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Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Jonathan Karl of ABC This Week


QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.  I want to begin with that devastating earthquake this weekend in Morocco.  What is the United States doing to assist in the relief, recovery, search and rescue operation there?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Jon, you’re right; it is devastating.  And we’ve reached out immediately to the Moroccan Government, made very clear to them that we are prepared to assist in any way that we can.  We have the U.S. Agency for International Development, which takes the lead in our efforts, mobilizing, and we’re waiting to hear from the Moroccan Government how we can be of most assistance.  But we’re tracking this very carefully, and our hearts go out to the people of Morocco who suffered this devastating earthquake, and we stand ready to help in any way that we can.

QUESTION:  And I want to turn to your trip.  You were obviously in Ukraine this week.  You went from there to the G20 meeting of world leaders in India.  I noticed that the joint statement coming out of that G20 meeting does not explicitly condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine.  Why is it that you couldn’t get world leaders to agree on a statement calling out Russian – Russia’s aggression, as they’ve done in the past?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, the leaders here all stood up very clearly, including in the statement, for Ukraine’s sovereignty, for its territorial integrity.  I think the statement’s a very strong one.  And what I heard in the room as well makes very clear that virtually every member of the G20 – perhaps minus one – is intent on making sure that there is a just and durable end to this Russian aggression.  And leader after leader in the room made clear that, for the rest of the world too, the consequences of what Russia has done are having a terrible, terrible impact.  Food insecurity around the world – Ukraine had been the breadbasket of the world for so many years.  Russia blockaded its ports after the invasion.  A deal was negotiated to allow grain to get out; Russia recently tore it up.

That was during – while that deal was in force, 30 million tons of grain were getting out of Ukraine, and mostly to developing countries, including countries that are represented here at the G20 – 18 billion loaves of bread.  Now, because of Russia, that’s stopped.  It was very clear in the room, going around the table, that countries are feeling the consequences and want the Russian aggression to stop.  But I think the statement reflects the strong support that virtually every country in the G20 has for Ukraine and its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

QUESTION:  I mean, it doesn’t explicitly condemn Russia’s action, which was done in the previous G20 statement.  But let me move on to your time in Ukraine.  You spent quite a bit of time with President Zelenskyy.  What is your sense?  How does he see this ending?  Does he see himself coming to a negotiating table with the Russians at some point?  How does this end?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first, I found both President Zelenskyy and every Ukrainian that I met – whether it was folks in the government or whether it was many other Ukrainians that we had a chance to engage with over the course of two days – incredibly resilient, incredibly courageous, incredibly resolute.  And ultimately, that’s really what’s at the heart of this and the reason that I remain very confident in Ukraine’s ultimate success, which is that they’re fighting for their country, for their future, for their freedom.  The Russians are not.

And keep in mind Putin has already lost in what he was trying to achieve.  He was trying to erase Ukraine from the map, end its independence, subsume it into Russia.  That has already been a failure.  Now, where exactly this settles, where lines are drawn, that is going to be up to Ukrainians.  But I’ve found a strong determination to continue to work to get their territory back that’s been seized by Russia.

And as to negotiations, Jon, it takes two to tango.

QUESTION:  Sure.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  And thus far, we see no indication that Vladimir Putin has any interest in meaningful diplomacy.  If he does, I think the Ukrainians will be the first to engage, and we’ll be right behind them.  Everyone wants this war to end, but it has to end on just terms and on durable terms that reflect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

QUESTION:  Okay, last question.  We understand that the United States is considering sending those long-range missiles that Ukraine has been asking for for a long time.  These are long-range missiles, 200 miles in range.  Are you okay if those missiles allow Ukraine to attack deep into Russian territory?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Jon, first, you – we have had an ongoing conversation, engagement almost daily with Ukrainians from the very start of the Russian aggression about what they need, when they need it.  And all along, we’ve worked, bringing together dozens of countries, to make sure that they have in hand what they need to defend themselves.  And that’s been a moving picture.  It’s been moving with the conflict itself, from trying to make sure they were defending Kyiv, which they did so successfully early on, to now trying to take back more of their territory in the south and in the east.

And so at any given time, we’re looking – and part of the reason that I was in Ukraine again was to hear directly from President Zelenskyy – he had just been to the front lines – their perspective on how things were going and what it is that they needed to be successful, all of which I report back to my colleagues in Washington.  But I think it’s a mistake to focus on any given system, because what’s so important is for anything that we do and other countries do in support of Ukraine, it’s not only the weapon system itself, it’s are Ukrainians trained on it, are they able to maintain it, can they use it effectively as part of their strategy.  And we are working on that every single day.

In terms of their targeting decisions, it’s their decision, not ours.

QUESTION:  Well, did you bring up —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  As a general matter, we haven’t encouraged or —

QUESTION:  Did you bring up —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’m sorry, say that again?

QUESTION:  We’ve seen an increasing number of attacks on Russian territory by Ukrainian drones, some in Moscow, Rostov-on-Don just a couple of days ago.  Did you bring that up?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  No.

QUESTION:  Are you – are you okay with – I mean, obviously, they’re – it’s their decisions, but is this war now escalating into Russia?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Jon, we haven’t encouraged and we haven’t enabled any use of weapons outside of Ukraine’s territory.  Having said that, let’s take a step back for a second.  Virtually every single day the Russians are attacking indiscriminately throughout the entire country of Ukraine.  Just during the 48 hours that I was there going in, more missiles were launched at civilian targets, including in Kyiv while I was there; a horrific attack on a marketplace, people just going to buy food, civilians, had nothing to do with this war – killed 17 people.  This is the daily life for Ukrainians.  This is what they face every single day.

So they have to make the basic decisions about how they’re going to defend their territory and how they’re working to take back what’s been seized from them.  Our role, the role of dozens of other countries around the world that are supporting them, is to help them do that.  And ultimately, what we all want is an end to this Russian aggression and an end to the aggression that, again, is just and is durable.  That’s what Ukrainians want more than anyone else.  That’s what we’re working toward.

QUESTION:  All right, Mr.  Secretary, thank you for your time.  Safe travels.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, Jon.  Good to be with you.

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