Thank you very much and thank you for giving me this opportunity today. Much appreciated, Madam President. I feel that I must make four critical points.
First, I want to be clear that the conflict that is being suffered by the Ukrainian people is not about the Russian Federation versus the West. One hundred and forty countries, just last week, spoke in support of ending this conflict and the need to end this humanitarian crisis. A hundred and forty-one countries supported the initial resolution in the UN General Assembly, to say that this invasion by Russia should stop.
So, with all due respect, Mr. Ambassador, this is not about Russia versus the West. This is about the support of the UN Charter and the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the right of all countries – all countries – to choose their political orientation and their foreign policy.
Second, I myself was engaged directly with Russian counterparts to find a peaceful way forward to meet the concerns of the Russian Federation. I sat opposite Russian counterparts and put on the table many options to address the concerns. We provided, as does NATO, a paper of very specific ways in which we could address, reciprocally and mutually, security concerns. President Putin chose an invasion, not diplomacy.
Third, with all due respect, Mr. Ambassador, as a Jewish American, I cannot help but say this is not about Nazis in Ukraine. Last week, former U.S. Secretary of State, and former Permanent Representative to this Council, and one of my most cherished personal friends, Madeleine Albright died. She loved representing the United States here. She would have been outraged by the words of the Russian Federation today.
Later in her life, she learned that her parents raised her as Catholic to protect her from the Nazis because her family was Jewish. She learned that three of her grandparents died at the hands of the Nazis, while in concentration camps. She knew that the Jewish President of Ukraine was certainly not a Nazi. And that the citizens of Ukraine being slaughtered and starving, and without food and medicine, and the subject of this humanitarian dialogue today, are not and never were Nazis.
And finally, this dialogue today is about the humanitarian needs of Ukrainian civilians and humanitarian needs of people around the world, who as David Beasley said so eloquently, “feeding hungry children, to feeding starving children.” It’s about, as he said, “going from a breadbasket to a breadline.”
We must all do whatever we can, of course, to stop war. But there is an easy choice here. And it is a choice that can be made today in Istanbul, by President Putin, and that is to stop the war. So let us all, over 140 countries around the world, continue to stand with Ukraine.
QUESTION: Joining us now live, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. Madam Secretary, welcome to Fox News Sunday.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Good to be with you, Bret.
QUESTION: Want to obviously talk a lot about Ukraine, but I want to start where I left off there with General Keane, and that is these 12 ballistic missiles fired on the U.S. consulate in Erbil, Iraq from inside Iran. Just in the past few minutes, Iran is now claiming responsibility for that attack. What is the reaction to that, and is there going to be a response?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: This was a very concerning attack, as General Keane pointed out. Indeed, we do not believe that the consulate was actually the target of this missile attack. We are very glad that our facilities are secure, that everybody’s accounted for, that no one has been hurt or killed. But all of that said, this is great concern. There will indeed be a statement, I’m sure, coming out shortly, as well as calls in. This was an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty, among other things, and of great concern to all of us.
QUESTION: Obviously —
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: We will be following this closely.
QUESTION: We have U.S. personnel there who work and live there, and as you mentioned, no casualties as of yet that we’ve heard of. But at the same time, the U.S. is closing in on this nuclear deal with Iran. Is that true? Is it close?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, I think it’s close, and we would like all of the parties – including Russia, which has indicated it’s got some concerns – to bring this to a close. We are very concerned about what Iran is doing, but imagine these Iranians with a nuclear weapon. We need to get that off the table so we can address their malign behavior in the Middle East, and we will do all of the above, but first we’ve got to get this deal. And it is not yet closed.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you can understand the disconnect for the average American watching this happening. As we’re sitting at a table not only with the Iranians but the Russians in Vienna, we are getting fired upon by Iran. You’re saying the target wasn’t the U.S. consulate, but that’s where it ended up. Help people get – square this circle, because it doesn’t seem like a lot of people think that we should be doing that.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: It’s hard to understand, I appreciate that, but here’s the deal: If Iran has a nuclear weapon, its ability to project power into the Middle East and to deter us, our allies and partners, is enormous. So President Biden believes very strongly, as does Secretary Blinken, as do I, that we need to make sure that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon, and then we also need to deal with their malign behavior in the region. But first we’ve got to make sure that they cannot obtain a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: Right. I just have two more quick questions.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Sure.
QUESTION: You think that this deal is as good as the 2015 deal? You were a part of that as well.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think we don’t know yet. It is not closed; it is not finished. We are urging all parties to do what they need to, and there’s a lot of onus on Iran to decide whether in fact it wants to move forward or not, come into compliance and ensure that Iran never has a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: Right. And regardless of whether the deal is reached or not, is there a plan to deal with Iran’s regional behavior, proxies, terrorism, fighting, these missiles, drones, whether there’s a deal with removing sanctions or not?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Absolutely, very high priority, working with our partners and allies in the region to do exactly that.
QUESTION: Okay, and last thing. There is reporting that two Iranians belonging to the Qods Force have been plotting to assassinate former National Security Advisor John Bolton according to the Justice Department. And this is The Washington Examiner reporting that the department possess indictable evidence against the Iranians, but the Biden administration resisting publicly indicting the men for fear that it could derail their drive for the nuclear deal with Iran currently nearing completion in Vienna. Do you know that to be true?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: What I know to be true is that we have a responsibility to protect American citizens from harm. We do that every single day, and that is true of all present and past American officials, and that is our highest priority.
QUESTION: But nothing is being held back?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Nothing is being held back. We are going to protect Americans wherever they are however we can.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, now to Ukraine. These new strikes overnight in the west, just miles from the Polish border, the death toll now at 35, 135 wounded there. Nothing NATO or the U.S. has done so far has stopped Vladimir Putin. How does this end?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, right now it looks like it ends very badly already for the Ukrainian people. I think we all spend every day just horrified at the suffering of the American* people. As your reporter on the ground discussed, it is just awful, particularly in Mariupol, where people are either going to starve to death or freeze to death or die because they don’t have their medicine. It is truly horrifying.
There are two objectives that we have. One is to support Ukraine in every way we can, and indeed, since the Biden administration began, we have put $1.2 billion forward in security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself against this horrible attack. And the second is to put enormous pressure on Vladimir Putin to try to change his calculus, to end this war, to get a ceasefire in the first instance, to get humanitarian corridors, and to end this invasion. That pressure is beginning to have some effect. We are seeing some signs of a willingness to have real, serious negotiations. But I have to say, as your reporter said, so far it appears that Vladimir Putin is intent on destroying Ukraine. We need to help Ukrainians in every way we can.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, everyone is wary of World War III. President Biden mentioned that the other day. But on Capitol Hill, there are now more and more lawmakers seeming to say that they’re tired of giving Putin the upper hand here, at least publicly. Here’s Senator Mitt Romney:
SENATOR ROMNEY: “President Putin has actually said the things we’re doing are provocative. He’s already said that the sanctions we’ve put in place are like declaring war. He’s going to continue saying that, and we are fearful of provoking him. It’s time for him to be fearful of us.”
QUESTION: So is there a way to flip the script here?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think we’ve already started to flip that script, Bret. I think that $1.2 billion in security assistance – anti-tank, anti-armor, anti-aircraft – is really helping Ukraine to resist the onslaught of what your reporter said is a army of Russia where Putin very badly miscalculated how this war would go. It is nonetheless horrifying for the Ukrainian people, and so we want to support them in every way we possibly can. And we want to support everyone’s efforts coordinated with the United States to try to mediate and end this terrible, terrible situation.
QUESTION: You’re saying support them in every way, but the MiG-29 situation – these jets from Poland – really seemed to be a mixed message. Republicans are now talking about that openly, criticizing the administration. Here’s Senator Tom Cotton; take a listen.
SENATOR COTTON: “They’re saying on the one hand Ukraine is not effectively using its current aircraft and can’t effectively use this aircraft, so the gains would be very small. But on the other hand, Vladimir Putin is going to view this as such an escalation that he might strike the United States or strike NATO. Both of those things can’t be true.”
SENATOR GRAHAM: “The Ukrainians don’t need applause; they need jets.”
SENATOR ROMNEY: “They want MiGs; get them the MiGs.”
QUESTION: (Inaudible) say – if the Ukrainians say they do want these MiGs, whether we assess that they’re good or not for the battlefield, why not get them that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: So look, if I were President Zelenskyy, I would want everything and anything I could possibly get, so I understand this. The Pentagon, however, made an assessment that trying to move these planes was very complicated, that backfilling them was virtually impossible, that what Ukrainians really needed were anti-aircraft, anti-tank, and anti-armor weapons, which is what we are supplying them in great measure and coordinating with other countries to do the same. So I understand the frustration.
