Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken Delivers Remarks to the Press

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken delivers remarks to the press at the Department of State, July 27, 2022.


Good afternoon, Good evening. Full house See um this week, President Putin’s war on Ukraine entered its six months cross continue to climb thousands of civilians killed or wounded. 13 million Ukrainians forced to flee their homes. Historic cities literally pounded into rubble. Food shortages skyrocketing food prices around the world. All this because President Putin was determined to conquer another country. He’s failed in that court. Ukraine has not and will not be conquered. It will be made sovereign and independent as this horse stretches on the courage and strength of Ukraine’s military and its people become even more evident and even more extraordinary. They will do whatever it takes to protect their homes, their families, their fellow citizens, their country. United States and our allies and partners will continue to stand with them and help provide precisely what they need to defend their freedom in the coming days. Expect to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov for the first time since the war began, I had to raise an issue that’s a top priority for us. The release of Americans, Paul Willen and Brittany Griner have been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home. We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago, facilitate the release. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal. I’ll use the conversation to follow up personally and I hope move us toward a resolution also raised the matter of the tentative deal on grain exports that Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations reached last week. We hope this deal will swiftly lead to Ukrainian grain being shipped again through the Black Sea. And that Russia will follow through on its pledge to allow those ships to pass. This has been the focus of the world’s attention for months, including a few weeks ago at the meeting of the G 20 foreign ministers and where one foreign minister after another urged Foreign Minister Lavrov and Russia to stop blocking the grain. So this agreement represents a positive step forward. That’s it. There’s a difference between a deal on paper and a deal in practice, hundreds of millions of people around the world are waiting for these ships to set forth from Ukraine sports and for millions of tons of grain and other crops to reach world markets. I’m inside this deal to look reasonable to the world without any intention of following through. We’ll know that soon enough. I called the farm. Mr. Lavrov will not be a negotiation about Ukraine. Any negotiation regarding Ukraine is for its government and people to determine, as we said from the beginning, nothing about Ukraine without you. Beyond these developments now that we’ve reached a half year mark, let’s take a step back and consider the state of the war and what we expect to come next in the Donbass region where Russia concentrated his forces after failing to take keep this spring, the fighting remains intense. The modest progress that Russian troops have made there has come at a huge cost both lives. Senatorial. Meanwhile, Ukraine is using all its defensive capabilities to hit back hard, Bolstered by the more than $8 billion dollars in security assistance from the United States since the beginning of this administration. As we look ahead, the world has heard recently from Russia’s leaders, he’s raising new alarms. Last week, Foreign Minister Lavrov said that the Kremlin’s goals in Ukraine had expanded. Now they need to claim more of Ukrainian territory beyond the Donbas. This is the latest in a series of evolving justifications and ever shifting goals. The beginning, Russian said that the purpose of the war was to detoxify Ukraine false charge aimed at delegitimizing Ukraine’s democracy. They said the real threat was somehow posed by NATO purely defensive alliance that made efforts to engage Russia for years but was rejected and help safeguard peace, stability and prosperity across Europe for decades to the benefit of Russia among many other nations. Then they said the war was protect ethnic Russians living in Donbass from genocide before relentlessly targeting the largest Russian speaking city in Ukraine, Kharkov. The only one responsible for killing ethnic Russians in Ukraine is President Putin mm What this is about and it’s always been about President Putin’s conviction that Ukraine is not an independent state and belongs to Russia. He said it flat out to President Bush in 2008 and I quote, Ukraine isn’t a real country. He said it in 2020 and I quote, Ukrainians and Russians are one and the same people end quote last month, he said that when peter the great waged war in Sweden, he was simply taking back what belonged to Russia. And now Russia is again looking to take back what’s theirs. President has been foiled in his efforts to erase Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. But now Moscow is laying the groundwork to annex more Ukrainian territory. From downgraded US intelligence as well as information available in the public domain. We can see that they’re following the same playbook that they used back in 2014, they’re installing illegitimate proxy officials working to establish branches of Russian banks in areas they control set the rubble is the local currency take over broadcasting towers, force residents to apply for Russian citizenship, sabotage internet access for local residents as well. All of this to consolidate their power over these regions. Our intelligence also shows that Russia is using filtration centers in Eastern Ukraine and Western Russia to detain to interrogate and in some cases abuse thousands of Ukrainians. Some are allowed to remain in Russian occupied Ukraine. Some are forcefully deported to Russia. Some were sent to prisons. Some simply vanish. Here’s what we expect to see. Next Russia installed leaders will hold sham referendums to manufacture the fiction that the people in those places want to join Russia. Then they’ll use those false boats to claim that the annexation of these regions is legitimate. We must and we will act quickly to make clear to Russia that these tactics will not work annexation by force, the territory of a sovereign and independent country is a gross violation of the United Nations Charter, the international community that has committed to uphold the charter and international law have a responsibility to denounce these plans by the Russian government. And to make clear they will never recognize these illegal acts. Otherwise no one can claim to be surprised when Russia follows through on its plans or if other countries follow suit in the future. two days ago from Mr. Lavrov said, and I quote, we are determined to help the people of Eastern Ukraine to liberate themselves from the burden of this absolutely unacceptable regime. End quote, by what right can Russia claim this?

