until this terrible war is over. And for that matter, long after NATO will be prepared to face challenges like these with secure cyber defenses, cutting edge technology enhanced partnerships. As I said with countries around the world, we’ll make sure that we defend every inch of NATO territory. The allies have reinforced our collective defense posture. Since the war began. We’ve deployed more than 20,000 additional troops to NATO’s eastern flank. Many allies are also increasing their military presence in Eastern and southeastern Europe last month, Finland and Sweden to longstanding partners in NATO made the decision to seek NATO membership. As president, Biden said this decision was a victory for democracy. Finland and Sweden are seeking to join NATO not because their leaders forced it, but because their citizens demanded it. Anyone who wonders the difference between a democracy, an authoritarian state like Russia, you need only look at Russia. Finland and Sweden. One would lie to his people to wage a war. two would listen to their people to prevent war. The United States strongly supports Finland and Sweden applications. Both countries are more than qualified to become full members of the alliance as soon as possible By joining NATO, they will strengthen NATO. We look forward to quickly bring them into the strongest defensive alliance in history. While Finland and Sweden applications for NATO membership are being considered. The United States will continue our close partnership with both countries will remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security. We will deter and as necessary confront aggression or the threat of aggression. Jens, thank you again for making this visit to Washington at an important moment as we prepare for the summit very much looking forward to seeing you next time in a few weeks in Madrid and to the even stronger and more resilient NATO that our summit will help to shape. Thank you and welcome thank you so much. So Secretary Blinken there Tony it’s great to see you again uh and thank you for your strong personal engagement for our transatlantic. Born in this people to time for our security. And this is very much reflected in your frequent visits to brussels. You are welcome back there again. But now I really appreciate this opportunity to meet with you here in Washington. The United States is playing an indispensable role in our response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And let me commend the United States for your very significant support to Ukraine which is making a difference on the battlefield every day. I also welcome the latest package of military assistance announced by President Biden this morning. This is a demonstration of real US leadership. The strong support provided by NATO and allies helps ensure that President Putin’s brutal aggression is not rewarded and that Ukraine prevails at the same time we must prevent the conflict from escalating. So we have increased our presence in the eastern part of the alliance to remove any room for miscalculation in Moscow about NATO’s readiness and determination to defend and protect all NATO allies. Let me thank the United States for increasing your military presence across Europe With over 100,000 troops backed by significant air and naval power, European allies and Canada are also stepping up with more troops higher. Agnes and increased defense spending for the seventh consecutive year. Defense spending has increased And more and more allies are meeting our guidelines of spending. 2% of GDP on defense. President Putin wanted less NATO. He is getting more NATO more troops and more NATO members. The decisions by Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership are historic and they will strengthen our alliance. We have to address the security concerns of all allies and I’m confident that we will find a united way forward to this end. I’m in close contact with President Erdogan of Turkey and with the leaders of Finland and Sweden and I will convene senior officials from all three countries in brussels. In the coming days today we also discussed the important decisions will take at the NATO summit in Madrid. Later this month we will agree NATO’s next strategic concept to strengthen our deterrence and defense and prepared for an age of increased strategic competition with authoritarian powers like Russia and china. This includes working even more closely with our partners in the Asia pacific and other like-minded partners around the world. We will also review progress on burden sharing. We must continue to invest in our defense and to invest in NATO because only north America and Europe. Working together in a strong NATO can keep our one billion people safe in a more dangerous world. So Senator franklin there Tony once again thank you so much. Thank you guys will now turn to questions taking two from each delegation. We’ll start with Vivian Salama of the Wall Street Journal. Thanks ned thank you very much. Um uh Secretary Blinken two quick questions please, uh with regard to the long range weapons, what can be done or is being done to minimize escalation with Russia?
And do you believe that there’s an understanding in Moscow about the nuance that the U. S. Is trying to achieve with regard to assert the weapons that it does choose to send to Ukraine and unrelated on President Erdogan’s latest threats of force to Syria?
Are you concerned that Turkey is increasingly becoming a disruptive ally?
And how can it be addressed?
Shall I ask my question. Secretary General, welcome back sir. Uh two questions for you as well, cracks are appearing in the Western front against Moscow. Despite the both of you stating that the alliance is very strong and we’re seeing that there is some disagreement over uh shipping more powerful weapons to Ukraine. How does NATO as an organization worked to prevent the cooperation from going south at Ukraine’s expense. And more specifically, how does Ukraine win?