And one of the things I think has been really terrific in this horrifying situation is there has been bipartisan support for Ukraine. I’m really grateful that Congress recently passed the legislation – provide an additional $200 million dollars in drawdown that Secretary Blinken signed out yesterday. So this is a bipartisan effort. At the Munich Security Conference, there was a strong bipartisan delegation in support of Ukraine. And there is that kind of support on Capitol Hill, which I think sends an important signal not only to Ukraine, but to Putin that he can’t divide America, he can’t divide NATO, he can’t divide Europe, he can’t divide the world. A hundred and forty-one countries signed up to a resolution at the UN General Assembly denouncing what Vladimir Putin is doing. This is one man’s choice to wage a premeditated, unjust, unprovoked war against a sovereign country. We can’t let it stand.
QUESTION: Quickly, has the Russia-China relationship suffered or strengthened as a result of this invasion?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think that’s an open question yet, Bret, to be perfectly honest. We saw Russia and China come closer together, certainly before the Olympics, putting out a long manifesto about their partnership and how they were going to move forward together. And at the same time, we’ve seen China pretty uncomfortable with an invasion of a sovereign country. China has – the People’s Republic of China has often said that sovereignty is key, territorial integrity is key, that countries should decide their own political future. We agree with those principles. We hope that China does as well.
In two weeks – in two weeks – Vladimir Putin undid 30 years of economic development. There was an international order that China and Russia both subscribed to that helped – both countries developed. For Russia, that is now gone. We’re seeing them be taken out of every organization. The President’s going to move forward with the Congress on removing them from most-favored nation status at the WTO, the World Trade Organization. I think the PRC is watching very closely, has to make some tough decisions.
QUESTION: But yet they’re sounding very bold, Madam Secretary. Just yesterday, China warned that any country supporting Taiwan militarily would face, quote, “the worst consequences,” adding no one, no force would be able to stop the Communist Party if it attacks Taiwan. That does not sound positive. So the last question I have for you: Has Russia’s invasion changed China’s calculus when it comes to Taiwan?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: I hope that China is looking very carefully at what’s happening. We have a united world with very grave and very consequential sanctions on Russia. We understand and support a “one China” policy, but we don’t believe that China, PRC, ought to take Taiwan by force, and we will do everything we can to deter that effort by the PRC. And I think they’re watching very closely. In fact, I think they made that statement, Bret, because they’ve seen what’s happened and they’re trying to go on the offense knowing that they ought to be on the defense.
QUESTION: Secretary Sherman, thank you. Thanks for your time this weekend.
Good afternoon. It is wonderful to back in Algiers for my first visit as Deputy Secretary of State. And I’m so delighted to be standing here with your Foreign Minister and our Ambassador .
I want to sincerely thank President Tebboune for his hospitality and warm welcome. We just concluded a very productive meeting.
The President shared with me his plans to create more jobs and diversify Algeria’s economy into strategic sectors, including agribusiness, information communications technology, and clean energy.
These are areas where U.S. businesses can work closely with Algeria. For instance, just last week a delegation of U.S. small businesses in wind energy, wastewater treatment, and oil services visited Algeria.
The United States and Algeria both want to increase trade and economic cooperation with each other. We are thrilled and honored that the President plans to visit the U.S. pavilion during the Algiers International Fair this June, where the United States will be the country of honor.
We also discussed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s—in my words—premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified war of choice against Ukraine, and how President Putin’s actions violate the principles of the UN Charter.
Our meeting also covered some important regional issues, and I look forward to continuing the discussion I also had with the Foreign Minister earlier today.
The United States and Algeria agree that regional stability is key to a peaceful and prosperous future for the entire Sahel. Both of our countries are concerned about the destabilizing presence of foreign forces and are working together to counter violent extremist groups.
I also reaffirmed the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to human rights, including media freedom and religious freedom.
The United States’ relationship with Algeria is broad and deep, and we look forward to continuing to further deepen our cooperation on jobs and economic development, clean energy, security, and other areas.
Once again, I was honored by my time with your President, and for his gracious—and for the Foreign Minister’s gracious—hospitality today. We are thrilled that we have sent you one of our very best to be Ambassador here, and I know she will carry on the conversations we started today to further deepen our relationship.
What a perfect way to celebrate International Women’s Day—to be with all of you. In the first instance, I just want to applaud all of you for what you are doing.
It is such a pleasure to be here with such a fabulous, accomplished group of women in celebration of International Women’s Day.
I want to begin by congratulating the Association of Moroccan Women Entrepreneurs, and particularly your President—and pardon me, as I will undoubtedly mispronounce someone’s name—but thank you, Leila , very much, for organizing such a wonderful program today.
I had the pleasure of meeting Leila’s mother Farida, as she was introduced, as well, earlier today—and thank you for doing this program in English for me this evening, I appreciate it. I know how proud Farida is of this amazing event and all Leila’s work advancing women’s entrepreneurship here in Morocco. I told her that I always think of my mother on this day because this was her birthday. And she was a woman entrepreneur in real estate.
So it is a pleasure to share the stage with Morocco’s Minister of Solidarity, Social Integration, and Family. Aawatif , it is wonderful to be with you. As I said to you, I would love to have the title of Minister of Social Solidarity. What a wonderful thing to bring everybody together. So thank you, very much.
Thank you as well to Casablanca Regional Wali Said—now I’m going to not get this right—Ahmidouch, Head of the Casablanca-Settat Regional Council Maazouz Abdellatif. I know that Casablanca’s first woman mayor wasn’t able to join us, but I know she has given her support to today’s event, and we are grateful for everything she does every day to empower Moroccan women every.
I want to echo something that Secretary Tony Blinken said earlier today in Estonia—which is for all of us, on this International Women’s Day, I for one, and I’m sure all of you, are giving a thought to the women of Ukraine.
More than 1.7 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, have fled the war that Vladimir Putin unleashed on their country—often leaving their husbands behind to fight. Ukrainian women are giving birth in subway stations turned bomb shelters. They are caring for children with cancer in the basements of hospitals as they hide from missiles. They are taking up arms alongside Ukraine’s men to fight for their democracy and defend their homeland. The women of Ukraine, like all of you, embody the strength, resilience, and dauntless courage of women everywhere—and our hearts are with them today and every day.
International Women’s Day provides us with an annual opportunity to recognize the achievements of women and girls around the world—like all of you amazing entrepreneurs that are here today.
And it also gives us a chance to recommit to advancing the rights of women and girls—in our own countries, and around the world.
We have decades of evidence that when women and girls can participate fully and equally in education, in business, in government, in civil society—in every sphere of public life—then countries are more secure, more peaceful, and more prosperous.
When women are fully able to participate in their societies, we see stronger and more inclusive economic growth—the kind of growth that lifts up poor families and middle-class families alike. We see improvements in security, justice, and the rule of law.
And when women are at the table where decisions are made, we even see improvements in global peace and stability. When women participate in peace negotiations, the resulting peace deals are 35 percent more likely to last 15 years or longer. When the number of women in a national legislature increases by just five percent, that nation also becomes five times more likely to resort to peace to resolve international disputes.
That is why the United States is committed to advancing the rights of women and girls around the world, and to integrating gender equity and equality across all our foreign and domestic policy. We simply cannot build the world we want to see without the full and equal participation, rights, and dignity of women and girls everywhere.
Supporting women entrepreneurs is one of the best tools we have for advancing equality for women and girls. That’s because entrepreneurship equals financial empowerment and financial freedom. When women can start and grow their own businesses, they are less likely to be financially dependent on others in their lives—and that has all kinds of secondary effects.
Financial autonomy for women means less poverty for women and families. It means women have more power to influence decisions in their communities. It means greater recognition across society for women’s capabilities, our leadership, and our humanity.
Morocco has made important strides in recent decades to support women’s rights. In 2004, Morocco’s new family code made significant reforms to advance equality for women and girls. Thanks to the tireless work of women’s rights activists across Morocco, the 2011 revision to the Moroccan constitution recognized that men and women enjoy equal rights. And in 2018, Morocco adopted legislation criminalizing violence against women.
Despite this progress, however, the percentage of Moroccan women in the labor force remains quite low, one of the lowest in the world—and it’s actually lower than it was two decades ago.
Morocco’s New Development Model—a priority of King Mohammed VI—has put increasing women’s participation in the economy at the forefront of Morocco’s strategy for economic growth. The United States wants to support Morocco to reach its goal of increasing women’s participation in the workforce to 45 percent in 2035, up from 22 percent today. We are proud to be a partner to Morocco and Moroccan women in advancing women’s economic opportunity and supporting women entrepreneurs, including through the State Department’s POWER program.
POWER convenes women business leaders and entrepreneurs, in the United States and around the world, to help women develop their professional networks—as you all are doing here today—identify market opportunities, and break down barriers that hold women back economically. I am very glad that the State Department, led by our CDA David Greene, who is here with us today, and our mission here in Morocco were able to leverage the POWER program to support today’s event.
