December 9, 2022

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Ina Strazdina of LTV

5 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Riga, Latvia

Atta Center

QUESTION:  Mr. Blinken, thank you so much for your time.  Very happy to see you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s a pleasure to be with you.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  I would like to start with a question.  How do you see current security situation in the Baltics?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think we have – what we’ve seen here – first of all, Latvia’s done a wonderful job in hosting the NATO alliance, bringing all of us together, and at an important moment, because there are security challenges that we’re all concerned by, especially the situation involving both Ukraine and Belarus.  But for our Baltic allies and partners – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia – I think we’ve seen a very clear recommitment among all the Allies to the alliance, to Article 5, and also a recognition of the very important contributions that Latvia and our other Baltic partners make to the alliance.

QUESTION:  So we are on the same side at the moment?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, we’re allies, and allies have commitments.  And President Biden feels very strongly about those commitments – about the NATO alliance, about Article 5, and the basic proposition that an attack on one is an attack on all.  As you know, the only time Article 5 was invoked in the history of NATO was in defense of the United States after the attacks on 9/11.  It’s something we’ll never forget, and we have the same commitment to our allies and partners.

QUESTION:  Can I (inaudible) – I wanted to ask you:  You are here at a very difficult moment for us because we have the situation in – on Belarusian and Polish border.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes.

QUESTION:  And Lithuania and also Latvia, we are involved in the situation.  How do you see – should NATO get involved more?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We strongly condemn the use by the Lukashenka regime of innocent migrants as a political weapon, as an effort at destabilization.  We’ve stood up strongly against that; so has Latvia.  We’re working very closely with the European Union, including on additional sanctions against the Lukashenka regime, both for what it’s done in weaponizing migration but also what it’s done to oppress the rights of the Belarusian people.  And we appreciate very much the stand that Latvia has taken, the support that it’s given to the Belarusian opposition.  And I think what I heard among all of the allies was strong support for democracy in Belarus and opposition to the actions of the regime, both in terms of migration and in terms of democracy in Belarus.

QUESTION:  Speaking about this meeting, one of the key questions is a new concept of NATO.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That’s right.

QUESTION:  The Strategic Concept.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That’s right.

QUESTION:  And we have heard that it might change a lot because the world around NATO has changed a lot.  And for us, it’s very interesting.  We know so far Russia has mentioned – has been mentioned as partner, current Strategic Concept.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That’s right.

QUESTION:  What about the future?  How would you define Russia in the future?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, you’re exactly right.  The last time we – that NATO wrote a Strategic Concept was in 2010, and the world looked very different.  Russia was referred to as a partner; China was not mentioned.  And all sorts of new challenges, new threats, particularly in cyberspace, hybrid conflict, outer space – none of that was part of it because it was a different world.  So the new Strategic Concept which the Allies agreed to pursue at the last summit and agreed to conclude by the next summit in Spain next spring will reflect the challenges that the alliance faces today, not the challenges that it faced a decade ago.

But Russia remains very much front and center in our concerns, so does terrorism, and I think the basic foundation that we have of making sure that we have strong defense and deterrence, that we have the ability to engage in appropriate management of conflicts as well as strengthening partnerships with other countries, including in different parts of the world, those will remain the foundation.  But the Strategic Concept will reflect the world that we’re living in now, not the world we were living in 2010.

QUESTION:  Tomorrow, you go see Mr. Lavrov, foreign affairs minister of Russia, in Stockholm.  What are you going to tell him?  What are you expecting out of this meeting?  Which message would you like to provide?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, before I see Foreign Minister Lavrov, I’ll be seeing Foreign Minister of Kuleba of Ukraine.  I’ve spent the last two days here in Latvia consulting very closely with our Allies in NATO.  We’ve had many consultations with allies and partners in recent weeks, all focused on the concerns we have about the situation in and around Ukraine, and particularly the – what we’re seeing in terms of very irregular movements and mobilization of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border, the deep concern that that is provoking among all the Allies.  And we’ve already had the opportunity to share those concerns directly with Moscow.

I will – I’ll do the same thing tomorrow when I see Mr. Lavrov, but I’ll do that having heard and consulted with all of our Allies here at NATO, and both here in Latvia and in recent weeks.  And I think I’ll be able to reflect not just the view of the United States, but the view of all of the NATO Allies, both in terms of the concern that we have, and as well the conviction that if Russia were to engage in further aggression against Ukraine, there would be serious consequences.

QUESTION:  What kind of —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I’m not going to get into that, but I can tell you that there’s clear resolve.  At the same time, there is a diplomatic path forward that’s available.  The Russians say that they believe the Minsk agreement should be implemented.  The Ukrainians say the same thing.  Well, I think if that were to happen, that at least would resolve the problem in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine.  It doesn’t resolve Crimea, but it does resolve the problem in eastern Ukraine.  And so we’ll see if they’re serious about that.  But there has to be a very clear understanding that if there’s further aggression in Ukraine, there’ll be consequences.

QUESTION:  Mr. Blinken, thank you so much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Good to talk to you.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

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