September 27, 2022

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Piotr Krasko of TVN

7 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Rzeszow, Poland

Hotel Bristol

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, we really appreciate your presence.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.

QUESTION:  It’s a great honor for us.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s very good to be with you tonight.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you are one of more than 10,000 American citizens now in Poland. A lot of them are in this region – we are in Rzeszow now – most of them are soldiers.  We really, really appreciate your presence here, you and American soldiers.  You’ve had a lot of many different meetings today, including our prime minister, minister of foreign affairs.  Can you tell us about the results of these meetings?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first, let me say this:  I am overwhelmed by the generosity of Poland and the Polish people.  I visited the welcome center for Ukrainians and others who are coming out of Ukraine because of the horrific aggression being committed by Vladimir Putin and Russia.  And to see the hospitality, to see the generosity of our Polish friends is very, very moving in and of itself.  And I think it speaks to a larger solidarity that exists and that we’re seeing between the United States and Poland, but also so much of the international community, in support of Ukraine and in opposition to a war of choice being committed by Vladimir Putin.

The strength of our own partnership, I think, has never been better, and that was very evident to me in the meetings that I had today with the prime minister, with my friend Zbigniew Rau – we’ve worked together very closely on a very regular basis.  And we’re united in this effort; that’s what’s so important.  That unity in support of Ukraine, in opposition to this aggression by Russia, is what will carry the day.

QUESTION:  Half an hour ago, we’ve heard about your meeting with minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine, the Minister Kuleba.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes.

QUESTION:  As far as I understand, you were in Ukraine – correct me if I’m wrong – you crossed the border.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That’s correct.

QUESTION:  And can you tell us more about this conversation?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  First, Dmytro Kuleba is a remarkable colleague, a remarkable friend.  And he, like President Zelenskyy and others in the government, have been the face of the Ukrainian people in confronting this aggression.  But we’re on the phone regularly.  He’s somewhere in Ukraine.  I couldn’t say were for security reasons.  But I thought it was important when we met – symbolically – to cross the border and to have us stand together in Ukraine, because we’re standing together for Ukraine.  And we work very closely, and for me, it’s making sure that I understand as best possible what our Ukrainian friends and partners need, what we can do to continue to support them as well as to put the pressure on Russia.

QUESTION:  Sir, in 1940, Churchill delivered his famous speech in British Parliament:  We’ll fight “in the streets,” “in the fields,” “on the landing grounds” until America, “with all its power and might,” would come to rescue us.  I would never imagine that they will say these words, but we have a war just next to us.  Would you be ready again to come with all your power and might to defend your European allies —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes.

QUESTION:  — this time, including Poland in NATO?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes.  Yes, that’s the – it’s as simple as that. President Biden said this to the entire country.  He gave his State of the Union speech – this is the speech that a president gives where he talks to every American in their living rooms – just last week.  And what he said there – and he’s said repeatedly in recent weeks – is we will defend every inch of NATO territory.  That commitment, so-called Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, is sacrosanct for him and for the United States.  So no one should have any doubt about that, certainly not our allies and certainly not Vladimir Putin.

QUESTION:  Putin expected NATO to withdraw its forces, to remove military installations from the territory of new members.  The result is the opposite, with more American troops.  But what may come in the future – would you be ready to send even more troops?

Well, we had already – before this aggression committed by Russia, we had about 5,000 American forces in Poland as part of the NATO mission.  It’s now double that.  We’ve sent another 5,000 from the 82nd Airborne Division who are here now.   And what’s so striking about what President Putin has done, over many years now, is he has precipitated everything he says he wants to prevent.  What’s happened in recent years as a result of Russian aggression starting back in 2014?  Ukraine, Ukrainian people have turned against Russia.  Whereas before 2014 there were favorable views in Ukraine of Russia, now 90 percent of the country honestly hate Russia and certainly hate Vladimir Putin.

At the same time, the NATO Alliance has come together as strongly as I’ve ever seen it, and the very forces of NATO that – a defensive alliance that has no aggressive intent against Russia, is here for our common defense.  That alliance has grown stronger, and it’s stronger closer to Russia as a result of Putin’s aggression.  So everything he’s done has been to create what he says he doesn’t want to see happen.

QUESTION:  Vladimir Putin said today that Western sanctions on Russia are akin to declaration of war, which is a big lie, because even if Russian Central Bank lost billions of dollars —

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  That’s right.

QUESTION:  — or some oligarchs lost your yachts and villas, it’s not a war.  War is killing Ukrainian kids.  What’s your assumption, sir?  Are these sanctions getting us closer to stop Putin?  Are they working?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  The sanctions are having a very, very powerful impact.  And I think the impact is, is far greater than most people would have imagined a month ago or six weeks ago.  That’s because so many countries are taking part and doing it together, and it’s because the sanctions themselves – going after the major financial institutions in Russia, denying Russia the technology it needs to modernize its most important industries, going directly at the oligarchs and their families – all of this is already having a big, powerful demonstrative effect.  The ruble has gone through the floor.  The ability of Russia to use the reserves that it’s built up to support its currency, we’ve taken that away by going right at the Central Bank of Russia.  In their daily lives – and it’s deeply unfortunate that the Russian people are suffering as a consequence, but this is what Putin has brought to them.

I have a list five pages long from yesterday – it’s probably longer even today – of all of the companies and businesses that have left Russia in the last week, the most important brands in the world that people know and – in their daily lives.  So the Russian people are feeling this in their bank accounts, in the value of the ruble.  They’re feeling this in the business that’s gone away.  And elites are feeling it and their inability to travel.  We’re now in the business for the oligarchs of seizing their yachts, their sports cars, their apartments.  So this is having a big impact already, and it will have an even bigger impact over time as Russia is unable to make the investments it wants in its future.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, one last question.  Millions of people are hoping and praying that the war would be over tonight.  But even if that’s the case, we all feel that the world has changed deeply, probably for a very long time.  What’s your assessment?  How much the world has changed since – in 10 days since the beginning of the invasion?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I think you’re right, the world has changed, but it’s very possible that it ultimately changes in a positive way.  Here’s what I mean by that.  In the last couple of decades, democracies in one way or another, including our own, have in some ways moved backwards, or they’ve been on their heels, not on their toes.  What we’ve seen now is the most powerful response to an autocracy – Russia, under Putin, saying: oh, we’re going to do whatever we want, and we know democracies won’t respond.  We have responded; we are responding.  We’re standing with Ukraine; we’re standing against this aggression.  And it’s too early to say, because we have to see how this comes out, but this could be a positive inflection point where the world’s democracies say: there’s a line; enough is enough; we will act; we will come together.

And when we come together, when we’re united as we are at NATO, as we are with the European Union, as we are at the – even at the United Nations, 141 countries coming together and saying we condemn this aggression, we stand for Ukraine – that could be a moment of positive change, but only if we sustain this, if we see this through, if we make sure that Ukraine prevails, which I’m convinced it will because the Ukrainian people will insist on it, and that Russia does not succeed in what it’s doing.

QUESTION:  Sir, thank you so much.  We really appreciate your time and thank you for this optimistic part – we all need it.  Thank you so much.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Great to be with you.

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