In spite of the progress we’ve made in advancing women’s rights—here in Morocco, at home in the United States, and elsewhere around the world—we have to be humble and acknowledge that there is more work to do. Not a single country has achieved gender equality—including the United States.
As you were told, I am the first woman to serve as Deputy Secretary of State. That took until 2021. I was the first woman to serve as the Undersecretary for Political Affairs. That took until 2011. It is, frankly, crazy that it took so long—but it did.
Now, there are some benefits to having this silver hair that I have. And one of the benefits is that I don’t have to worry quite so much about what people think about me. So if I walk into a meeting or a briefing and I’m the only woman in the room, which happens rather frequently, whether I’m visiting one of our embassies or meeting with a foreign delegation, I say something about it. Sometimes people take it on board, sometimes they dismiss it, often they’re sort of uncomfortable—but I always say something. Because if I don’t, who will?
When I served under President Obama, the top three positions on the National Security Council were all held by women. But men’s voices were still heard differently. In so many meetings, we’d go around the table, and a man would repeat a point one of the women had already made—without acknowledging it. You all have probably had that experience occasionally.
So my colleagues and I started speaking up when this happened. We’d say things like, “I’m so glad you agree with what Lisa just said.”
Now, I don’t know if the men always noticed. But it felt good to have each other’s back. We learned, in other words, that we women were all better off if we stuck together and reinforced and supported each other.
Throughout my career, I’ve benefited from having women mentors and colleagues who I could turn to if I needed to gut-check my reaction to something, to talk through a strategy, or sometimes just to vent, just to complain. Building a network of supportive colleagues is especially helpful when you’re in the minority in your field, in your organization, or in your field of study.
And building your support system is key for preventing burnout. That’s what you all are doing today. Helping each other out. Because let’s face it—it’s often just really hard to be the first, or one of the first, to do what you’re doing. If you can’t look around and see people who look like you in similar positions, it may be hard to imagine how you can get there yourself.
That’s why events like this one today are so important. By coming together as a community, you’re forging the kinds of networks, partnerships, and friendships that will help you achieve your goals and provide an example to younger women who wonder if they can do what you have already done.
We need each other to get through the hard times—to cheer each other’s accomplishments in the good times—and to make connections, suggest resources, and even just to offer a sympathetic ear during all the times in between.
The future is really bright for women entrepreneurs here in Morocco and around the world. So my appeal to you today, very much what this organization is all about, is: don’t stop chasing your goals, your ambitions, your dreams, and your power as leaders. And keep supporting each other. Because we have to stick together.
Thank you again for having me, and happy International Women’s Day.
It’s wonderful to be back in Morocco for my first visit as Deputy Secretary of State, and on this day of International Women’s Day, as the Minister said, I am the first woman Deputy Secretary of State. And I trust that Morocco will do it faster than we did, since it took me getting white hair to be the first woman.
I also want to give a shoutout to all the women in Morocco, who are here today and listening, for all that you contribute to your families, to your society, to this great country, and to the men who support you to do so, which I am grateful for in my own case.
I also want to echo the Secretary of State who, earlier today, made a special tribute to the women of Ukraine, so many who have traveled hours after hours to take their children to safety, or who stayed to be able to join the fight. I cannot imagine, as a mother and a grandmother, doing what these women have done. And so, on this International Women’s Day, I want to join the Secretary in paying tribute to them.
I want to begin these formal remarks by thanking Foreign Minister Bourita for his hospitality, and a truly spectacular lunch, and for meeting with me today to convene a new round of the Morocco-U.S. Strategic Dialogue on Regional Political Issues.
The friendship between our countries is the longest unbroken diplomatic relationship in the United States’ history, beginning with the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1787.
Morocco and the United States have strong shared interests in promoting regional peace, security, and prosperity, and the Foreign Minister and I had the chance today to discuss a wide range of priorities in our bilateral relationship.
We discussed our ongoing cooperation to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States is proud to support Morocco’s highly successful vaccination campaign. We have donated 1.5 million Pfizer vaccine doses to Morocco to date through COVAX and have also contributed refrigeration units that can store more than 2 million vaccine doses.
The United States applauds King Mohammed VI’s leadership in advancing an ambitious and far- reaching reform agenda. The Foreign Minister and I discussed our shared commitment to gender equality and promoting the rights of women and girls. I’m very glad to be here in Morocco on International Women’s Day, and am looking forward to traveling to Casablanca later today to speak at a conference of Moroccan women entrepreneurs.
Finally, we discussed our critical partnership in security and defense. Morocco participates in more than 100 military exercises and events with the United States each year. Planning is well underway for African Lion 2022, our largest annual training exercise in Africa, and we are grateful to Morocco for continuing to host this event.
We discussed Morocco’s leadership in maintaining regional peace and security. The United States welcomes the normalization of relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and Israel, and appreciates the steps the two countries are taking as they work toward upgrading their diplomatic liaison offices to full embassies.
On the Western Sahara, the United States and Morocco both strongly support the efforts of Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations’ Secretary General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, and we do so with an open mind to find a resolution that will lead to an enduring and dignified outcome for all parties. We continue to view Morocco’s autonomy plan as serious, credible, and realistic, and a potential approach to satisfy the aspirations of the people of the region.
The United States also welcomes Morocco’s positive role in supporting the UN’s efforts on the political process in Libya and in hosting the inter-Libyan dialogue.
Finally, of course, we discussed the biggest security challenge facing the global community today, and that is President Putin’s premeditated, unjustified, and unprovoked war in Ukraine.
The United States is united with Ukraine, which has done absolutely nothing to threaten Russia. We worked for months with our allies and partners to offer President Putin a diplomatic path to address Russia’s legitimate security concerns in a reciprocal manner.
But President Putin rejected diplomacy and chose instead to launch a massive assault on a sovereign nation. And not only are Ukrainians bearing the consequences of that decision, but the Russian people, with whom we have no fight, are as well.
The United States is coordinating on an ongoing basis with our allies and partners around the world to impose severe costs and consequences on President Putin and his enablers for the unprovoked war on Ukraine.
We call on President Putin to agree to a ceasefire, immediately withdraw his troops from Ukraine, and move the forces he’s built up away from Ukraine’s borders—and, as Morocco has, we call for dialogue to get to peace.
Good morning. It’s wonderful to be here with all of you.
I want to begin by thanking my good friend, State Secretary Angeles Moreno Bau, for hosting us today for the first-ever Spain-U.S. Cybersecurity Seminar.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been less than a year since I was sworn in as Deputy Secretary and Angeles and I began working closely together, given how frequently we have reason to collaborate.
Spain was an extraordinary partner to the United States in the unprecedented effort to evacuate more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan last August, including by enabling the U.S. military to temporarily host thousands of Afghans at Rota and Moron. Angeles was absolutely essential to making that possible.
Now, of course, Angeles and I are in constant communication about Ukraine, and the premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified war of choice that Vladimir Putin has unleashed there.
As a staunch NATO Ally and EU member state, Spain’s leadership is key to the transatlantic effort—really, the global effort—to impose severe, coordinated costs and consequences for President Putin’s war of choice, and to urge an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine.
And, of course, Spain will host the NATO Summit in June—a critical gathering at a critical moment for Europe, for the transatlantic Alliance, and for the entire world.
After so many video conferences and phone calls, it’s a pleasure to be here in Madrid with you, Angeles, for this important and very timely event.
I also want to thank Economy Ministry State Secretary Carme Artigas for joining today’s discussion. Cyber and technology policy issues cut across both foreign and domestic policy in Spain and the United States alike, so we are very fortunate to have both perspectives at the table today.
Thank you as well to Spanish Ambassador-at-large for Cybersecurity Nicolas Pascual de la Parte for proposing today’s event, and for the months of diplomatic and policy spadework to make it happen.
And finally, I want to acknowledge the United States’ exceptional Ambassador to Spain, Julissa Reynoso, for her work and the U.S. Embassy’s support of today’s event.
The digital technology revolution is happening all around us—but too many governments haven’t been keeping pace.
In recent years, we have seen increasingly frequent and sophisticated cyber incidents that violate consumers’ privacy, undermine our businesses’ competitiveness, and even threaten the security of our critical infrastructure.
We have seen more countries using the incredible powers of the Internet not to bring people together, but to suppress people’s freedoms.
We have seen all too painfully how digital technologies can be used as tools of surveillance and disinformation—and even to undermine democratic norms and institutions.
All of those trends mean that the United States has a vested national security interest in making sure the digital revolution benefits the American people and our allies and partners. That this transformation serves to strengthen the rules-based international order, not to undercut it.
For anyone who may have been skeptical that cyber and tech issues are major foreign policy issues for the 21st century, we need only to look at Ukraine and Russia right now.
As Russia moved tens of thousands of troops toward Ukraine’s borders, we also saw one of the largest malicious cyber incidents in Ukraine’s history, targeting government ministries and major banks. We were able to trace that activity to Russian intelligence services. Since 2014, malicious Kremlin-backed cyber activity have repeatedly hit Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, including the power grid and financial system.