Ukraine is not their country. The people of Ukraine democratically elect their own leaders. The government of Russia has no say in that whatsoever the right belongs to the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian people alone. Despite these deeply troubling developments, we should not lose sight of the broader picture. NATO is stronger. We’re united and boys to grow. Nearly 1/3 of NATO members have already ratified Sweden and Finland’s accession protocols. We appreciate the Senate Foreign Relations Committee swift action to advance those protocols. We hope the full Senate will act quickly to do the same. Many countries beyond Europe have condemned Russia’s aggression and are holding Moscow to account Iranian people are more determined than ever to defend their homeland, preserve their culture. All of these developments refute the Kremlin’s economically the sanctions were imposed on Russia to end this aggression having a powerful and also growing effect. Yeah, Moscow has been cherry picking economic data to support President Putin’s insistence that everything is fine. The Russian economy is going strong. It’s simply not true. The Kremlin says that global businesses haven’t really pulled out of Russia. In fact, more than 1000 foreign companies representing assets and revenue equal to more than a third of Russia’s GDP have stopped operations in Russia. Many of Russia’s best and brightest have left as well, including highly educated professionals in critical fields like energy and technology. They say that Russia is replacing lost imports from the west with imports from Asia. In fact, imports into Russia have dropped more than 50% this year and imports from china for example aren’t making up the difference in quantity or quality, especially for high end components. But that also means is that Russia can’t manufacture products for Russian citizens or for export and will increasingly lose markets overseas. They say that the government is running a budget surplus because of high energy prices. In fact budget is in deficit and Russia can’t spend the oil revenues it has acquired on the imports it wants because of sanctions. They say that the Kremlin has plenty of sovereign wealth. In fact half of that money, half of that money is frozen overseas. They say that domestic consumption is still strong in Russia. In fact, consumer spending has plummeted. They say that the ruble is the world’s strongest performing currency. In fact, the currency market is controlled by the Kremlin. Russian households are restricted from converting rubles to dollars. The ruble is trading at a much lower volume than before the war. So the Kremlin is working hard to paint a picture of economic stability. The facts show otherwise powerful impact of sanctions will grow and compound. Over time, President Putin will likely claim that this war was a resounding success. The world can see that it has weakened Russia profoundly. President Zelensky has made clear that the war will end through diplomacy, we agree the United States is ready to support any viable diplomatic effort. Unfortunately, Moscow has given no indication that it’s prepared to engage meaningfully and constructively and we’re under no illusion that that’s going to change anytime soon. And when the time comes, we will bring the full weight of American diplomacy to bear. In the meantime, will continue to do all that We can to strengthen Ukraine’s position on the battlefield. So it has the strongest possible position. The negotiating tape from here in Washington. And in all of my travels, I’ll continue to discuss all of this with our partners and allies supporting a sovereign independent Ukraine resolving the food security crisis and how we can help create the conditions for a diplomatic resolution last week. As you know, I had the privilege of welcoming Ukraine’s first Lady Helena’s Alaska, She came to the State Department. I told her that the United States will not wait in our support for the Ukrainian people six months ago. It’s true today. It will be true long after. Or this aggression is over that. Happy to take some questions. Andrew Mr. Secretary, there are reports that the administration has decided that this substantial offer is to trade Russian arms dealer Viktor boot. That’s a big offer. Just last week. Bill Burns called him a creep in an interview with me. But you want to get Reiner and all wheeling out. So what is the process Getting all white wheelin and Brittney Griner out by making such a big trade?

Arguably over the opposition of the Justice Department?

He’s serving a 25 year sentence. And what can you accomplish in a conversation with Lavrov to try to get this grain deal locked in since they bombed Odessa Than 24 hours of agreeing to the deal?

