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Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Museum of Art and Culture
November 4, 2022
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, good evening, everyone. We just concluded two very productive days of meetings here in Münster, and I first want to thank very much our German hosts for their incredibly warm hospitality, and also recognize Germany and especially my friend and counterpart, Foreign Minister Baerbock, for her leadership over what has been a very challenging but also very consequential year.
When the G7 foreign ministers met almost a year ago in Liverpool, we sent a clear message that if President Putin invaded Ukraine, we would together impose, and I quote, “massive consequences and severe costs.” President Putin bet that we wouldn’t back up our words with actions. We proved him wrong.
Since February, our nations have led a coalition of dozens of allies and partners in providing substantial security support for Ukraine’s brave defenders as they fight for their territory, for their democracy, and for their people. We’ve imposed unprecedented sanctions and export controls that have directly impacted the Russian military’s ability to wage war. These efforts, coordinated in large part through the G7, have strengthened Ukraine’s battlefield capabilities and weakened Russia’s. They’re also a key reason that Ukraine has momentum in this war.
We’re also working together to impose sanctions on those supporting President Putin’s war. That includes Iran, whose combat drones are killing Ukrainian civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure, and whose personnel in Crimea are assisting Russia in carrying out these brutal attacks.
The G7 is also providing economic and humanitarian support to Ukraine as President Putin tries to make up for Russia’s defeats on the battlefield by targeting civilian infrastructure that provides Ukrainian men, women, children, and elderly people with heat, water, and electricity. Russia has destroyed some 40 percent of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including thermal energy plants that provide many Ukrainian homes, schools, hospitals with heat in the wintertime, when temperatures can drop to 20 degrees below Celsius. President Putin seems to have decided that if he can’t seize Ukraine by force, he will try to freeze it into submission. This is just the latest crime that President Putin is committing against the people of Ukraine. It was not enough to fill mass graves in Bucha and Irpin. It was not enough to cut off food, water, and medicine to the residents of Mariupol. It was not enough to violently uproot tens of thousands of Ukrainians from their homes and deport them to Russia through so-called filtration operations. On top of all of this, President Putin is also fearmongering about nuclear weapons.
As the G7 has done at every step, we’re addressing Russia’s latest escalations together and standing firm with Ukraine. On infrastructure, the G7 agreed to create a new coordination group to help repair, restore, and defend Ukraine’s energy grid – the very grid that President Putin is brutalizing. And we’re focusing more of our security support on helping Ukraine protect against these attacks, strengthening air defenses, and ramping up defense production.
When President Putin claimed that Ukraine was making a so-called dirty bomb at three sites, Ukraine asked the IAEA to investigate. Yesterday, its experts debunked Putin’s false claim. Together with the G7, countries around the world are making clear to President Putin that any use of a nuclear weapon would be catastrophic for him and for Russia.
All our countries are making sacrifices to sustain this critical support, and we’re supporting each other in doing that. On energy, for example, the United States has exported 53 billion cubic meters of liquified natural gas to Europe. That’s nearly two and a half times what we exported in 2021 and will provide our friends with a vital reserve as they head into the winter. Over the last year, the G7 has also come together to meet other global challenges that none of our nations can address alone. We discussed several of these here in Munster, including the unprecedented global food crisis driven by climate change, by COVID, and conflict, including Russia’s war in Ukraine. In June, President Biden and other G7 leaders announced that our countries would invest $4.5 billion in strengthening food security with more than half of that coming from the United States, and we pledged billions more since that time.
We’re grateful for the efforts of the United Nations and Turkey to bring Russia back into the Black Sea Grain Initiative. In just over three months, that initiative has allowed over 10 million tons of grain to leave Ukraine’s ports, helping drive down prices everywhere. Two thirds of the wheat shipped, the primary food for the world’s poor, has gone to developing countries. But the truth is we shouldn’t have to negotiate constantly with President Putin to allow food to get out to the world. That’s why the international community is sending a clear message to Moscow that it should stop using hunger as a bargaining chip, and extend the grain deal long before it expires later this month.
