December 6, 2022

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Before Their Meeting

13 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

European Commission

PRESIDENT VON DER LEYEN:  So Secretary of State Blinken, dear Tony, a very warm welcome.  I’m very glad to have you again here in Berlaymont.  Your visit to Europe illustrates how very close the cooperation is between the European Union and the United States in response to Putin’s reckless invasion of Ukraine.  And thanks to this coordination, we have together designed, developed, and deployed sanctions in record time, sanctions that demonstrate our determination to make Putin pay a price for his war.

We do not take these measures lightly, but it is clear we need to act.  And with these measures, the central bank cannot use a significant share of its reserves to defend the ruble, now in free fall.  The central bank has had to raise interest rates by 20 percent, stoking inflation.  Significant commercial banks are cut off from global markets and from SWIFT, curtailing their ability to finance the economy.  The stock exchange in Moscow remains closed since the beginning of this week.  One after another, Western companies announced their own measures stopping production, investment, and sales.

The European Union and the U.S. cooperation is at the core of this effective response, and it has pulled together an ever-growing number of countries that apply identical or similar sanctions – our G7 partners, UK, Canada, and Japan, but also countries like Norway, Switzerland, South Korea, Australia, by now over 40 countries partially or completely aligned with our sanctions.  And this is testimony to the determination of the global community to reject this invasion.  One only needs to see the result of this week’s United Nations General Assembly: 141 countries, an overwhelming majority, supported the resolution condemning Russia for its brutal invasion.  Only four countries out of 193 stood by Russia.  It was Belarus, North Korea, Syria, and Eritrea.

President Putin is increasingly isolated in the world community, but in the face of the world’s protests, Putin’s army carries on.  Bombings and missile attacks on civilian targets are intensifying.  Rest assured the European Union and the United States will continue to stand by Ukraine and its courageous people and its steadfast leadership.

The scale of the humanitarian catastrophe that – in Ukraine that is unfolding really worries us.  Europe is seeing destruction and displacement on a scale not seen since the darkest days of the last century.  The European Union, as Ukraine’s neighbor, is sparing no effort.  We’re providing 500 million euros of humanitarian aid immediately, and more will come.  We’re working fast to establish civil protection hubs in Poland, in Slovakia, and in Romania.  And we are also doing everything we can with international organizations and NGOs to set up humanitarian corridors that stretch inside Ukraine.  Desperately needed humanitarian aid must be able to reach all parts of Ukraine and civilians must be allowed to escape cities under siege.

Finally, the European Union has triggered for the first time ever the so-called Temporary Protection Directive.  What is it?  It effectively opens up residency rights for most refugees to live and work in the European Union, to have access to health services or, for example, schools for at least a year.

We know that this conflict is far from over, and to be very clear, we are ready to take further severe measures if Putin does not stop and reverse the war he has unleashed.  We’re determined, we’re united, and it’s a pleasure to have you here, dear Tony.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Madam President, Ursula, thank you.  A short while ago we were meeting with the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, and before that at NATO, and I’ll have more to say about that later.  But with us was – by video was Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister.  And in the course of speaking to us, he showed us some photographs, one of which – which I think has also been in the media – shows a father grieving over his dead child.  Blood is still on the sheet that drapes him.  It’s a reminder that even as we talk about these weighty issues of war and peace, what this is really about is the lives of men, women, children – hundreds, thousands of individual human tragedies inflicted by Vladimir Putin and his war of choice on Ukraine and its people.  And we can’t lose sight of that fact.

It’s also about an assault on some very basic principles that we established together after two world wars to make sure that we wouldn’t see another one, principles that are at the heart of an international system that has a responsibility to preserve peace and security among nations, principles like the notion that one country can’t simply commit acts of aggression on another, changing its borders by force; that one country can’t dictate to another its choices, its decisions, its policies, with whom it will associate; principles like one country can’t exert a sphere of influence to subjugate its neighbors to its will – each principle now under assault by the aggression against Ukraine committed by President Putin and Russia.

If we allow those principles to be violated with impunity, then we’re opening a Pandora’s box in every corner of the world for this to happen again and again and again, and the peace and security – with all of the deficiencies that we’ve known over the last 80 years, but nonetheless peace and security that we’ve been able to establish – that will be gone.  So the stakes here are very real.  They’re about real lives, real people, real human beings, and they are about large principles that we have to defend.

And we are.  And we are in no small measure because of the extraordinary work that we’ve been able to do together, the United States and the European Union.  When President Biden took office, one of the first trips he asked me to make was here to see you, to see the leaders of the European Union, because President Biden was convinced that this partnership between us was really a partnership of first choice, that looking at all of the problems that our citizens face in their daily lives, we would be so much more effective in dealing with those problems, those challenges, and those opportunities together, not alone, not individually.

And over the course of this year in this effort that we’ve taken together to revitalize, to re-energize the partnership between the United States and the European Union, we have done some remarkable things in so many different areas, from climate to COVID to emerging technologies.  But now, now we’re being tested in a moment of crisis, and I think that precisely because we have invested together in this partnership, we’re responding and we’re meeting the test.  As the president said, across so many different areas – the support for Ukraine, the sanctions against Russia, the help being provided to people in distress – we’re standing up together.

But I have to say that as someone who’s watched this over the years, both from Europe and from the United States, I am – it’s hard to find the right word for it, but let me simply say it’s been almost overwhelming to see how quickly, how effectively the European Union has come together and acted in the face of this aggression.  Things that none of us thought were possible weeks ago now are reality because this union is strong, it’s united, and it’s acting, and we’re grateful to have this partnership because it is making a difference.

I think we know something else, and the president alluded to it.  Unfortunately, tragically, horrifically, this may not be over soon.  And so these efforts that we’re making together, we have to sustain them, we have to build upon them.  We have to get to the point together and with, as the president said, so many other countries around the world who are united in their abhorrence of what President Putin has unleashed.  We have to sustain this until it stops, until the war is over, Russian forces leave, the Ukrainian people regain their independence, their sovereignty, their territorial integrity.  We’re committed to doing that.  Thank you.

PRESIDENT VON DER LEYEN:  Thank you very much.

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