That is why the United States has long included cybersecurity capacity-building investments in our security assistance to Ukraine, providing $40 million since 2017 to help grow Ukraine’s IT sector, build resilience, and strengthen the information security environment.
Our NATO Allies and European partners have also made significant contributions to help improve Ukraine’s cybersecurity.
And those investments have concretely helped Ukraine keep their Internet on and information flowing, even in the midst of a brutal Russian invasion.
Since President Putin directed his troops to invade Ukraine, we’ve also seen Russia taking extraordinary steps to crack down on internet freedom in their own country.
The Kremlin first throttled access to certain social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, and then blocked them entirely. They have barred news outlets from using words like “war” and “invasion.”
And President Putin just signed a law threatening up to 15 years in jail for anyone—journalists and ordinary citizens alike—who posts the truth about what Russia is doing in Ukraine.
As this war continues to sow chaos and carnage in Ukraine—and as President Putin becomes increasingly determined to control the Russian people—I fear we can expect to see even more cyberattacks, with implications for Ukraine and beyond, and certainly even more efforts to clamp down on free expression in Russia.
So, today’s Spain-U.S. Cybersecurity Seminar comes at an appropriate moment.
We need to work together to promote a global framework for how nations behave in cyberspace—to promote lasting peace, and prevent further conflict.
We need to hold malicious cyber actors—whether state-sponsored or private—accountable for their actions, because cyberattacks are not victimless crimes.
We need to help other countries build their own capacity to withstand cyberattacks that could damage their security, their economies, and their citizens’ trust.
We need to invest in innovation in the United States, in Spain, and in other likeminded democracies—so the tools and technologies of the future are built to expand opportunity, not diminish freedom.
And we need to defend and promote our values in cyberspace, just as we do in countries and organizations around the world. To uphold human rights and human dignity. To advocate for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. To facilitate the free flow of information between countries and continents.
The Internet and cyber technologies can be incredibly powerful enablers of truth, freedom, trust, and human connection.
We see that every time President Zelenskyy rallies the Ukrainian people with his video posts. Every time an online platform like Airbnb is used to help find housing for a family seeking refuge. Every time ordinary Ukrainians use Telegram or Twitter to show the world the truth of what President Putin’s war means on the ground.
It’s up to us to build the future of cyberspace and technology that we want to see.
At the State Department, Secretary Blinken has made elevating cyber and emerging technology issues a top priority.
Last year, we held wide-ranging consultations and conversations as part of a comprehensive review of cyberspace and emerging technology policy and organization at the State Department. And we consistently heard a few things.
First, just about everyone recognized that the United States urgently needs to strengthen our international leadership on cybersecurity, emerging technology, and digital policy.
Second, we heard that it isn’t sufficient to only focus on countering cyberattacks, or investing in innovation—we need to integrate our economic policy, our national security policy, and our values into a balanced approach to technology.
And third, we need to advance our diplomatic agenda in collaboration with our allies and partners.
As a result of this work, Secretary Blinken announced last fall that we will create a new Bureau for Cyberspace and Digital Policy and a new Special Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technologies.
Congress recently approved our plans, and we are actively working to stand up these new offices.
We’ll be advancing this agenda technology-by-technology, issue-by-issue, both within the U.S. government as well as with our allies and partners around the world—including, of course, our friends here in Spain.
So thank you again, Angeles, and your colleagues, for organizing today’s events. I know our delegations will have lively and useful discussions throughout the day, with each other and with the business and civil society leaders who will be joining for the afternoon’s sessions. We look forward to continued close collaboration and partnership between the United States and Spain on these issues.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: Good morning or good afternoon to everybody in America or in Europe listening in. Welcome to our YES online conversation, co-hosted with Victor Pinchuk Foundation. YES bridges Ukraine with Europe and the world, and supports Ukraine’s European perspective – Ukraine free, whole, democratic, and fair, and therefore prosperous. This is our dream.
But Russia has amassed soldiers at Ukraine’s border. Kremlin has put striking demands to the West to allay (inaudible) Russian security concerns. Russia said if their demands are not met, it will consider military measures.
It’s wholly understandable that Ukraine feels itself taken as a hostage. What can Europe and the West do to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and also, most importantly, Ukrainians’ freedom to choose their own way?
We are honored to welcome Wendy R. Sherman, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, and the brilliant diplomat who led the most recent talks with the Russian Federation. Madam Deputy Secretary, welcome, and welcome also in the name of my fellow board members Victor Pinchuk, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Carl Bildt, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Stephane Fouks.
The United States play a key role for protecting the principles of international law, and for the right of every nation to choose their own way into the future. Vice (sic) Secretary Sherman, dear Wendy, what can you tell Ukrainians, and Europeans for that matter, today? What is our way forward?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you so much, President Kaljulaid. I love to say Madam President. It’s very exciting. Someday we will be able to say that in the United States. Really did an extraordinary job as president of your country.
Thank you for that warm welcome and for kindly agreeing to serve as our moderator for today’s discussion. I’m really looking forward to our conversation. I also want to thank Yalta European Security (sic), YES, for hosting this virtual event, and to particularly acknowledge your founder, Victor Pinchuk, and the chairman of your board, former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski.
For nearly two decades, YES has been a vitally important forum for building ties between Ukraine, Europe, the United States, and the wider world, and for organizing substantive, timely conversations like this one today.
Last week, Secretary Blinken visited Kyiv, Berlin, and Geneva as the United States continues our efforts with our allies and partners to urge Russia to de-escalate tensions and choose the path of diplomacy. When he was in Berlin, Secretary Blinken gave a speech about what’s at stake because of Russia’s aggression for Ukraine and beyond. If you haven’t already, I encourage you all to read it.
As we speak, Russia is escalating its threat toward Ukraine. Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders in an unprovoked buildup of military force, and has sent additional troops to Belarus, allegedly for large-scale military exercises. Moscow is continuing to use increasingly bellicose and inflammatory rhetoric, and to spread disinformation and propaganda in an obvious effort to paint Ukraine as the aggressor. There is no defensive justification for Russia to amass so many troops in such a short time on Ukraine’s borders. Ukraine poses no threat to Russia.
It bears repeating that it was Russia that invaded Ukraine in 2014 and occupies Crimea to this day. It is Russia that continues to fuel a war in eastern Ukraine that has claimed nearly 14,000 lives and destroyed entire towns. It is Russia and their proxies holding hundreds of Ukrainians as political prisoners, and it is because of Russia’s actions that nearly three million Ukrainians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. While the suffering is most acute in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainians everywhere have felt the effects of Russia’s aggression. Russia has interfered in Ukraine’s elections and tried to undermine Ukraine’s democratic institutions. Russia has blocked energy and commerce, launched cyber attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, and used propaganda and disinformation to sow distrust.
And now, Russia’s actions are caused renewed crisis not only for Ukraine, but for all of Europe, and indeed, as Secretary Blinken said, for the wider world. One country cannot change the borders of another by force, or dictate the terms of another country’s foreign policy, or forbid another country from choosing its own alliances. These are basic tenets of our international system. Without them, we risk returning to a world where might make right – makes right, where larger countries can bully and coerce smaller ones into acting against their own interests or ignoring the will of their own people.
The United States stands with the people of Ukraine and we remain committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Secretary Blinken reinforced that commitment last week when he met in Kyiv with President Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Kuleba. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $5.5 billion in security and non-security assistance to Ukraine, including more than $351 million in assistance to those displaced or impacted by Russia’s aggression.
We are continuing to provide defensive security assistance to Ukraine. President Biden authorized $200 million in security assistance in December and the first shipments began arriving in Kyiv in recent days. Congress recently increased funding for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. And we are working with our NATO Allies, including the Baltic states, to provide diplomatic support and other assistance to Ukraine in this time of crisis.
Even in the past weeks, we have worked hand-in-glove with our Baltic allies to authorize and enable transfers of defensive arms to Ukraine. I especially want to acknowledge the bold position taken by our Baltic allies in making these systems available from their own stockpiles. All of us hope that Ukraine will not need to use these arms, of course, but if it comes to that, Ukraine will be better able to defend itself from further Russian aggression thanks to these efforts.
The United States and our NATO Allies and European partners are fully committed to the principle of nothing about you without you – that is to say, nothing about NATO without NATO, nothing about Europe without Europe, and nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. We have said that plainly to our Russian counterparts in all of the diplomatic engagements we have had in recent weeks as we urge Russia to de-escalate tensions.
Russia claims this crisis is about its national defense, about military exercises, weapon systems, and security agreements. If that’s true, there are concrete and reciprocal steps we can take to increase transparency, reduce risks, improve communication, and advance arms control. We have told the Russians that the United States is prepared to discuss those issues in coordination with our allies and partners if they, the Russians, are ready. On Friday, Secretary Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva to urge Russia to find its way back to the diplomatic path and to work with the United States and our allies and partners in Europe to create a future that can ensure our mutual security. He also made plain, once again, that the United States and our allies and partners are preparing for every eventuality.