We also discussed relations with China. The G7 stands together in defense of the rules‑based international order so that all nations can choose their path – free from intimidation, coercion, or unfair trade practices. We reaffirmed our abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and our strong opposition to any unilateral changes to the status quo. We all recognize the need to cooperate with China on global challenges, like the climate crisis, which we cannot address without the world’s largest emitter being apart of it, and global health security. But in our discussions here, we were also clear-eyed about the need to align our approach to the PRC in the face of growing coercion and push back together against Beijing’s market distorting policies and practices, which hurt workers and industries in all of our countries.
Iran was also on our agenda. We’re inspired by the courageous young women who continue to protest across the country, almost 50 days since the killing of Mahsa Amini, despite the regime’s vicious crackdown. The next generations of Iranians are demonstrating that their desire to be free, to have opportunity, will not be extinguished even by the fiercest repression. We’re working together to sanction those involved in the crackdown. We’re also working with civil society and tech companies to provide digital services, so the Iranian people can communicate with one another and shine a spotlight on the regime’s repression, even as it tries repeatedly to shut down the internet.
We also discussed the crisis in Haiti, where gangs’ month-long blockade of ports is exacerbating a growing cholera outbreak, food and fuel shortages, and rampant violence. We’re working together to hold these criminals and their patrons accountable through sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council, as well as new sanctions adopted by the United States and Canada that we announced today on two Haitian nationals, Joseph Lambert and Youri Latortue. We’re grateful for Canada’s leadership and focusing the international community on helping the Haitian people find a way forward, and we will continue to support these efforts. That includes building on our joint work to strengthen the Haitian National Police, who I understand have succeeded in retaking the Varreux terminal and port, which is vital for restoring the flow of food and fuel.
In our discussions on the DPRK, the G7 partners strongly condemned the latest escalatory launch of ballistic missiles and the destabilizing effects they’re having in the region.
In addition to focusing on the immediate challenges today, the G7 continues to look over the horizon to how we can build the capacity to anticipate and prevent other crises going forward. African countries are vital partners in building this capacity, from boosting the global supply of renewable energy, to strengthening global health and food security; and our deepening cooperation was a central focus of the G7’s meeting today with leaders from the African Union, Kenya, and Ghana.
The cessation of hostilities signed earlier this week between the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front shows what we can achieve when we support African‑led solutions. We applaud the African Union, the governments of Kenya and South Africa for driving this process. And we appreciated the opportunity for the United States to offer support. The United States commends Prime Minister Abiy and the TPLF leadership for reaching this agreement, and we look forward to its swift implementation, particularly the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid and the protection of civilians. The situation is fragile; there will be challenges ahead. But the United States is committed to working with our partners towards a durable peace – a message that I underscored in my conversations over the last 48 hours with Prime Minister Abiy from Ethiopia, with Kenyan President Ruto, and South Africa’s Foreign Minister Pandor.
The work the G7 has done here will lay the foundation for the issues that President Biden and his fellow leaders will discuss at the G20 Summit in Bali, in just over a week’s time. And all are issues that Japan will carry forward when it takes over the G7 presidency in January.
As we saw here in Munster, when it comes to addressing the fundamental challenges of our time, the world’s leading democracies are aligned, we’re united; we are working together as never before. And when people around the world take a step back to ask – in this challenging time – which countries are helping solve their problems, rather than creating them, I think they’ll find a clear answer. That’s what we demonstrated here. That’s what we’ll continue to deliver on as we go forward – and go forward together. Thank you.
MR PATEL: We’ll take some questions. The first question goes to Humeyra Pamuk from Reuters.
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for doing this. I have a multi-part question, one of your favorites, so please bear with me.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Okay, let me take my pen out. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: While G7 countries were holding talks here today, the host country’s leader, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, was visiting Beijing and met with President Xi, whose countries not so long ago declared a “no limits partnership” with Russia. The United States is trying to project transatlantic unity in the face of Russian invasion of Ukraine. Don’t you think this trip damages that effort? Can you say the United States is fully supportive of this trip? And when you look at their common statement opposing the use of nuclear weapons, do you see that – do you take that as a sign that Beijing might start increasing pressure on Russia?