How can you trust anything that Lavrov and the Russian thanks Andrea when it comes to our efforts to secure the return home of Paul, Hyland and Brittney Griner, you’ll understand that I can’t and won’t get into any of the details what we proposed to the Russians over the course of so many weeks. Now can you talk about why you would make such an important why you would put what you call a substantial offer on the tube. So here’s what I can say about this first. As I mentioned, we’ve conveyed this on a number of occasions, um and directly to Russian officials and what would be that in speaking to Foreign Minister Lavrov, I can advance the efforts to bring them home. Um We have two imperatives when it comes to arbitrarily wrongfully detained Americans anywhere in the world, including in Russia, including the cases of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. And I say this because more than unfortunately, perfectly this is a practice as you know, that many countries engage in and one that we are resolutely um working to end and I’ll come back to that in a minute. But we have two objectives. Want to see those who are wrongfully detained, be released and be able to return home at the same time. It’s important that we work to reinforce the global norm against these arbitrary detentions against what is truly a horrific practice. So we’re working conservatively on both. Um we demonstrated with Trevor Reid came home a few months ago that the president is prepared to make tough decisions if it means the safe return of Americans at the same time. We are working with partners around the world to use all of the relevant tools at our disposal, including some recently an executive order that the president released to respond to and impose costs on those who engage in this practice. And I believe we can actually fulfill both imperatives and let me just say this as well. Um I think you can expect to hear me in the weeks and months ahead, speak more to the efforts that we’re making to reinforce this global norm against arbitrary detention tour countries from doing this in the first place. No, I’m sorry, I apologize. I didn’t get to the second question. Look, Andrea it was incredibly powerful when we were in Bali a few weeks ago at the G 20 to see foreign ministers from around the world, demand that Russia and its blockade of Odessa and of the grain That has been blocked in Ukraine for six months, more than 20 million tons. Ah And Minister after Minister did this from countries around the world geographically, to such an extent that Foreign Minister Lavrov decided not to return The rest of the session that the 20 foreign ministers were holding. And then I think the steps that we’ve seen Russia take in at least agreeing on paper to allow Brain to leave Ukraine is in response to the pressure that Russia is feeling not just from us, Not just from G7 countries or even G20 countries, but from countries around the world, we’re saying whatever they think about anything else, and this blockade, allow the grain to leave, allow us to feed our people, allow prices to come down what the test, of course now is whether there’s actual implementation of the agreement, that’s what we’re looking at. We’ll see in the coming days whether what Russia signed, it’s serious about whether the grain gets out, that’s what we’re looking toward. The bombings that you saw the other day. Mean, step back for a second, irrespective of what they were aiming at. By what right does Russia have to bomb anything in Ukraine or anything in Odessa or anything in the ports?

None. Zero. Anything it’s doing is to further its efforts to conquer Ukraine, which have and will will will fail. But in the case of grain, specifically what we need to see what we’re looking to. But what the world is looking to more important is whether those ships begin to sail, whether the grain starts to move, we’ll find out in the next few days. Thanks. Happy summer. Mr. Secretary, Happy Wednesday, thank you. Most importantly, Happy birthday to the State Department 233 years. Where’s the cake?

I don’t know. I was expecting you to bring one out. We’ll come back. Thank you. So two things, but I’ll be real brief one when you talk about the substantial proposal, can you I realize you won’t get into the specific details of it. But does it involve Swamp and along the lines of what was done for Trevor because I want to make sure that the proposal that we put forward has a good chance to advance. I’m just not going to get into it, secondly, um for the last couple of months, last six months now, you haven’t been talking about how Russia is isolated internationally. And yet we see Foreign Minister Lavrov jetting off around Africa and the Middle East and President Putin going to Iran and say what you want about him having only going to Iren, they make the case that they’re not isolated and now you’re about to have this conversation. So what does that say about the administration’s efforts to isolate Russia when you are actually now reaching out to them to talk about issues. Matt, in terms of some of the travels that Foreign Minister, for example, is engaged in, what I see is a desperate game of defense to try somehow to justify to the world the actions that Russia has taken, both with its aggression in general against Ukraine, as well as more specifically, this blockade of Ukrainian ports and it’s denying to the world at a critical time the grain wheat, the food that it needs. So they’re doing everything they can to somehow justify what they’re doing at a time when we’re hearing from virtually every corner of the world, an insistence that Russia stopped this blockade and allow the grain to leave. So no doubt Foreign Minister Lavrov will share some interesting views on on the war. Russia’s aggression as well as on grains. For example, one of the things that Russia has been doing is blaming on sanctions. The challenges of getting Russian grain out of Russia when in fact, as everyone knows, and as we make clear repeatedly The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia for its aggression against Ukraine from day one exempted, we exempted food products exempted shipping and insurance necessary to move those out of Russia. So that’s a fabrication. I’m sure it’s one that will be repeated, but it’s one that we will continue to debunk. But what I see and what they’re doing is again, desperately trying to explain fact that a food crisis that has gone from making 100 million people food insecure three years ago to about 160 million people. Food insecure during Covid to now, well over 200 million because of Russia’s blockade of Ukraine sports. Um, this is somehow trying to justify what’s unjustifiable. The only way that Russia can fully address the concerns of the world. Look, the ideal way would be for it to stop the war and the aggression. But short of that, and the blockade, there’s a deal on the table to do that. It’s gonna be much more important than what our Minister Lavrov says on his travels, is what Russia actually does in implementing the agreement. That’s what the world is looking for. English. Um going back to um your discussions with the Russians on the substantial proposal, what’s been the response from them up until this?