We have held more than a hundred consultations with our European allies and partners in the last few weeks alone to ensure we are in complete alignment and that we are speaking with one voice. If Russia further invades Ukraine, there will be significant costs and consequences well beyond what they faced in 2014. The United States and our European allies and partners are working together to prepare coordinated economic measures—measures that would exact a severe, ongoing price for Russia’s economy and financial system—should Russia take that fateful step. You have heard the same message in recent days from German Chancellor Scholz, from the British and French governments, from the G7, NATO, and the European Union—and from President Biden, who held a secure video call with European leaders on Monday. On this, too, we are united.
Before I close, I want to offer one personal reflection. The Ukrainian people chose democracy. In 2013 and 2014, Ukrainians put their bodies and their lives on the line to make it clear to leaders in Kyiv—to leaders in Moscow—and to the entire world that they wanted a free and democratic future. I was serving as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the time, and I visited Kyiv in March 2014. I went to the Maidan, and laid flowers at the makeshift memorial to those who had lost their lives protesting for change. I have a photo of that visit to the Maidan framed in my office, hanging opposite my desk. It reminds me of the incredible things that brave and ordinary people can accomplish when they come together and stand up for what they believe.
That determination, resilience, and vision for a better future is what the Ukrainian people have shown the world time and again. And it is what you are showing the world in this moment of crisis as well.
So thank you again to YES for organizing today’s event. I’m very much looking forward to our discussion. President Kaljulaid, I turn the floor back to you. Thank you.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: Thank you. Thank you, Deputy Secretary, particularly for your reassurances that there will be nothing decided about Ukraine without Ukraine, and for that matter, nothing decided about any other European ally without the consent of these allies. And of course, all this is crystal clear to us, and we’re all taking steps to support Ukraine, help Ukraine. What else could we do to make the message more clear, more believable, to have a really strong deterrent effect for situation worsening further, because indeed, we have been taking all these steps and yet it is the second military build-up at Ukraine’s border in eight months. What is the bigger narrative? You must have got a feeling about the bigger narrative now. What more could we do to make sure that the plans, if they are there to attack Ukraine, will be halted?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, thank you very much, Madam President. I think that it is just fantastic the solidarity in Europe. And speaking of one voice, I must say when I went to the NATO-Russia Council meeting, it was just extraordinary. All 30 countries delivered the same message to the Russians. And so I think we have to use every forum that we have (inaudible) NATO, at OSCE, at the European Union – to speak with is one voice of solidarity: one, that Russia should choose diplomacy. There is no way that Russia, with the largest conventional military in Europe, on the Security Council as a permanent member, an enormous landmass with tremendous energy resources, a country that is one of the two largest nuclear powers in the world, could possibly be threatened by Ukraine, a smaller and still developing country.
And in addition, there is no threat by NATO. NATO is a defensive alliance that is created to create defense and protection for Europe. And it’s interesting, NATO has only once invoked Article Five, which says an attack on one is attack on all, by coming to the defense of the United States in Afghanistan after 9/11. So very defensive alliance, has not taken any offensive action in Europe or elsewhere, no coercion, no subversion. Russia should likewise: no taking of countries by force, changing borders by force, no coercion, no subversion.
So pushing for diplomacy with solidarity in every fora that we have, and secondly, preparing for the worst. That’s why what Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania did in terms of coming to the defensive support of Ukraine is so significant out of their own stockpiles to help out. It is why it is very important that the United States increased our security assistance to Ukraine and other countries – Great Britain, United Kingdom has as well. So helping Ukraine get ready to provide for its own defense, but also getting ready sanctions and export controls and other measures that say to Russia: If you take this action, there will be severe reaction.
In fact, the German Ambassador to the United States, Emily Haber, tweeted this morning: “The U.S. and Germany jointly declared last summer: if Russia uses energy as a weapon or if there is another violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, Russia will have to pay a high price. @Olaf Scholz and @ABaerbock stated clearly: nothing will be off the table, including Nord Stream 2.”
This is a very important message of solidarity, of severe consequences should Russia take this action. President Putin should rethink what he is considering and take a diplomatic course.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: Thank you. It is all very reassuring to hear these messages and also, of course, particularly the readiness of the German Government to – not to operate or allow operation of Nord Stream 2 pipeline in case something further goes wrong. And it’s also very encouraging that there was this mentioning of energy, using energy as a weapon in the Ukrainian context, because one of our listeners has already early on sent in a question about this and asking: If there will be further disturbances in the energy supply in Ukrainian grid, is that also considered an attack on Ukraine? What is the trigger to unleash the promised sanctions also in this context?
This would be very important maybe to understand a little bit better, also maybe for the Russian side. What might actually unleash already the sanctions which obviously have been negotiated and agreed beforehand?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: We are in intensive discussions with European capitals to ensure an energy supply for Europe if indeed Russia uses energy as a weapon. We think about the risks to Europe, but we also have to think about the risks to Russia. They need to sell energy. They need to put it on the market in Europe and get payment for it. They need it for their economy; it’s very critical for their economy.
So this is interdependent. Yesterday a senior U.S. official on this issue said that Moscow needed oil and gas revenue as much as Europe looked to Russia for energy supplies. The energy issue should be looked at as more interdependency rather than pure advantage for Putin. So there is a very complicated calculus here, but we are in deep discussions to ensure in every way possible that Russia cannot use energy as a weapon and that Europe has an assured energy supply.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: Well, indeed. I am very grateful for the reassurance also for the whole Europe, and we all know that we are seeking to diversify rapidly European energy, energy supply. And I do agree, of course, on the co-dependence. And that is part of our worry, actually, that Russia seems to have also provided for the reserves to overcome a certain period of lack of revenue, which is just one layer of the preparations which we are seeing. Indeed, but is it really possible also that if Ukraine, for example, is cut off from the gas and there will be disturbances in its grid, but we will already preemptively before anything else went on, put the sanctions on, or gradually roll them out while – I mean, it is not of course an incursion into Ukrainian territory, but it is an attack, obviously, similarly like we were facing a cyber attack. How do you feel about it? Should we maybe also be very proactive in the first signs because, of course, all this might actually be just a prologue to a next step?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Madam President, I think you make a very good point. We are preparing for all kinds of scenarios – a full-on invasion, any troops. The Secretary of State said this the other day: even one Russian troop further invading Ukraine is a very serious matter, because it breaches all of the principles of international security and says that another country can act with impunity – which has tremendous consequences for Ukraine and Europe, but also sends a message to the entire world that other autocrats can act with such impunity and go past long-held international principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, and an ability of a country to choose its own alliances, its own future. So it’s very, very critical.
But we’re also looking at scenarios of hybrid attacks or subversion or sabotage or coercion. We have to consider all of these and be ready to act to support Ukraine, and to make sure that Russia knows it will face consequences.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: Indeed. Thank you for these reassurances. And we really of course must stress at this point that this is not about starting a war. Actually, the war is ongoing. I have myself flown on helicopter to Kherson and also to eastern Ukraine contact lines and seen with my own eyes how sad this war really is for Ukraine. People have been dying every year while we have not been notably thinking about what is going on in Ukraine. And I think this has been our error. Therefore I really hope and I really wish that day-in, day-out, even if we manage to let’s say have a little bit of a calmer period we can get Russians to the talking table hopefully and so on, so on, that we will never again forget what has been going on Ukraine all this time. Because the war has never stopped. Ukraine is in war since 2014. Our support has been more visible, less visible, but obviously we must have done something wrong, because Russia still seems to think it is for free to continue this war and even to continue putting ultimatums to us.
So are we sure we can, I mean, be also united as we today stand in the future when Russians get behind the table to discuss with us? Are we ready also then to forward the message which obviously will be a disappointment? This is very obvious, that this message which we can only say is that we are not giving up on our right to collectively defend ourselves. We are not going to give up on Ukrainian territorial integrity. We are not accepting that the facts on the ground will be sustainable for the future and Ukraine will not have control over Crimea and eastern Ukraine. What will then, I mean, follow? What is your prediction? What is your prediction, actually? Because basically I don’t see also President Putin saying, okay, well, we tried, they said no. What’s your prediction?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, I don’t know what’s in President Putin’s mind. There’s only one person who knows that, and that’s President Putin. I suspect even the people around him don’t know what he ultimately will do. I think they know the plans of setting up the military to be ready to go and to have plans to make use of the military, but I suspect the president has other plans in mind as well. And I’m not – I have no idea whether he’s made the ultimate decision, but we certainly see every indication that he is going to use military force sometime, perhaps now and middle of February. We all are aware that the Beijing Olympics begin on February 4th, the opening ceremony, and President Putin expects to be there. I think that probably President Xi Jinping would not be ecstatic if Putin chose that moment to invade Ukraine, so that may affect his timing and his thinking.
