Secretary Antony J. Blinken Before Meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: (Via interpreter) Dear State Secretary, colleagues, first and foremost, I would like to extend words of gratitude for your visit and the visit of your team. It sends a very important signal that confirms the leadership support and the leadership positions of the United States, in terms of their support to Ukraine in this war, for our freedom, for democracy, for our nation, for our people, for our territory in this war against the aggressor, the Russian Federation.
And we are grateful for this signal, for the enormous support you are providing on the day-to-day basis, and we’d like to extend words of gratitude to you personally and to the administration of the President Biden, him personally. I would like also to extend words of gratitude to the Congress of the United States for these very constructive steps of support in many directions – the financial support, which is allocated to ensure the stability of Ukrainian economy, as well as further reinforces the capabilities of our armed forces, which are defending the territorial integrity of Ukraine on the battlefield.
These are very important signals saying that United States are with us. And for us it’s a guarantee of the possibility of returning our territories, our lands. And I highly appreciate your arrival, and I’m sure that we can cover many topics today in a more detailed manner.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Mr. President, thank you so very much. It’s wonderful to see you again, to see my friend, Dmytro. We speak on the phone frequently, but it’s even better to see him and you in person. This is my fifth trip to Ukraine in this job, the third since Russia’s invasion, if you count as one trip the occasion when Dmytro and I met on the border very early and we stepped into Ukrainian territory.
But Mr. President, we know this is a pivotal moment. More than six months into Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, as your counter-offensive is now underway and proving effective, that is of course mostly the function of the incredible bravery, resilience of Ukrainians. We see that on the battlefield every day. We are so pleased that we’ve been able to support your efforts and we’ll continue to do so. But fundamentally what this comes down to, the reason for this success, is that this is your homeland, not Russia’s. And it’s as basic as that.
Mr. President, I am pleased to be able to announce, as we did earlier today, additional support for Ukraine, another $675 million in assistance and supplies that your military is already using to such great effect – rockets, artillery, armed vehicles, anti-tank systems, and more. This is the 20th drawdown, as we call it, and that brings our total commitment in security assistance to Ukraine since February to $13.5 billion.
We also notified our Congress of our intent to provide Ukraine with an additional $1 billion in what we call foreign military financing. This is for longer-term acquisitions of systems. We are also providing $1 billion, additional dollars, of financing for our European allies and partners, who’ve been doing so much to support Ukraine. This will allow the purchase of systems that you need, and others will need, over the longer term to deter and defend against any future aggressions from Russia. It will be the kind of assistance that is durable and enduring, as the prime minister and I discussed. I’m looking forward to an opportunity to hear about the counteroffensive, which is part and parcel of putting you, putting Ukraine, in the strongest possible position both on the battlefield and in the event there is a future opportunity for diplomacy.
Another key aspect of this is the massive cost and the massive consequences that Moscow is being subjected to as a result of its aggression. And I think it’s important to continue to emphasize that because what we see is costs on Russia that are already extraordinary and they’re going to get heavier and heavier. We see its GDP in freefall, anywhere between 9 and 15 percent this year; an exodus of more than 1,000 international companies from Russia, a brain drain of the most talented people from Russia; a huge decline in their imports so that they are unable to replace the weapons that they are using. They are unable to produce the products for their own people that they’ve expected in the past. They’re unable to make the things that they used to export to other countries, and their markets will dry out as a result. And they’re unable to borrow money against their sovereign debt.
So it’s gotten to a point where Moscow is now seeking military assistance from North Korea and Iran as we have systematically choked off their access to inputs elsewhere, and we will continue to exert that pressure until the aggression ceases and Ukraine is fully sovereign and independent.
Across all of these measures, our support – the pressure on Russia, the humanitarian and economic assistance – I think together we’ve proven very effective, and we will keep (inaudible). You have our word and our track record. I should also add this: The rest of the world, of course, has felt the consequences of Russia’s aggression. And one of the consequences has been an increase in food insecurity that was already severe because of climate change and because of COVID. Russia’s aggression added to that problem.
The agreement that was reached that lifted the blockade by Russia on Odesa has already resulted in 100 ships bringing grain and food products to the world, and most of that has gone to what we call the Global South – countries in Africa and elsewhere who are the most in need. President Putin’s threat to discontinue that agreement I think will deeply anger and upset the countries that are benefiting now from Ukraine’s right to export its own food.
Very quickly, Mr. President, in April I pledged that we would reopen our mission at the first possible opportunity. Today, joined by Ambassador Brink, I spent some time with our team at the embassy. It was very meaningful to me to see the American flag flying over the United States embassy. We are committed to it, and I’m glad we did it.
Secretary of Defense Austin and I also promised that we will continue to provide security assistance at the president’s request, and as I mentioned, we’ve since provided billions of dollars. Today, the Secretary of Defense Austin is in Ramstein, Germany where he has been working and coordinating with countries around the world in providing assistance to Ukraine.
I said we’d continue to step up with economic assistance. Since April, we’ve provided about $7.5 billion in economic support that goes directly to your (inaudible), including support for 600,000 teachers, and the school year has now started. And so for your future, for our future together, this is so important. We’ll continue to be there for you.
Finally, Mr. President, I visited a children’s hospital today, and that made very real the costs (inaudible) that you’re suffering, but also what’s at stake – quite literally the future of the country, as represented by those children who are victims of Russian aggression. Their bravery, their courage is incredibly inspiring. It’s clear, Mr. President, that Ukrainians both young and old have extraordinary resolve. So does the United States.