And on what you just said about the G7 agreeing on a communique, the communique language on China is much weaker. Can you explain why the discrepancy?
And very quickly on Ukraine, G7 agreed to establish a coordination mechanism. Can you talk a little bit about that? What does that entail and when will it be set up? Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Humeyra, thanks very much. A few things.
First, what I’ve seen over the last two years is growing convergence between the United States and Europe when it comes to our approach to China, and that’s been manifested in a whole variety of ways; to cite just one example, work we’re doing together with the European Union in the Trade and Technology Council as well as the work that we’re doing together here in the G7 with European countries as well as with partners from Canada and Japan.
We’ve engaged on shared concerns about some of the things that China does, including its coercive economic practices that are affecting all of our countries, threatening behavior toward Taiwan which risks challenging the peace and stability that countries rely on when it comes to the Taiwan Straits, the human rights record; and of course the risk of deepening or creating new economic dependencies in critical areas. On all of these issues, the United States and Europe are largely aligned, and as I said, we’ve seen a growing convergence.
Chancellor Scholz laid out in very clear terms his objectives for his visit to Beijing in an op-ed that was published this week. And we strongly agree with what he shared in that op-ed. That includes, by the way, encouraging President Xi to press President Putin on never using a nuclear weapon of any kind. And so, I think – again, from everything that I’ve seen, including the conversations here in Germany with our German partners as well as with all of our G7 partners, the convergence of the alignment on China is increasingly strong and increasingly clear.
When it comes to the coordination mechanism, what we agreed yesterday with the G7 was that given the very deliberate attempt by Russia, by President Putin, to destroy as much of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure as possible – particularly the energy grid and everything necessary to heat people’s homes, to make sure that hospitals can function, the schools can be heated and have electricity, we determined that together there is much we can do to help Ukrainians as necessary repair what’s been destroyed, replace what’s been destroyed, make more resilient the entire infrastructure. And so, we’re doing it in a coordinated way because we all have resources to bring to bear to addressing that problem. And we’ve established, as I said, an actual mechanism through the G7 to make sure that we all understand exactly what the needs are and that we come forward with what we can bring to the table. It’s a little bit like the Ramstein process for helping Ukraine with its defense needs. We’re doing the same thing, in effect, on energy.
MR PATEL: Next let’s go to Claudia Kramer-Santel.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, after declaring the Zeitenwende, Chancellor Scholz was criticized a lot because of not being – doing enough for military aid for Ukraine and stuff. Do you think this has changed and developed, and how do you see the role of Germany in this process and your cooperation with Annalena Baerbock?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first when it comes to cooperation and coordination with the foreign minister, it could not be stronger. And she has been a strong, principled, as well as pragmatic leader when it comes to dealing with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and for that matter on every other issue that we’re working on together. And we saw that again, today, over the last two days with her leadership of the G7.
More broadly, I have to tell you I can only applaud what Germany has done in defense of Ukraine these past almost nine months. Germany has been one of Ukraine’s largest donors, including lethal security assistance. It’s played a hugely important humanitarian role, hosting more than a million Ukrainian refugees. It’s also played a vital role over the course of the entire G7 presidency by making sure – helping to make sure that all of us stay together in defense of Ukraine, in exerting pressure on Russia to end its aggression; as well as those of us who are NATO members doing what’s necessary to strengthen our defensive Alliance in case Russia’s threat extends to NATO. And, of course, Germany has led on crafting the major EU sanctions package – or packages, I should say – that have been deployed, again, to put pressure on Russia to end its aggression.
We agreed together over the last couple of days that there’s more that we can and must and will do. But throughout this process, Germany has been the strongest of partners and a real leader.
MR PATEL: We’ll next go to John Hudson with The Washington Post.
