Office of the Spokesperson
MODERATOR: So has to run to a meeting before too long, so let’s go ahead and get started. We’ll do this on background to a senior State Department official. Obviously had a good meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba today, will spend a couple minutes talking about that and the broader dynamics, and take it from there.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yeah. Great. So this was, I think, as you know, the Secretary’s first chance to meet Foreign Minister Kuleba in person. They had spoken on the phone a couple of times. And of course, as the Secretary puts it, their bosses, the two presidents, had a very good phone call just – what, two weeks ago?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think you’re aware that Foreign Minister Kuleba was here for the so-called NUC, the NATO-Ukraine Council meeting, where he joined the perm reps of the 30 allies in discussing the concerns of the situation that we see along Ukraine’s borders and Crimea. The Secretary, as you’ve heard him say before in his engagements in recent days, expressed the grave concerns we have. We know Russia’s capacity and this enormous buildup that they’ve made militarily, and their ability to take aggressive action, but we don’t know their intentions, obviously. I think Kuleba was very clear in the concerns that they see, but also in the – in how pleased he is with the support of NATO, but the broader international community. You’ve seen the G7 statement that was released yesterday —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: — on that. But he noted, Kuleba noted the Russians have been radio jamming, for instance, the deployment of hospitals, and then this – what we’ve talked about before, this kind of media madness, the disinformation, as the Putin regime seems to want to prepare its public opinion for some kind of action against Ukraine. And that’s the sort of unprovoked activity that the Russians have been doing, raising the stakes regularly on that.
So the Secretary expressed again our strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, discussed the phone calls he’s had with colleagues like the French and Germans, and our belief that we are all now operating, as the G7 statement would reflect, from the same basic position and concern in calling for the Russians to de-escalate.
We certainly expressed to Kuleba our appreciation for the restraint that Ukraine has shown in the face of loss of life – I think there have been five Ukrainian soldiers killed in April already – and underscored the importance of the strong message that President Biden has also delivered, and that is that if Russia acts, there will clearly be costs.
It was also clear in the discussion that nobody can see Russia engaging productively in the Normandy process. They stall, they avoid in that (inaudible). That’s why continued discussion has to be to encourage Russia to live up to the ceasefire. And there’s also activity, of course, ongoing in OSCE through the Vienna Document and other mechanisms which Russia has been ignoring again. So I think it was a good opportunity for the two foreign ministers really to compare notes. They agreed to continue their close consultations and also with others.
We, of course, here in Brussels will have an opportunity to see others tomorrow when the Secretary’s at NATO, and just underscored our broad support, reviewed a bit all of the assistance and activities we have supporting Ukraine, not only in the security realm, both with lethal and non-lethal support assistance, but also all the programs we have to support their reform efforts which are so crucial, and the challenges that we all know both from without – the Russian threats – but also from within.
And the Secretary underscored the – what we’ve seen in terms of appreciating President Zelenskyy’s recent actions, if you look back over a number of months, the steps he’s taken against oligarchs, the movements on reforms. There’s still plenty to do there, but that stuff we underscored was so important to Ukraine as well – institutionalization of these reforms. And the foreign minister recognized that as well.
So I think that was really the wrapped-up – so what they talked about. A good, very friendly meeting that lasted about an hour.
QUESTION: You mentioned lethal and nonlethal aid, and you also mentioned potential costs to Russia. Is that what’s in the bucket in terms of costs, providing lethal and nonlethal aid to Ukraine as well as sanctions? Is that what we’re looking at in terms of a response that would be, say, triggered if —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, our –
QUESTION: — if something goes further in terms of aggression —
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Our aid and assistance to Ukraine is already there and ongoing, as you know. And obviously, we have to continue to, say, look at what their needs are, that kind of – the kind of assessments, what else they could use from us.
In terms of Russia, we’ve made very clear – the President has and the Secretary has underscored that – that there is a price to be paid, the kind of sanctions that the Russians have, what we call Crimea sanctions, but a variety of other sanctions from us, from the European Union, and from others globally, because of their earlier actions. We have to understand there’s an additional price to be paid if they take other reckless action, and that’s why we’ve called on them to de-escalate. And to this day, they have given no good explanation of what they’re doing with this enormous and costly buildup to them. So we continue to watch it closely.
QUESTION: And the Secretary said today – he mentioned the Euro-Atlantic institutions, I think at the top of the meeting. So does that mean NATO membership was discussed with Ukraine?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, we didn’t – this meeting didn’t get into that particularly. You know that we stand by the Bucharest Declaration of 2008. But obviously, there is a lot that Ukraine can do with NATO through its Annual National Plan. We did talk a little bit about that through their enhanced operating partnership status. There are a lot of things in terms of training, in terms of types of support that NATO can offer in that regard that Ukraine can take advantage of. And this kind of engagement, consulting and – that they do through the NATO-Ukraine Council I think is also a very positive turn.
And you mentioned Euro-Atlantic institutions. There’s obviously NATO, but also OSCE. We didn’t focus on that as much in this meeting today, but there is a lot of activity going on at OSCE that we’ve been very supportive of as well. There is a meeting tomorrow of – a joint meeting of the Permanent Council and the Forum for Security and Cooperation, which is a sort of extraordinary meeting to discuss this very topic.
QUESTION: , you guys keep talking about how you’re going to impose costs or there will be costs to pay. But I’m still sure not quite – and the foreign minister was talking about how if the Russians do go ahead and do something, that they should know that the cost is going to be too much for them to bear.
But you, meaning the United States, haven’t done anything yet on Russia on the SolarWinds hack, any – on any number of things. So what kind of costs do you think that you can impose, and when? Because there’s been nothing for the interference in the 2020 election, nothing on SolarWinds.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Be patient.
MODERATOR: Stay tuned.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Stay tuned.
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, is this something that could come tomorrow?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It could. I mean, I can’t tell you a timeline for any particular announcements. But certainly – I mean, I think the President and the Secretary have both been clear that they’ve been looking and reviewing that.
QUESTION: All right. And then the other thing is that obviously this was not probably at the top of the agenda, but did Nord Stream 2 come up at all? Because that’s another area where you guys have done nothing.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: It did. It was mentioned, their position on Nord Stream 2 – Ukraine’s – and their concerns about that, and the Secretary reflected the concerns that we have about it too, and what we’ve continued to make clear to the Germans, of course the Russians as well, that we think it’s a bad idea, a damaging project, but there’s also U.S. law involved in terms of reacting to that.
QUESTION: Yeah. You guys haven’t done – but you haven’t done anything on that either. This is my last one —
MODERATOR: Well, that’s not true, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, you’ve repeated the same thing that the Trump administration did and then you basically tried to take credit for it, right? But anyway, my last question on that: Has anyone spoken to the Russians from your side about this yet? Has anyone, like, called up Lavrov or whoever and read the riot act?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: We have had engagements – we’ve demarched the Russians on this through our embassy. I’d have to go back and double check exactly what the —
QUESTION: Okay. But as far – there hasn’t been any —
QUESTION: Can I just get one question in, one more? The – did the Ukrainians ask for anything in the meeting?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Just for our support and continued engagement, and really appreciate the kind of consultation, that this has worked out extremely well – I mean coming here; obviously, the NATO-Ukraine council was its own event at the perm rep level with the foreign minister as their guest, but the Secretary being here, it was a really great opportunity for them to talk, and he was quite grateful for that.
QUESTION: Any specific, like, equipment asks or capabilities?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No, I don’t think – that’d probably be in a different – different channels that they would focus on that.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: See you soon.