Well, I’m not going to characterize it, again, my interest and my focus is on making sure that to the best of our ability we get to get to Yes. And I don’t want I don’t want to qualify. Look, one of the things that happens is this and I mentioned in response to Andrea minute ago we um we’re very focused on getting Brittany and Paul home. Same time, I’m also focused every single day on arbitrarily detained Americans in more than half a dozen countries around the world. We have a team that works on this 24/7 led by Roger Carson’s. This is for me an issue of utmost importance. It’s something that I see as fundamental to my own responsibilities in this job. Looking out for the men and women of this department. Looking out for any American who is arbitrarily detained abroad or otherwise needs our help when they’re overseas. And I say this because this is something where you’re working every single day and most of the time we’re working at quietly behind the scenes. Previous reasons. And I would say just because you don’t see us doing something or you don’t hear us talking about. It doesn’t mean it’s not happening. On the contrary, this is something that bringing people home bringing Brittany home bringing Paul. This is something that we’re focused on 2477 days a week. What exactly let me get a comment on increasing calls to administration. It starts if you ask anybody, they’ll tell you, you know that he’s doing every single day this hotel. Well, if you already have been designated Korea Iran and say we’ll make them look at. So what are we waiting for?

So On this a few things. 1st, ah I’m obligated. The department is obligated to follow the law, um, criterias against which we make this determination are defined by Congress. So that’s what we’re looking at. Um, and our task is to try to take these criteria that Congress has established and compare them against the facts to make sure that the facts in a particular situation actually meet the criteria that are established in law. Um, Meanwhile, as we look at that were aligned with dozens of countries around the world across four continents on most horrible sanctions exporting poles. I think I have ever been loving. We’ve also curtailed international assistance, foreign aid and the costs that have been imposed on Russia by us and by other countries are absolutely in line with the consequences that would follow from a designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. So, the practical effects of what we’re doing are the same More broadly. I would just say this. Um, We methodically ejected Russia from international, from the International Economic Order. Talked about that little earlier. Most favorite nation status and borrowing privileges from International Institute for Financial Institutions gone respected its ability to access his frozen central bank funds to make debt payments. And what you’ve seen is a powerful impact and a growing impact on Russia’s economy and Russia’s economic prospects going forward. So in terms of the impact we’re having is very much in line with anything that the SST designation would enable us. We’re basically doing everything that uh, we would need to do and and want to do. So again, what we’re focused on is making sure that we are meeting the wall criteria set out in the law and making sure we’re having the strong as possible impact. We have time for one final question. Thanks. Um Secretary, I’m wondering, I know you don’t want to get into the details of this proposed deal that you guys have put on the table. But can you detail President Biden’s role in putting that offer to the Russians?

Was he involved, did he sign off?

And then my second question is um with you expected to speak with the Russian foreign Minister in the coming days?

Aren’t the Russians getting exactly what they wanted here and detaining Americans, getting a phone call from the Secretary of State over these detained Americans while this war rages on in Russia, why not continue these conversations quietly?

Instead of in this public way where the Russians get this win of having a conversation with the U. S. Secretary of State?

Thanks. Um, Kylie, in terms of the President, of course, he was not only directly involved, he signs off on any proposal that we make and certainly when it comes to Americans who are being arbitrarily detained abroad, including in this specific case, um, second there is in my mind utility and being clear direct messages to the Russians on key priorities for us. And as I mentioned, these include securing the return home of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. They also include, as I mentioned, and I expect to raise following through on the grain agreement because what we’re seeing and hearing around the world is a desperate need for for food, a desperate need for prices to decrease. And if we can help through our direct diplomacy, urged the Russians to make good on the commitments they’ve made that will help people around the world. And I’m determined to do it. And then, as I mentioned earlier, I think it’s very important now that we see what Russia’s next plan is that is the annexation of more Ukrainian territory that the Russians Foreign Minister Lavrov hear directly from me on behalf of the United States that see what they’re doing, we know what they’re doing and we will never accept it will never be legitimized. There will always be consequences if that’s what they do and that’s what they try to sustain. So we make a judgment in every instance where we think our diplomacy can hopefully advance our interests and values, including direct engagement. We make judgments about when it makes sense to talk about it in public. And as a general proposition, I believe in as much transparency as we possibly can have and sometimes we make judgments that we’re going to keep conversations quiet. So in this instance, I thought it was important to clear that on these issues attention of our American citizens, the food crisis the world is facing because of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the plans that Russia now has to pursue the annexation of Ukrainian territory that our Russian counterparts hear directly from me. Thank you everyone, everyone. Birthday later, 5:50,

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