Which seems to be a key point in this disagreement. Thank you. Thanks. I’m happy to start. Thanks for the questions. 1st. In response to the question about escalation. Ah let’s start with this. It’s Russia that is attacking Ukraine, not the other way around. And simply put the best way to avoid escalation is for Russia to stop the aggression and the war that it started. Its fully within its power to do so specifically with regard to weapons systems being provided. The Ukrainians have given us assurances that they will not use these systems against targets on Russian territory. There is a strong trust bond between Ukraine and the United States as well as with our allies and partners. I’d also say that throughout this aggression. Indeed, even before President Biden was very clear with President Putin about what the United States would do if Russia proceeded with its aggression. Including continuing to provide security systems that Ukraine needs to defend itself against the Russian aggression. There was no No hiding the ball. We’ve been extremely clear about this from day one with President Biden communicating that directly to President Putin. So we have done exactly what we said. We would. Um, and it is Russia again that chose to launch this aggression despite all of our efforts to prevent that with intense diplomacy over many months again they started the conflict. They can end it at any time. And we will avoid any concerns about miscalculation or escalation um with regard to the other theater that you referenced any escalation there in Northern Syria is something that we uh, we would oppose and we support the maintenance of the currencies fire lines. The concern that we have is that any new offensive would undermine regional stability. Such as it is provide malign actors with opportunities to exploit instability for their own purpose. We continue um, effectively to take the fight through partners. Uh two two dash to ISIS within Syria. And we don’t want to see anything that jeopardizes the efforts that are made to continue to keep ISIS in the box that we put it in. And let me just also, if I could before I turn it over to you and I do want to say one thing about the question that you address, the Secretary General here again, at every stage of this Russian aggression before the aggression when it started. And in the months since at virtually every stage, we’ve heard doubts expressed about what the alliance would do, um what countries would do in terms of support for Ukraine and whether that was actually going to happen. We demonstrated that that it that it would and that it has concerns and doubts about whether we could really deliver on what we said, we would do massive consequences for Russia’s aggression with unprecedented sanctions. Well, we’ve delivered on that and I would suggest that there are always going to be stories about differences in any particular moment. But when it comes to the strategic direction that we have taken together as allies as partners, both within Europe and beyond this, at least in my experience has been unprecedented in its solidarity in the common determination both to support Ukraine with security assistance, economic assistance, humanitarian assistance, to put extraordinary pressure on Russia to cease its aggression and to shore up the defenses of our alliance. And so again, I’d invite you to go back look at the questions that were raised starting last fall, they’ve been answered then again when Russia committed the aggression in the first place and even to this day. And I’m very confident that the common purpose that we’ve shown over many months will continue. I can just follow up on that because what we have seen over the last months is an unprecedented level of unity among NATO allies and partners in the response to Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine. We have seen that when it comes to the provision of military support, humanitarian support, economic support, but also in the way we have seen NATO allies partners, the European union implementing heavy economic sanctions sanctions. We have not seen anything similar to uh imposed on any major country ever before. So actually, what we have seen is an unprecedented level of unity among NATO allies and partners. Of course, these are difficult decisions, hard decisions and therefore there is a need for consultations and therefore, I would like to commend the United States for consulting so closely with allies, Not only off the invasion on 24 February, but actually before the United States consulted closely, Secretary Lincoln consulted closely with NATO allies throughout the autumn, we warned with shared intelligence is hardly any other military invasion that has been more predicted than this one. And that’s not least because the United States shared so much intelligence with NATO allies in the months leading up to the invasion in February European allies of course, as the United States have imposed sanctions, they have a price also for us. They are hosting millions of refugees. But the alternative not to support Ukraine, that will actually enable President Putin to win. That will be dangerous for all of us. And the price we have to pay will actually be higher than to now invest in the support for Ukraine. And by saying that President Putin made a strategic mistake. He totally underestimated the strength and the will and the ability of the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian armed forces to defend themselves. And they underestimated the unity of NATO NATO allies and partners to support Ukraine. And again, what we see is us leadership helping this to happen both on the political diplomatic level, but also when it comes to organizing and coordinating the military support through the support group for Ukraine on the North question, I would just say that wars are unpredictable. We were able to predict the invasion, but how this world will evolve. It’s very hard to predict what we do know is that almost all wars end at some stage at the negotiating table. And this has also been clearly stated by President Zelensky that at some stage this will end at the negotiating table. But what happens there at the negotiating table is of course totally depend on the strength the situation on the battlefield and that’s what we do. We support them in upholding the right for self-defense and then I have trust and have confidence in the political leadership in Ukraine that they can make the hard judgments judgments and decisions on negotiations and what to agree to when negotiations at some point will start tova biogas of Nrk Norway. Thank you. I have one question for each Secretary Blinken, do you think it’s possible to deter Russia with weapons at this point?