But Madam President, you eloquently laid out what Russia has already done to Ukraine and so we talk about a further invasion of Ukraine, because indeed, they have illegally attempted an annex of Crimea and they have constantly pressed in the east in the Donbas region and caused enormous hardship and death to Ukrainian citizens already. They have also pressed institutions inside of Ukraine and tried to undermine the democracy of Ukraine. They have posted all kinds of social media posts to try to change how people think.
What’s so extraordinary about what Putin is doing is he does not want Ukraine to ever get into NATO, but his very actions are making the people of Ukraine more anxious to be in NATO, not less anxious to be in NATO. Before Putin illegally annexed Crimea and has tried to hold it, indeed the Ukrainians were mixed about what they wanted their future to be. After those actions in 2014, after – I’m sorry, when that occurred – after the pressing of the eastern region in the way that you so well described, a vast majority of Ukrainians want to be in NATO, are committed to democracy. And albeit Ukraine still has more to do for its democracy its people have chosen its future, and we have to support that vision that Ukrainian citizens have for themselves in every way possible and constantly say that we are here for Ukraine, we want to support Ukraine, we will do nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: Ukrainian people obviously are seeking more and more reassurances and clarification. I have a long list of questions here asking whether Ukraine can procure arms elsewhere than Germany – obviously, of course, if it can, and these possibilities must exist. People are also asking on clarity. For example, will really if there will be an air attack by Russia or in a case of a missile strike, will there be readiness in such a case really help Ukraine, or preventively, can Ukraine get defensive weapons to reduce the threat from the air? This – these are very concrete questions of people who are ready to go and defend their own country asking also will there be support for them in case Russia goes for a full-on incursion and comes finally out that it is part to the Ukrainian war, which it so far of course denies?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: It’s incredibly important to, in fact, do everything we can to support Ukraine to be able to defend itself. As I said earlier, it’s why it’s really extraordinary and very affirmative that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania out of its own stocks have sent defensive weapons to Ukraine. It’s why the United States, the President did an additional in December $200 million for security assistance, and those shipments have already begun to Ukraine so that they have the capability to defend themselves.
It is – President Zelenskyy is in a tough position because he wants his economy to move forward and all of the talk of military strikes and conflict create not the best investment environment. So we have to help in every way we can economically to Ukraine so that they can get through this difficult time. We have to help them prepare militarily in every way we can so that they know they have support going forward.
And I would say to Russia: Whatever you do, know that this is not the Ukraine of years ago. This is Ukraine with a military that is capable; this is a country that’s going to stand up for itself and there will be nothing you do where Ukrainian citizens will not fight for their own future. This – there’s nothing Russia can do that will not cost Russian lives. This is not just about Ukrainian lives. Russia needs to know that Ukraine is ready to defend itself and to defend its future.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: Indeed, Deputy Secretary, I can only confirm your words. I was in Ukraine on their national day. I witnessed the military parade. I saw the determination, I saw the readiness, but also the tears of those who came to be honored, for those people who they had already lost posthumously, to be decorated by the state. And indeed, I do appreciate what President Zelenskyy has been doing in reforming Ukrainian healthcare, starting the land reform, which should have been done already long ago, also trying to fight corruption and make Ukraine a better investment climate. And this, despite being a country at war, show me another country globally in the world who has managed to do that.
So indeed, we have absolutely no excuse in saying that Ukraine should do more itself. Ukraine has been reforming while fighting, and fighting also for our red lines, because I mean, standing up to Russia, which is bullying its neighbors, actually not accepting its own signatures anymore on the international agreements from Helsinki act to Budapest agreement – could we somehow make sure that such a country, such a brave country can be today when it is preparing for maybe a toughest period in its existence yet, that it can go into these days and weeks knowing that we will definitely not give up on Ukraine’s chances of joining NATO one day?
Because it seems so obvious to some that, okay, there has been an agreement, we will one day, but, I mean, things have not been moving forward. What is that to lose to admit that, not in the coming years? We hear sometimes this discussion, journalists are afraid this might happen, and I have to say Ukrainians are also afraid this might happen. That’s one of the most persistent questions which I’m getting from our audience today.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: NATO has affirmed the ambition that Ukraine has to become a NATO member. There is a process; there are requirements. Ukraine is working to show that it is ready for a Membership Action Plan. Hasn’t reached that point yet, but NATO has certainly affirmed the ambition that Ukraine has to join. And I am hopeful for Ukraine’s future. I think, Madam President, you have outlined the work that Presidents Zelenskyy is doing to get rid of corruption, to put land reform in place, to make sure that the institutions of democracy are strong in his country. All of these things are important.
And everything we can do to provide technical assistance and support to help the president move forward is quite important. It is hard to build a democracy. We’re still building ours; we are not a perfect country either. So this is hard work, and so everything we can do to bolster the president in those efforts is incumbent on each of us to do so that they can look ahead to the future that they want.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: I have to ask, even if I’m European myself, what does U.S. see as what Europe could further do to help Ukraine come closer to Europe and also to sustain currently what is going on, and also to alleviate the fear which clearly is coming from Ukraine right now that – are we really united on these sanctions? Are Europeans really serious also on these sanctions? What more could we Europeans do to continue supporting Ukrainians, and also to keep their belief in us high?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, I think we need to not let up on the things that we’re doing: speaking with one voice, ensuring our solidarity on the path to diplomacy, on the principles of international security, and on the future ambitions that countries have to be part of the international community in a variety of ways. I think that besides making sure that Ukraine has the defensive capacity that it will need if Russia takes further action to further invade Ukraine, but also to look at Ukraine’s economic needs and whether and how we can support their economic security during this very volatile time, which makes it very difficult to move forward.
I think we also want to encourage Ukraine on unity. This is a moment inside the country. There are divisions in every country. There is conflict in every country, political conflict. You’ve been president of a country. You understand there are political parties and interests and differences, but this is a moment where Ukrainians need to show that they are united. The fissions and the fractures they may have need to be set aside for another day. Right at this moment, we need a unified Ukraine working with a unified Europe, the United States, and the world community, quite frankly, to say: We are together; Russia, choose diplomacy. Otherwise, in a united fashion, we are ready to impose incredibly severe consequences should you take action to further invade Ukraine.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: What will happen if Russia still misreads what we are all telling today? What will happen on the day two? Do we have a plan ready for that? Again, people are asking: Are the sanctions packages really ready? But I am also thinking that we must be prepared also to support Ukraine already at war if this were to happen, if worst came to worst. Can we give some assurances that even during these difficult phases, we have already plans ongoing to continue support, and what kind of support that might be? People are very curious to know.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, I think NATO is doing a great deal of planning for that. As you heard, we announced yesterday 8,500 troops being put on what we call prepared to deploy. Our contribution to NATO, particularly those countries that are on the eastern flank that would be very, very concerned about what might happen; providing defensive materials to Ukraine, as we have discussed today; making sure that Russia understands that it will pay a price not only in terms of severe sanctions – and I believe those sanction packages absolutely will be ready. An enormous amount of work has gone on with the European Commission, European Union, with other – with capitals in Europe, with the United States. So I believe we will absolutely be ready.
So all of that has to be ready to go: the NATO planning, the support of four countries in Europe that are on the front line so that they feel reassured as well, defensive materials and security assistance, and perhaps economic assistance to Ukraine, which we are looking at and I hope others are as well. And making sure that we are sending messages of reassurance to the Ukrainian people, which you are doing today, Madam President, that we are pushing back against Russian propaganda and disinformation, false flag operations. I have no doubt that Russia is running false flag operations and disinformation and will find a pretext for whatever action they take, may even put in people to say they are Ukrainians creating a conflict and tension for Russia.
So we have to be ready for all of these things and provide support in every way that’s appropriate to ensure that Russia understands the consequences that it will face.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: I think it is very important what you just now said, that we will blow every cover which Russia will try to use to make an excuse saying it didn’t create the facts on the ground. This is extremely important. And also, it’s been very important that you have numerous times underlined that we do not negotiate ultimatums. You cannot negotiate ultimatums. This cannot happen.
And maybe it’s also interesting for you to hear that YES recently conducted a survey in six Western countries – U.S., Canada, UK, Poland, France, and Germany – how the West perceives Ukraine and what the West expects from Ukraine. And there were very strong support of citizens for actually helping Ukraine, supporting Ukraine, holding back Russia and also sanctions against Russia, and indeed even military support. I think this must have changed since 2014.
We are collectively getting it that we cannot actually give in to any kind of bullying like this, so we cannot negotiate ultimatums. We have to indeed put up our deterrence levels considerably to finally make the message pass through that – I mean, this kind of behavior only results in more troops, more exercises, and more action close to Russian borders so that internally, at least, it would be difficult to justify these kind of escalations because it only results in being counterproductive from the internal viewpoint of Russia.
