December 5, 2022

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken And German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock Before Their Meeting – United States Department of State

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Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Berlin, Germany

The Federal Foreign Office

FOREIGN MINISTER BAERBOCK:  (Via interpreter) Ladies and gentlemen, Tony, I am very grateful that you made the trip again as the Secretary of State and are joining us at our conference, Uniting for Food Security.  Thank you for joining us today.

In mid-May, you invited us to an important conference at the United Nations in New York, and today we build on the achievements back then.  Together as the international community, we work with international organizations and we are making it very clear we do not turn a blind eye as the international community to the many countries in the world whose people are suffering from famine today as a direct impact of the war with which Russia has aggressed Ukraine.

We have discussed this in the G7 format at the moment, and our message as the G7 is very clear:  We do not accept that the Russian war of aggression is making the world suffer from starvation.  As the most powerful industrialized nations, we have a special responsibility.  Even though this hunger crisis exacerbated by the Russian war of aggression is not something that we have caused, as G7 partners, we look with our international friends what Russia is doing.  Russia is waging a cynical grain war, using it as a tool to make food prices skyrocketing and destabilize entire countries.

We act.  As the G7, we will play a central role in supporting the most affected countries across the globe.  Firstly, we will do everything we can in different formats to export grain from Ukraine.  Together we try to open the sea routes, but in parallel, we also intensively work on rail connections even though this is technically very difficult.  It is an ambitious endeavor.  And together – this was an American initiative – we are building silos in order to store the grain safely for the moment.

We are increasing our emergency relief efforts, and at this conference, another important topic:  We are working on sustainable production and better global food supply and strengthening this in the midterm.  In addition to that, between Germany and the U.S., we have made sure that the medium-term consequences of the war are also taken into account.  There is – are no sanctions on food, on medical products, but there is uncertainty across the globe when it comes to grain deliveries, insurances, and payments.  We have seen this in our visits across the globe.  Countries want security.  They want to be sure that they can buy grain from Russia too.

So, we made it clear that we need a joint outreach program in order to make sure that countries are not afraid in terms of insurance consequences in the logistics sector, that grains are not being transported.  This is important because Russia is not only waging a brutal war of aggressions with weapons, a brutal grain war, but also a fake news war.  The evermore fanciful lies Russia is using to reverse who is the perpetrator and who is the victim here is something that we see, and this is why we are hosting this conference – to show our solidarity.

Tony, these are difficult times.  It is a time in which we stand united as we’ve never been before.  The rules-based international order is something that many countries across the globe believe in.  We stand in solidarity with those countries that need our support.  We not only counter fake news, but we also stand up for the people across the globe who are suffering from hunger.  It is very clear that we need a lot of stamina to do that not only in order to support Ukraine in its self-defense against Russia and rebuild the country later; we also need a lot of stamina and perseverance to address the global impacts of this war and the tremendous human suffering that we see everywhere in Africa, South Asia, and also in Afghanistan that have – countries that have been aggressed in a triple way.

Tony, as transatlantic partners, important meetings are ahead.  The conference today is one of them, the G7 summit in Elmau another one, and also the NATO summit in Madrid next week.  We will both be attending, and I am delighted that in these difficult times, the transatlantic partnership is stronger than ever before.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good afternoon, everyone, and Annalena, thank you very much for today but also for every day in this remarkable partnership that we have between our countries, between us, as well as among our G7 colleagues.  It’s wonderful to be back in Berlin.  By my count, this is my sixth trip to Germany, in this job.  We are looking forward to our leaders coming together in the beautiful Bavarian Alps, but I think we did a lot of good work today in support of the work that they will do in the days ahead.

As the foreign minister said, we focused intensely on our ongoing support for Ukraine, and some of the second- and third-order consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.  In terms of support for Ukraine, the G7 has been remarkably united – starting from before Russia’s aggression when we worked together, first to find a diplomatic solution if there was one, but if there wasn’t one, to be prepared for the Russian aggression that we saw coming, and the work that the G7 did both in support of Ukraine – military, economic, humanitarian support – as well as the pressure we’re imposing on Russia to end this war of aggression.  That continues, and we looked at ways today to deepen all of those lines of effort in the time ahead.

But as Annalena said, we’re also intensely focused as the G7 on some of the second- and third-order consequences of Russia’s aggression, no more so than when it comes to food insecurity.  We’ll have a lot more to say about that later, but let me just say for now that I am grateful for Germany’s leadership, for Annalena’s leadership, for her colleagues’ leadership on this issue.  Everywhere that I go around the globe, and I know it’s the same for our colleagues, we hear the deep concerns about food insecurity.  It was a problem before.  Three, four years ago there were about 100 million people who were severely food insecure in the world.  A year ago it was about 160 million people.  Now another 40 or 50 million people are being added to the ranks because of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

So the combination that we’ve seen of COVID, of climate, and now conflict is creating an even graver crisis of food insecurity.  And let’s be very, very clear.  As the foreign minister said, the only reason for this now is Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and Russia’s blockade against grain and other foodstuffs moving out of Ukraine.  It’s worth repeating: The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers.  So there is no reason – no reason other than Russia’s blockade of Ukraine and Russia’s refusal in many cases to export its own grain for political reasons – no reason that this shouldn’t be moving.  And we are, of course, working on all of that.

But we’re also working together in the absence of being able to get as much grain as we would like out of Ukraine or see Russia export its own foodstuffs, looking at other ways to help the many countries that are affected.  We’ll be talking about that in detail in a short while.  So I’ll leave it – I’ll leave that for later.

But the bottom line is this: Throughout all of this we’ve stood together in solidarity and in common action.  And as part of that, I can say that the United States is deeply fortunate to have an ally like Germany in times of challenge, in times of trouble.  We coordinate on virtually everything that is having an impact on the lives of our people and of people around the world, whether it’s food insecurity, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s technology and innovation and the impact that that has.  And simply put, we are united in defense of shared values.  We’re united in defense of human rights, democracy, and international law.  We’re united when it comes to the great problems of this day.

And on a personal note, I just have to say how grateful I am, not only for Germany’s leadership, but for Annalena’s leadership.  She’s been at the helm of the G7 over these past months at one of the most critical times in world history, and we couldn’t ask – the world couldn’t ask – for better leadership.  Thank you.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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