December 4, 2021

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Olena Frolyak of ICTV

19 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Kyiv, Ukraine

Hyatt Regency Hotel

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you arrived in Ukraine after the escalation in Donbas and accumulation of huge number of Russian weapons in our borders.  Russia is actually withdrawing them, but it’s not a reason to calm down.  What the support can Kyiv count in this situation?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, part of the reason I’m here at President Biden’s request is to make clear the United States’ strong support for Ukraine’s independence, its sovereignty, its territorial integrity, and to tell the Ukrainian people that we stand with them.  And part of that involves continuing to provide security assistance, advice as necessary, so that Ukraine can defend itself.

And I have to say we very much admire the restraint that Ukraine has shown in the face of Russian provocations and aggression – more forces built up on the border a few weeks ago than at any time since 2014, since Russia first invaded.  So we’ve been very concerned about that.  We’ve been watching it very carefully.  And we are doing everything we can to make sure that our support and assistance to Ukraine helps it defend itself if it has to.

QUESTION:  Is it possible to consider your visit as a clock check before a possible meeting between President Biden and Vladimir Putin maybe next summer?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first, one thing that’s so important and that President Biden has made very clear to President Zelenskyy – because you know President Biden’s long involvement with and support for Ukraine and for the partnership between our countries – he’s made it very clear that we will never do anything about you without you.  And certainly, that comes to any conversations that we have with Russia.  So that’s another reason that I came here today, to give our analysis, give our assessment, and to hear from our partners here their analysis and assessment of the situation as well.

QUESTION:  After the situation in the east Ukraine got worse, many discuss – many discussion regarding Ukraine’s entry to NATO took place.  How is real this opportunity today?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, we’ve been very clear that NATO’s door remains open, and we made – NATO made commitments way back in Bucharest in 2008 in that regard.  And I think what we’re seeing now and we’ve been seeing in the years since is Ukraine working more and more closely with cooperative programs, but most important, on making the reforms necessary, making the investments necessary, on developing the skills necessary, because for anyone who aspires to NATO, the criteria involve making sure that you can meet the necessary standards and add to the alliance’s security.  And NATO continues to work closely with Ukraine, including through an annual program that’s very important.

QUESTION:  From the very first days of Biden administration, we understand that political against Russia will be a harsh policy, yes, and sanctions are against Nord Stream and regarding Navalny, continuation of that.  How do you think will this affect the situation in Ukraine somehow?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, to be clear, and – we would prefer a more stable, predictable relationship with Russia.  And in fact, President Biden has said exactly that to President Putin when they spoke on the phone.

On the other hand, we’ve been equally clear that if Russia continues to take aggressive or reckless actions, whether it’s with regard to Ukraine or anywhere else that threaten our interests, we will respond – not for purposes of escalating, not for purposes of getting into a conflict, but because we can’t allow Russia’s aggressive or reckless actions to go unanswered, to go forward with impunity.

So really, the decision is up to President Putin.  He can decide and Russia can decide by its actions to try to have a more predictable and stable relationship.  And part of that, I hope, would involve engaging realistically and meaningfully with Ukraine to end the occupation, to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to restore the border.  But really, it’s up to Mr. – to President Putin and to Russia what direction they choose.

QUESTION:  Fighting corruption, judicial reform, openness of state processes – this is a well-known list of requirement for Kyiv from Washington.  How do you evaluate the quality and the pace of Ukrainian reforms?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, Ukraine faces two challenges:  It faces external aggression from Russia; but it also faces internal aggression from corruption, from oligarchs who put their interests ahead of the interests of the Ukrainian people.  And Russia uses that internal aggression for its own purposes as well.  So I think the Ukrainian people have a strong interest in reforming, in strong institutions, in transparency, in the independence of these institutions, so that they can do their jobs, including the anticorruption bureau, including judges and a strong judiciary, including the people who oversee the state-owned companies and enterprises.

And I would say there’s been some real important progress, including legislation on reforming immunities for parliamentarians, legislation protecting against people illicitly getting money, the land reform.  Those are positive.  But there’s clearly a need for more progress on things like corporate governance, on judicial reform, on making sure that the anticorruption bureau is truly independent.

And those reforms are important because, first, it’s for the Ukrainian people.  This will help them.  It will benefit them.  It will really give – make sure they are sovereign, not any outside actor or not any individual inside actors.  It’s also important because the international community, other countries, want to work with Ukraine, want to invest here, but they are also looking to make sure that the climate is as good as possible for those investments and for that engagement.

So we had good conversations with President Zelenskyy, with the prime minister, with leaders of the Rada about the reform program.  And we strongly support Ukraine’s efforts to do more and to pursue reforms.

QUESTION:  It is in the context of the Ukrainian reforms, the last situation in – at Naftogaz.  I mean, management change and violation of corporate governance.  What do you think this situation can impact to the investment climate and cooperation with IMF?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, honestly, it sent a bad message, a bad signal, and I think it had the potential to be damaging to Ukraine’s reputation internationally.  But I think – my own sense is that the government understands that and hopefully will move forward on corporate governance with Naftogaz but also with other big state-owned enterprises to make sure that that governance is independent, is transparent, and is looking out for the interests of the Ukrainian people.

QUESTION:  This autumn is 80th anniversary of tragedy in Babi Yar.  And I know this Holocaust topic is very important for Biden administration, so can we expect someone from Washington to this anniversary to Kyiv?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I think that’s very likely, and the Yevtushenko and the poem is something very powerful that many Americans know as well.  And I think it’s very important that that episode in our history be commemorated, never forgotten, and reminds us of our obligations today to protect the human rights of all people.