And how far will the U. S. go?
And for Secretary Stoltenberg, we hear about nuclear exercises on the Russian side. What scenarios are you planning for in terms of of the nuclear threat from Russia at this point. Thank you. Um I would say that it’s not so much a question of deterring Russia at this point because they have committed the aggression and they’re pursuing it. What we’re working to do. And the Secretary General said this very eloquently is to make sure that the Ukrainians have in hand, what they need to defend against this aggression to repel it uh to push it back and as well. And as a result to make sure that they have the strongest possible hand at any negotiating table that emerges and I agree with the Secretary General that eventually that is what is likely to happen. We can’t say when we can’t say exactly how what we can say is what we will do to make sure that Ukraine has the means to defend itself and has the strongest possible hand at every step along the way, we have evaluated what we believe. Uh Ukraine needs to do just that to defend itself effectively. And of course that’s changed through the course of this aggression. What they needed to deal with. The threats to keep are very different from what they need to deal with what’s now happening in southern and eastern Ukraine. So we’ve adjusted as this has gone along in terms of what we and other allies and partners are providing to the Ukrainians will continue to do that as we go forward. Again, it is fully within Russia’s power to stop what they started and to end the aggression, that’s what we seek. But as long as this goes on we will support the Ukrainians and make sure that they have what they need to defend themselves effectively. NATO and NATO allies are of course monitoring very closely what Russia does, including their nuclear exercises. And we have also followed very closely the nuclear rhetoric that President Putin and other Russian leader has had expressed over the last months. This nuclear saber rattling rhetoric is dangerous and it is something that is only increasing tensions at the same time. We have not seen any changes in Russia’s nuclear posture. And we also remind Russia on the fact that actually as late as in January, they agreed in the U. N. A statement where they stated clearly that the nuclear war cannot be won and should not be fought. Um So Russia knows that any use of nuclear weapons would totally change the nature of the conflict and therefore nuclear weapons should not be used. Kylie Atwood of CNN. Thank you. Uh Good morning. Um Secretary Blinken. Two questions for you first on the food crisis. That is um growing deeper because of the war, Is there any way to get the 20 million plus uh tons of grain that are stuck in Odessa right now out of the country without Russia allowing those Ukrainian chips to move?
And what will be the cost for Russia if they don’t allow those ships to move?
We know that the United States is working on over land solutions here, but what is the cost for Russia if they don’t allow the sea routes to open?
Um And then the second question is about the timeline here we’ve heard by the administration officials talking about this conflict turning into a drawn out conflict it’s likely to go on for months. But with Russia making these gains in the east. Now, what is the outlook, do you see this conflict going into next year without a resolution?
And then um Native Secretary General, uh you mentioned that you’re going to convene leaders of feet of Finland?
Sweden and Turkey in the coming days. So I’m wondering if you are expecting Sweden and Finland to come to the table with precise actions they are willing to take that could assuage Turkey’s concerns. And I’m also wondering if you’re confident that Turkey’s concerns about their membership will be addressed this month before the G-7 summit. Thank you, Kylie, thanks very much with regard to the food situation. A couple of things. 1st, we are dealing with what is a global food insecurity challenge and even crisis, preexisting conditions, covid climate and now conflict. All of these together have helped create a perfect storm where food, particularly from some of the bread baskets for the world. Ukraine Russia itself are not available because of Russia’s aggression. And as a result as well, prices have gone up for the food that is available. And we had a situation where A couple of years ago, there were roughly 100 million people who are food insecure around the world. Before the Russian aggression over the last couple of years, that’s gone up to about 160 million. Now, an additional 40 million people by expert accounts are likely to be food insecure as a result directly of the Russian aggression. Because to your point, what’s happening is this, There are roughly 20 to 25 million tons Of grain that are sitting in silos near the Russian Ukrainian ports that can’t even be moved to ships in part because there are ships at the support, about 85 of them full of this grain and we can’t move because of the Russian effective blockade of the ports. So, uh the United Nations has been working and Secretary General I applaud his efforts to see if he can find a way forward on this to allow the ships out to end this blockade. That work continues at the same time, we’re looking at every other possible route to get wheat grains, other things out of Ukraine and onto world markets. All of that work is ongoing. In terms of what Russia risks. Well, I would start with what’s left of its reputation. It seeks relationships with countries around the world, including many countries that are now the victim of Russian aggression because of growing food insecurity resulting from that aggression. We were in New