Is that so, Secretary – Deputy Secretary? Could you once more assure our listeners?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, fascinating survey results, very encouraging. Again, a message of solidarity that is so critical here, that Russia knows that it cannot split us one from another, that we are moving together. They are inside of Russia doing extraordinary amounts of propaganda that is just incredible. My understanding is during December, Russian language content escalating tension increased to nearly 3,500 posts per day, a 200 percent increase over November. So inside of Russia, they are working very hard to create these false narratives to say to the Russian people it’s all Ukraine’s fault, when, of course, this crisis has been completely manufactured by Russia; there does not need to be a crisis.
I quite agree with you, Madam President. I said quite clear to – clearly to the Russians, no, you do not get to decide on NATO membership. That is not your decision. It’s up to the members of NATO. No, you do not get to decide that all offensive weapons will leave Europe. No, you do not get to say that we turn back the clock to 1997 and all of the countries that have joined NATO since then have to unjoin. That’s not going to happen.
But if you want to talk about real mutual security issues – arms control, deconfliction, transparency, ways that we can enhance mutual security – we’re on board for having those discussions in the Strategic Stability Dialogue the U.S. has, at the NATO-Russia Council meeting and other NATO institutional formats, and at the OSCE, as well as discussions that are ongoing with the European Union and that are taking place in the Normandy Format in Paris today.
So there are lots of ways to ensure your mutual security, but not by ultimatums, not by threatening Ukraine, not by coercion, not by subversion, and not by invasion.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: We have touched upon this question already, but please allow me one last question before we have to sum up our discussion. And you have been really reassuring. Thank you for that. People are asking, is the U.S. allowing the possibility of any overt or covert concessions on the question of Ukrainian integration into NATO, and which perspective does Ukraine today have to get the membership action plan?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: So we are not deciding anything about Ukraine without Ukraine. It’s just as simple as that. Ukraine has a right to decide its own future, its own foreign policy orientation, its own ambition, and they have decided they want to climb the ladder to NATO membership. It is a hard process; it takes time. There are things that Ukraine is working on that you indicated today in your remarks, Madam President, that will get them to that membership action plan. But it is a long process. It takes a while for any country to join NATO. I’m very glad for the work that Ukraine is doing to be able to walk down that road, climb that ladder, whatever metaphor we want to use.
What I think is important today, as we are coming to the end of this wonderful conversation, is that we all embrace what the people of Ukraine have chosen for themselves. They want a democratic future. They want to be part of an alliance in Europe. We should support them in that ambition in every appropriate way for them to reach a full and robust democracy, and to say to those who would push them in another direction against their will that that is the wrong path. Russia has no right to decide for Ukraine or any other country what its borders will be, what their future will be.
We believe in the sovereignty of Ukraine, the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the right of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people to choose their own future, and we will do everything we can to affirm the vision that Ukrainian citizens have for themselves.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: Thank you. Thank you, Deputy Secretary. It has been reassuring to talk to you, but I’m quite sure that there are still some elements where Ukrainians would actually hope to have further clarity, like MAP and NATO membership, and I think we fully have to accept that it is their right to ask at this critical time. It is uniquely different – difficult situation and circumstances to try to join NATO, yet I think we need to support. Estonia strongly supports NATO’s enlargement, definitely.
Thank you also for reassurances that NATO’s eastern flank actually will be supported by more deterrent measures rather than less deterrent measures, which Russia seems to be seeking. Thank you also for listing what more U.S. is ready to do in order to make sure that Ukraine feels supported while it is standing at this important moment in its history. And also thank you for understanding the difficulties a country has in reforming itself while it is at the same time at war. I am quite sure that our listeners and viewers, they are a little bit reassured – maybe not totally reassured also – about the unity and the unity of our steps to come quickly forward with sanctions, not only in the case of an active conflict but also in all kind of hybrid actions. I think this is also a very valuable statement from you.
So we do feel slightly reassured, but we do stand still waiting for U.S. to continue its daily, twice daily, whatever it takes efforts to convince Russians that we do mean the business of protecting Ukraine, protecting the right of the free world, including NATO, to protect itself, and that truly united we always stand.
Thank you. And if you missed this conversation, only heard part of it but want to relisten, it will be available on yesukraine.org. So you can relisten and also hopefully we will have in the future similar discussions, not in the too distant future, because the situation is at it is and it’s shifting quite quickly. Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you, Madam President, and thank you, YES, for the valuable service you provide and for your support for Ukraine.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: Thank you. We really do have our hopes with you, Deputy Secretary. You are a negotiator and you are a convincing negotiator. We rely on you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you. We rely on each other, Madam President. All of us have to do this together.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you. Bye-bye.
PRESIDENT KALJULAID: Bye. This is the end, and relisten to us on yesukraine.org.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Hi there. Thank you for your patience; greatly appreciate it. So, good afternoon. Thank you for being here. I’m Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state and the host of today’s trilateral. Republic of Korea First Vice Foreign Minister Choi, Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mori, and I just concluded our second constructive trilateral meeting at our level since President Biden took office. We held our first wide-ranging trilateral meeting at the vice ministerial level in Tokyo in July, and it was an honor to welcome my counterparts and friends to Washington today.
I want to note at the outset that, as has been the case for some time, there are some bilateral differences between Japan and the Republic of Korea that are continuing to be resolved, and one of those differences which is unrelated to today’s meeting has led to the change in format for today’s press availability.
Nonetheless, we had a very constructive trilateral meeting today, which demonstrates exactly why the trilateral format with the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea is so important and powerful. America’s deep and enduring relationships with our allies and partners are one of our greatest strengths. For decades, our alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea have been central to promoting peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.
Now we are deepening our trilateral cooperation, collaboration, and partnership to address the most pressing challenges of the 21st century. We are working together to address the climate crisis – investing in clean energy, clean transportation, and resilient infrastructure in our own countries and across the Indo-Pacific – because we know we can go further, faster by acting together.
We are working together to end the COVID-19 pandemic, including by donating millions of vaccine doses bilaterally and through COVAX to third countries in need. And we are working together to build back better from the pandemic in our own countries and around the world, including creating jobs and improving our national security by building more secure and resilient supply chains.
Today’s trilateral meeting was friendly, constructive, substantive, and lasted more than three hours. Vice Foreign Minister Mori, First Vice Foreign Minister Choi, and I covered a wide range of economic, security, and regional issues, including our mutual commitment to advancing our shared democratic values and upholding human rights. We discussed our three countries’ commitment to maintaining an inclusive, free, peaceful, stable, and open Indo-Pacific region, and our opposition to activities that undermine, destabilize, or threaten the rules-based international order. We discussed the importance of respecting international law in the Indo-Pacific, including maintaining freedom of navigation in overflight in the South China Sea and the East Sea, and of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
We reiterated our countries’ support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN-led regional architecture. The United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea all recognize the important economic and security role played by ASEAN nations, including in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, and we are committed to working in partnership with ASEAN.
We also discussed our shared commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. As we have said publicly, the United States does not harbor hostile intent toward the DPRK. We believe that diplomacy and dialogue are essential to achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishing a permanent peace.
I want to thank First Vice Foreign Minister Choi and Vice Foreign Minister Mori again for traveling to Washington for this important trilateral meeting, so we can continue to make progress on these and many other issues. I very much look forward to our third trilateral in the new year.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
MR ICE: For our first question, we’ll go to Nike Ching of Voice of America.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. Madam Deputy Secretary Sherman, South Korean high-ranking officials have said that U.S. and South Korea have reached agreement on end-of-war declaration. Could you please provide more details? Also, do you have anything or is there a plan to break the stalemate and include North Koreans back to the negotiation table?
If I may, the following is on behalf of other coworkers who are not here: At the recent CSIS event, ROK’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choi described China as a strategic partner for the ROK, and he underscored that ROK trade volume with China is larger than ROK’s trade volume with the U.S. and Japan combined. So, question is: Could you please shed some light on what discussions you have with Korean and Japanese officials, regarding dealing with potential crisis in the Taiwan Strait? Would their economic relationship with China prevent them from allying with the United States? Thank you very much.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: So, everyone, I think, is supposed to have one question, and so I don’t want you to set an example that is bad for your colleagues but let me briefly answer you. On the issue around end-of-war statement, I’m very satisfied, the United States is very satisfied with the consultations we are having both with the Republic of Korea and with Japan, and with other allies and partners, on the best way forward to ensure the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And I look forward to those continued consultations.
Regarding the People’s Republic of China, we, of course, discussed all kinds of matters today, including our relationship with the People’s Republic of China. I think you’re all well aware that President Biden just held a virtual meeting with President Xi Jinping of China. And I think that we are all agreed that there are areas in which we are cooperating with the PRC, there are areas where we will compete and compete vigorously, and there are areas where we will challenge the PRC when our interests diverge and when we think there are risks to peace and security, and prosperity for the world. What I think is very important is that the United States, Korea, and Japan are of one mind in our work together to ensure global prosperity, peace, and security for citizens in every country.