QUESTION:  And my last question:  I know you have roots from Ukraine, maybe in childhood somebody from your family tell you about Ukraine.  Do you remember something?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, my father’s father, my grandfather, was born here and lived here until he was six or seven years old – this is at the turn of the last century – and then went to the United States.  So – but he was too young to really, really remember.  His father, my great-grandfather, also is from Ukraine, but of course, I didn’t know him.  But I – my grandfather certainly talked to me about the roots that the family has here.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  Thank you and welcome to Kyiv.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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However, even families who are informed about DOD-subsidized child care may face barriers obtaining it due to a lack of available space at on-installation centers and a scarcity of eligible child care providers off installation. The shortage of on-installation child care spaces resulted, in part, from heavy deployment demands, and DOD has responded by approving construction projects that it anticipates will provide over 21,000 new child care spaces using fiscal year 2008 through 2010 funding. DOD and the services have initiatives under way to increase the availability of eligible off-installation providers. In addition, DOD is developing an agencywide system that will provide servicemembers a central place to request both on-installation and off-installation child care. DOD plans to pilot the system in the spring of 2012 and intends to market it DOD-wide to servicemembers once it is fully implemented. The agency is in the process of contracting for the development of a marketing plan.Why GAO Did This StudyAbout a million military servicemembers serve the United States while raising a family, and many need reliable, affordable child care. Paying for high-quality child care can be challenging for these families, so the Department of Defense (DOD) offsets costs by subsidizing on-installation child care centers and offering subsidies for approved off-installation care providers. Deployments related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan increased the demand for child care. The extent of military families’ out-of-pocket child care costs for those using subsidized care are not known, and families may face barriers to obtaining DOD-subsidized care. GAO was mandated to examine: (1) the out-of-pocket child care costs paid by military families who use DOD-subsidized care; and (2) the barriers, if any, to obtaining DOD-subsidized care, and what has DOD done in response.To address these objectives, GAO reviewed DOD policies and guidance; interviewed officials from DOD, its contractor that administers DOD’s off-installation child care subsidies, and organizations that support military families; reviewed DOD fee data for school year 2009-2010 (school year 2010) and school year 2010-2011 (school year 2011); and analyzed child care costs for a random probability sample of 338 families using off-installation care in school year 2010. GAO conducted nongeneralizable discussion groups with military parents at two large military installations.GAO is not making recommendations in this report.DOD generally agreed with the report’s findings and also provided additional information on several specific points in the report.For more information, contact Kay E. Brown at (202) 512-7215 or brownke@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
    According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data for 2017 through 2019, over 50 helicopter operators conducted approximately 88,000 helicopter flights within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (D.C. area), though limited data on noise from these flights exist. According to operators, these flights supported various missions (see table below). While the number of flights has decreased slightly over the 3 years reviewed, it is unknown whether there has been a change in helicopter noise in the area. For example, most stakeholders do not collect noise data, and existing studies of helicopter noise in the area are limited. D.C. area airspace constraints—such as lower maximum altitudes near urban areas—combined with proximity to frequently traveled helicopter routes and operational factors may affect the noise heard by residents. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-Reported Helicopter Flights Conducted in the Washington, D.C. Area by Operator Mission, 2017–2019 Operator mission Number of flights Military 32,890 (37.4 percent) Air medical 18,322 (20.9 percent) Other aviation activity 13,977 (15.9 percent)a State and local law enforcement 12,861 (14.6 percent) Federal law enforcement and emergency support 5,497 (6.3 percent) News 4,298 (4.9 percent) Source: GAO analysis of FAA data. | GAO-21-200 Note: In this table, we refer to the Washington, D.C. area as including the area within 30 miles of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. aIncludes 666 flights for which FAA could not identify an operator or mission based on available historical records. FAA and operators reported taking steps to address public concerns about helicopter noise in the D.C. area. FAA receives and responds to complaints on helicopter noise from the public through its Noise Ombudsman and has recently developed online forms that improve FAA's ability to identify and respond to helicopter noise issues. Operators reported using FAA-recommended practices, such as flying at maximum altitudes and limiting night flights, to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area, but such practices are likely not feasible for operators with military, law enforcement, or air medical evacuation missions. FAA's and operators' approach to addressing these issues in the D.C. area is impeded because they do not consistently or fully share the information needed to do so. According to nearly all the operators we interviewed, FAA has not communicated with operators about helicopter noise or forwarded complaints to them. Similarly, operators often receive noise complaints from the public—some complaints are not directed to the correct operator—but do not typically share these complaints with FAA. As a result, operators have not consistently responded to residents' inquiries about helicopter noise and activity. By developing a mechanism for FAA and operators to share information, FAA could help improve responses to individual helicopter noise concerns and determine what additional strategies, if any, are needed to further address helicopter noise. Helicopter noise can potentially expose members of the public to a variety of negative effects, ranging from annoyance to more serious medical issues. FAA is responsible for managing navigable U.S. airspace and regulating noise from civil helicopter operations. Residents of the D.C. area have raised concerns about the number of helicopter flights and the resulting noise. GAO was asked to review issues related to helicopter flights and noise within the D.C. area. Among its objectives, this report examines: (1) what is known about helicopter flights and noise from flights in the D.C. area, and (2) the extent to which FAA and helicopter operators have taken action to address helicopter noise in the D.C. area. GAO reviewed statutes, regulations, policies, and documents on helicopter noise. GAO analyzed (1) available data on helicopter operations and noise in the D.C. area for 2017 through 2019, and (2) FAA's approach to responding to helicopter complaints. GAO also interviewed FAA officials; representatives from 18 D.C. area helicopter operators, selected based on operator type and number of flights; and 10 local communities, selected based on factors including geography and stakeholder recommendations. GAO recommends that FAA develop a mechanism to exchange helicopter noise information with operators in the D.C. area. FAA agreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or KrauseH@gao.gov.
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    In U.S Courts
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