York about 10 days ago, we had the presidency, as you know, the Security Council for the month of May. I focused our efforts on the food and security challenges that are being faced around the world. And many countries pointed out that a big part of this is the Russian aggression and the fact that food can’t get out of Ukraine to where it’s needed. So, I think there’s a growing recognition of countries around the world that the challenges that they’re facing now compounded by conflict compounded by Russia’s aggression are due to what Russia is doing. I point out again that to those who are concerned that the sanctions were imposed on Russia are somehow impeding the delivery of food. That is simply not true. The sanctions have exemptions for food, um, and including services necessary to make sure that food moves like banking services. We have, we’ve had one of our senior officials go around the world to make that very clear to other countries and to help them with any questions they may have. This is on Russia. And regardless of anything else, you would think the least that the Russians would do would be to make sure that other countries are not suffering from their aggression, despite the suffering they’re imposing on the Ukrainians with regard to timelines. Um, Secretary General said it, well, we can’t predict how this is going to play out when this is going to play out as best we can assess right now. We are still looking at many months of conflict again, that could be over tomorrow. If Russia chose to end the aggression, we don’t see any signs of that right now. But it’s a moving picture. As the Secretary General said, that’s by definition what wars are. And I’ll just repeat what I said, as long as this goes on, we want to make sure that Ukraine has in hand, what it needs to defend itself. And we want to make sure that Russia is feeling strong pressure from uh as many countries as possible to end the aggression. That’s the best way we think to bring the aggression to close as soon as possible to end the war uh to get to diplomacy and to stop the suffering in Finland and Sweden?
I and my staff. We are in close contact of course with Turkey an important NATO ally. And the two countries that have applied for NATO membership. Finland and Sweden. We have, I met with them and I’m going to convene a meeting in a few days with senior officials and then follow up to ensure that we make progress on the applications of Finland Sweden to join NATO. My intention is to have this in place before the NATO summit. At the same time. I know that To make progress, we need 30 allies to agree. Finland and Sweden has made it have made it clear that they are ready to sit down and to address the concerns expressed by Turkey and all NATO allies are of course ready to sit down and address those concerns, including the threats posed to Turkey by PKK. And this is a terrorist threats, which of course is something we are taking very seriously. We know that no other NATO allies have has have suffered more attacks than than than Turkey and Turkey is an important ally, not least because of it its strategic geographic location bordering Iraq and Syria. There have been important in our fight against ISIS and also Black Sea country close to Russia. So all of this makes Turkey an important ally when they raise concerns. Of course we sit down and we look into how we can find the united way forward. We’ll take a final question from Stephan Asperger of SPT Sweden Terry Blinking two questions specifically what is the US willing to do to facilitate the negotiations between Turkey Sweden and Finland?
Were there two questions?
One at a time, one at a time. Okay, thank you. Um you’ve heard from the secretary general um Finland and Sweden are working directly with Turkey. NATO is supporting this effort. The secretary general will bring the parties together. We very much support those efforts. There is a strong consensus within NATO broadly for the rapid succession of Sweden and Finland to the alliance. I remain very confident that that will happen that we’re going to move forward. As I’ve said before. Uh this is a process and in that process if allies have concerns, they raise them and then we deal with them. NATO is is dealing with them. But in particular concerns that Turkey has raised directly with with Finland and and Sweden are being addressed by the fins and the Swedes with the assistance of NATO. We want to make sure that all allies have their security concerns taken into account and that of course includes Turkey. But I’m confident this process will move forward. Are you willing to export fighter jets to Turkey for instance to using up the situation. These are these are separate questions. We have a long standing and ongoing defense relationship with with Turkey as a as a NATO ally and as we have in the past, as we’re doing now as well in the future, we’ll continue to work through cases as they arise with regard to systems that Turkey seeks to acquire and Secretary Stoltenberg, how confident are you that Turkey will approve Sweden and Finland?
I’m confident that we will find a way forward. And I am confident because all allies agree that NATO enlargement has been a great success helping to spread democracy freedom across Europe for decades. And therefore we need to sit down as we always do when there are different different views in NATO and find a way to go forward together. So this is not the first time in NATO that some allies expressed concerns that there are some differences on disagreements, but we have a long track record in it. Also to be able to overcome those differences and then agree on how to move forward that concludes the press conference. Everyone thank you.