QUESTION: Thanks very much. Hi, Mr. Secretary. With regards to the G7’s plans to set a price cap on Russian oil, the Kremlin has already said that they will withhold any oil sales to countries that implement a price cap. Can you assure U.S. and global consumers that the plan won’t backfire and increase gasoline prices?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So, the purpose of the price cap is twofold. It’s to ensure that energy continues to come onto the market to meet demand – that’s been our approach all along; and second, to put some limits on President Putin’s ability to line his pockets with the proceeds of sales of energy to fuel and fund the war against Ukraine. And I believe that that mechanism will help us do just that.
Russia needs to sell energy for – in order just to keep its – keep the country going, keep the economy going. And yes, it wants to sell energy in order to fund the war against Ukraine. But at least putting a ceiling on that makes the downsides of Russia continuing to sell energy less while making sure that energy continues to remain on the market. Russia will make whatever decisions it makes, but I think it will have an interest in continuing to sell energy. And again, this is a good mechanism for both ensuring that energy remains on the market, but the gains that Russia gets from it have a ceiling on them.
MR PATEL: We’ll –
QUESTION: Will the cap create price swings?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, we will see how this plays out. But what I’m hearing from countries around the world, including beyond Europe, is an expectation that this will be a mechanism, again, that helps ensure that energy continues to get to market while limiting the benefits that Russia accrues from that.
MR PATEL: Final question will go to Marcus Pindur.
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for taking our questions. My name is Marcus Pindur from a large German public radio broadcaster, Deutschlandfunk. There seems to be a lot of agreement on energy and infrastructure help for Ukraine. That show of unity is certainly commendable, but there is an elephant in the room, and that is the military situation on the ground in Ukraine.
Germany has a large number – hundreds – of armored personnel carriers and main battle tanks, and – but the chancellor refuses to provide them to Ukraine, with changing reasons. One of those reasons is that Germany is not providing Western-built tanks, because the U.S. does not provide Western-built tanks. I would like you to comment on that. Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. From even before the Russian aggression started –as we saw it, a rising storm, a possibility that Russia was going to do what we feared it would do, we have tried to make sure that Ukrainians had in their hands the tools – the weapons necessary to defend themselves. And so well before the actual aggression, the United States did a number of what we call drawdowns from our own military equipment to get them to Ukraine, starting in September a year ago, then again at Christmastime before the end of – before the end of last year. And it was that very equipment, including things like Javelins and Stinger missiles, that helped the Ukrainians repel the Russian aggression against Kyiv, push them back, and move the war to eastern and southern Ukraine.
What we’ve done all along, every step of the way since then, in coordination with all of our partners – including Germany, is to try to assess what the Ukrainians needed at any given time, given the changing nature of the aggression – moving to different parts of the country with different terrain, the Russians using different means to further their aggression. We have responded and adjusted and tried to get ahead of this every single time. And so, we went from, for example, providing Javelins and Stingers to HIMARS, which have proved so successful, the multi-launch rocket systems, to now an intense focus on air defenses, which is what the Ukrainians say they most need, and we agree.
Every country decides what it can and will contribute to this effort, and Germany has made major contributions in the provision of defense equipment and lethal assistance to Ukraine. And we will continue to evaluate that as – together as we go along. We’re focused on what is it that Ukraine actually needs and can effectively use, including making sure that as we provide weapon systems to the Ukrainians, as necessary they’re trained on those systems – and because in some instances we’re providing technology they haven’t used before they need to be trained on it, as well as making sure that they can maintain it, because some of the sophisticated equipment requires significant maintenance to keep it going and keeping it running.
So, for each and every piece of equipment, we’re making together those judgments, and thus far I think that’s served Ukraine very well. Of course, it starts with the incredible courage of the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian fighters, but what we’ve been able to provide them – the United States, Germany, and many other partners and allies – is what is making the difference.
On the question of tanks, we have no objection. In fact, we support any country, if it so decides, making those available if we make a determination that that can really help Ukraine and meet a need. But again, those are also judgments that we’re trying to make together collectively, including through the Ramstein process that Secretary of Defense Austin is leading.
MR PATEL: Thank you, everybody. Thank you.