MR ICE: For our next question, we’re going to go to Hiroshi Tajima of Yomiuri Shimbun.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: And if – yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. I ask this on behalf of Japanese media. My name is Tajima of the Yomiuri Shimbun. In recent months, North Korea has repeatedly launched missiles, posing a threat to regional security. How do you plan to deal with easing tensions while striving for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, specifically through the lens of cooperation between the U.S., South Korea, and Japan? I’d also like to ask for your thought on South Korea’s proposal of formal declaration of the end of the Korean War. Do you agree or disagree to have the declaration at this timing? Lastly, in light of the virtual U.S.-China summit, I’d like to ask how the three nations plan to cooperate with each other trilaterally on policy toward China, particularly on jointly upholding the rules-based international order. Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: So, there is no question that Japan, South Korea, and the United States all agree that we need to stay compliant with UN Security Council resolutions that impose sanctions on North Korea for launching missiles that it should not. We look at each of these instances. We coordinate and consult with each other and make sure that we are taking the appropriate action. There is no sense whatsoever that we will do anything but apply sanctions, make statements, join with others when North Korea takes actions that violate those resolutions and create risks for our nations and for nations around the world.
On end of war, I’ve already made a statement to one of your journalistic colleagues that we are having good consultations amongst us and with other allies and partners, and we will continue to do so.
And regarding the People’s Republic of China, we have had deep and ongoing coordination and consultation, appreciating that we all have different kinds of relationships. But we are all strong democratic nations that believe in the rule of law. We believe in the rules-based international order, which allowed countries to rise, including China. And so, we believe that the PRC should live by that rules-based international order. And we will continue to work together collectively to keep those rules in place.
MR ICE: And for our last question, we’ll go to Hyun-Young Park of Joongang Ilbo.
QUESTION: Hello, I’m Hyun-Young Park with Joongang Ilbo. I’ll have to ask you – I’ll have to phrase a different question. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said last month that we may have somewhat different perspectives on the precise sequence or timing or conditions for different steps on the end-of-war declaration discussions between U.S. and South Korea. Vice Minister Choi, upon his arrival to D.C. last Sunday, said that he expected a good result from discussions with the U.S. on the end-of-war declaration proposal, in the not-too-distant future. So, we have this different sentiment from both sides.
So, my question is: Did the U.S. and South Korea resolve their somewhat different perspectives on the sequence, timing, or conditions? If so, what would be the background that U.S. came to the conclusion that this is a viable proposition at this point? Will you be announcing something soon?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: So, what I have said and will repeat is that we are having ongoing consultations and coordination with the Republic of – Republic of Korea and Japan and other interested allies and partners. And I think that whenever we all consult and coordinate with each other, we always come out with a good result that ensures the interests of each of our countries and the overall interest of the world in peace and security.
MR ICE: And with that, we have reached the end of our press briefing today. I’d like to thank Deputy Secretary Sherman for being here with us. Thank you so much, ma’am.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you very much. Thank you all and have a good rest of the day. Thank you.
QUESTION: All right, so joining us is Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State, to discuss the situation in Haiti and the surge in Haitian migrants at the U.S. southern border. So, Ambassador, thank you for taking the time. Good to see you again.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Good to see you, too. And Michael, I think everybody listening to this shares all of our concern for the Haitian people and just the very difficult circumstances facing them and their country.
QUESTION: The President’s special envoy to Haiti has resigned, right? And I quote, “I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti.” Do you agree or disagree with that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: Michael, there have been multiple senior-level policy conversations on Haiti where all proposals, including those led by former Special Envoy Foote, were fully considered in a rigorous and transparent policy process. Quite frankly, some of those proposals were harmful to our commitment to the promotion of democracy in Haiti and to free and fair elections in Haiti so the Haitian people can choose their own future. For him to say that the proposals were ignored is, I’m sad to say, simply false.
QUESTION: He also wrote that the U.S. decision to support a political agreement with Ariel Henry continues, in his words, quote, “a cycle of international political interventions in Haiti that has consistently produced catastrophic results.” What’s your response to that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: My response to that is how I began this, which is our interest is that the Haitian people can choose their own future in a free and fair election. We don’t take sides with anyone in terms of that future. That’s a decision for the Haitian people. We, of course, are talking to those who are currently leading the government in Haiti because one needs to in these circumstances, but we are for democracy in Haiti. And one of the ideas that Mr. Foote had was to send U.S. military back to Haiti. I have followed Haiti since the Clinton administration, and I can tell you that sending U.S. military into Haiti is not the answer that will solve the terrible situation that the Haitian people are currently facing. It just was a bad idea.
QUESTION: And who will replace Daniel Foote?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: I don’t know that we need a replacement. In part we had named a special envoy after the assassination of the president of Haiti in the aftermath of the horrible storms and earthquakes and all of the other plights that the Haitian people have had to face – the ongoing confrontation of poverty. But we have an excellent ambassador in Haiti, Michele Sison, who is a nominee for a future post here in the United States. We have tremendous faith in her and in her leadership.
QUESTION: Will the administration stand up a Haiti reconstruction commission, which we understand is under consideration, to aid in the rebuilding of the country after this series of recent crises?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think we’re looking at whatever facility we need to help the Haitian people. We are totally committed to that objective. We have since 2010 – I’m just looking at my notes here – the United States has made multiyear investments of over $5.1 billion in lifesaving humanitarian assistance as well as longer-term recovery, reconstruction, and development programs. Newly confirmed – and thank you United States Senate – Brian Nichols, our assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, will be going to Haiti next week with Juan Gonzalez, who is the senior director at the NSC, to see what is the best way forward here to make sure that we are talking to civil society so that we are hearing from the people of Haiti themselves to try to figure out what that path is. There have been ongoing assistance ever since the earthquake, of course.
QUESTION: Ambassador, a final question. Will the – Special Envoy Foote says the conditions are not in place at the moment for full and fair elections in Haiti this year. Do you agree with that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think that Assistant Secretary Nichols will work with Ambassador Sison and listening to civil society to see what we can do to help make the judgments to get to a free and fair election as soon as possible for the Haitian people. Again, there’s nobody who doesn’t look at what is happening in Haiti – it is gut-wrenching. And we want to do everything we can to help the Haitian people. That’s always been the objective of U.S. foreign policy.
QUESTION: Ambassador, thanks again for your time. Good to see you.
I’m pleased to welcome you all to the 84th meeting of the International Commission of the International Tracing Service.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” the philosopher George Santayana once wrote.
For decades, the International Tracing Service and now the Arolsen Archives have ensured that each generation remembers the history of the Holocaust and of Nazi persecution—and never, never repeats it.
From the earliest days after World War II, as the International Tracing Service brought families back together… to the rise of the internet, which has connected this “paper monument” with people all over the world… the Archives have grown and changed with the times.
Over the last year, the Arolsen Archives have faced unique challenges, as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted programs and made research even more difficult.
I want to recognize the leadership of Cherrie Daniels, the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in chairing the International Commission this year. And I want to thank every nation represented on the International Commission for your commitment to preserving and teaching this history.
You have found innovative ways to tell the stories of the Holocaust, even in the depths of the pandemic.
More than 18,000 volunteers—many of them young people from Germany, the United States, and other countries—have joined the “Every Name Counts” project. They have transcribed more than 3.6 million handwritten documents with the names of people victimized or murdered by the Nazis.
This crowdsourced initiative lets people “put their hands on history,” even from their own homes. It helps expand the reach of the Arolsen Archives. And it keeps each individual victim’s memory alive.
And as travel restrictions are lifted, the “Stolen Memory” project will once again travel to towns and cities across Germany, and also expand to Spain and Russia. This pop-up, interactive exhibit helps make the Holocaust tangible to people, by using personal items to tell the stories of concentration camp inmates and their surviving relatives.
Soon, the United States and Germany will be joining together to fund additional traveling exhibits, telling the stories of millions of Holocaust victims and forced laborers from Eastern Europe.
In recent years, we have seen a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States, in Europe, and elsewhere.
We have seen anti-Semitic tropes and rhetoric spread unchecked via social media and the internet.
And we have seen concerted efforts to try to cast doubt on the very facts of the Holocaust.
All of these trends remind us that the work of the Arolsen Archives is as urgent and important as it has ever been.
And they also remind us that authoritarian actors always try to gain power by sowing division, bigotry, and hatred—and by spreading misinformation and lies.
It is up to all of us to resist those forces—including by preserving, understanding, and speaking the truth about the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities.
Thank you again for all the work that you do, and for your tireless efforts to connect the histories contained in the Arolsen Archives with people all around the world.
I send you my very best wishes for a successful annual meeting.
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