MR PATEL: Hey, everybody. Good afternoon. Thanks so much for joining us on this trip preview call for the Secretary’s trip to Brussels on Monday for the U.S.-EU Energy Dialogue, as well as the NATO foreign ministers ministerial. Joining me today is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Ambassador Dereck Hogan from our Bureau of Europe and Eurasian Affairs. He is – has some remarks that he will share with you, and then we are happy to take some questions. This call is on the record, but it is embargoed until the call’s conclusion.
With that, Ambassador Hogan, let me turn it over to you.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thank you so much, Vedant, and good afternoon to you all. Thank you for joining us today.
So last November, the NATO foreign ministerial in Bucharest demonstrated the unfaltering strength, solidarity, and unity of the NATO Alliance. The foreign ministerial in Brussels next week will echo our continuing unity and highlight the Alliance’s ability to adapt and endure, while also deterring the ongoing threats that seek to disrupt peace, security, and stability in the whole the Euro-Atlantic area. NATO remains the indispensable transatlantic forum to consult, to coordinate, and to act on matters related to our individual and collective security.
After more than a year of Russia’s brutal war of aggression the people of Ukraine remain committed to defending their country and their democracy, and the United States remains committed to supporting Ukraine. So as the war continues, it’s important that the United States and our allies and partners remain steadfast in our solidarity with Ukraine because of what is at stake. For the people of Ukraine, it’s their lives and their country’s continued existence as an independent state on its chosen path of European integration. For the whole world, it’s the defense of the UN Charter and the principles that undergird international peace. It’s global food security, it’s energy security, as well as international financial stability.
So we need to be clear: Russia is the aggressor in this war. Its use of force against Ukraine was in violation of the UN Charter. In addition, members of its forces have engaged in extensive atrocities, including war crimes and crimes against humanity and other abuses on Ukraine’s soil that include extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and forcible transfers and deportations of Ukraine’s civilians. Russia’s forces are the perpetrators of a staggeringly high number of unconscionable abuses on Ukraine’s territory.
So Secretary Blinken will travel to Brussels April 3-5 to participate in the NATO foreign ministerial, where he will re-emphasize the United States support for Ukraine and commitment to transatlantic security.
On Tuesday morning, Secretary Blinken will meet with EU High Representative and high – and Vice President Josep Borrell and participate in the U.S.-EU Energy Council meeting. The Secretary will discuss energy – will discuss ensuring energy security while accelerating the clean energy transitions. In the afternoon, Secretary Blinken will meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba and with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg. I expect he will have other bilateral meetings that will be announced as the trip develops.
So this NATO ministerial will have a heavy focus on Ukraine, but ministers will also discuss global threats and challenges, including working with Indo-Pacific partners on the PRC’s malign behavior, securing global supply chains, coordinating to protect democracies against emerging disruptive technology, and expanding cooperation with emerging partners in the Global South.
And at the conclusion of the ministerial, the Secretary will have a press availability Thursday afternoon before returning to Washington.
So thank you, and I look forward to answering your questions.
MR PATEL: Great. Grace, could you remind us how folks can ask questions?
OPERATOR: Thank you. Once again, if you wish to ask a question please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad. You may withdraw your question at any time by repeating the 1-0 command. If you are using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, press 1 then 0.
MR PATEL: Great. Why don’t we start with Missy Ryan of The Washington Post?
QUESTION: Hi, can you hear me?
MR PATEL: Yep, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay, great. Just one quick question and – well, maybe two if you’ll let me. So can you just give any more detail on what we should expect from the energy discussions? Any sort of deliverable or announcement coming out of that? And secondly, could you just help us understand, without violating the confidentiality of the discussions that happen behind closed doors, what Blinken’s message will be for countries that are publicly urging the United States to provide additional weapons systems that it hasn’t yet provided, like F-16s and longer-range missiles? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Okay, great. Thanks, Missy. So on the first question, the U.S.-EU Energy Council is our longstanding mechanism for cooperation on energy security and clean energy transition. So this year’s council is going to focus on our joint efforts to blunt Russia’s attempts to weaponize energy, continued support for Ukraine, bolstering energy supplies for the coming winters, and cooperation to advance the clean energy transition.
And then when it comes to your second question, when it comes to our request, our – our enduring coordination with partners and allies on what we need to be doing to help Ukraine defend its territorial integrity, its sovereignty, and its democracy. We’re actually very pleased of where we are to date when it comes to the countries that have stepped up. Almost on a daily basis, you see allies and partners announcing their contributions. I mean, just most recently, Challenger 2 tanks have entered the battlefield. So we’re seeing quite a – quite a steady rhythm of countries stepping up.
And so right now, we’re already – in terms of our total assistance – at $33 billion, and what we see other donors doing when it comes to assistance and totals – 58 billion just since the war alone, and 24 of that 58 in security assistance. So this is really an opportunity to look ahead because we know as we – as Ukraine as entering this second war, we need to make sure that Ukraine has what it needs to be able to mount a successful counteroffensive, and then of course to be able to hold what they do gain. And so this is, I’m sure, going to be part of our discussions.
MR PATEL: Let’s next go to the line of Matt Lee with the Associated Press.
QUESTION: Hey, thanks, Vedant and Dereck. I hope you can hear me, yes?
MR PATEL: Yep. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. A couple things – all of them really brief. One, just a logistical thing. You said the press conference is on Thursday. Isn’t it on Wednesday?
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Yeah, Matt, I think you’re right on that. It’s – I – my apologies here. It’s —
QUESTION: Oh, no, no problem. I just wanted to make sure because we have to fly back commercially, so I – it’s like – I was going to – (laughter) – do I have to change my flight to Friday? Anyway —
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thanks, Matt. Thank you.
QUESTION: On more substantive matters, one, do you expect him to meet with his Turkish counterpart on NATO expansion? Obviously, yes, Finland is going to be in quickly, but there’s still an issue with Sweden. And then the last one is just on China – and you mentioned the Indo-Pacific. So I’m just wondering if you guys think that the recent meeting between Xi and Putin in Beijing has accelerated or exacerbated concern among the NATO Allies about the Russia-China nexus? Thanks.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thank you, Matt. So on the second question on Türkiye, yeah, so we’re hoping – very much hoping Türkiye’s – Turkish parliament – Türkiye’s parliament today does the – does a ratification, approves. If not today, then tomorrow. That’s what we were understanding. And so we do hope very much in the next whatever number of days that we have Finland in terms of ratification by the remaining country here, Türkiye, that that is done, so Finland’s accession being done just in short order. And of course, we both – we want both Hungary as well as Türkiye to move forward with Sweden’s accession just as soon as possible. I mean, we are wanting, of course, certainly by Vilnius to have all of this wrapped up, but – if not sooner. So that’s what we’re going to continue to move on, and that’s been the subject of our public as well as private engagements.
When it comes to the Xi-Putin meeting and the implications of that, I mean, clearly we have made it a strong point – and not just we the United States, but a number of our partners and allies – that the PRC’s growing, deepening relationship with Russia, particularly when it comes to its support for Russia in Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression in Ukraine, that’s something that we are continuing to speak out against.
And so when it comes to specifically something that we’ve been focusing on is the PRC providing – potentially providing Russia with lethal assistance, so far that hasn’t happened as far as we can tell. But we’ve been clear with the PRC from the beginning about our concerns of providing such support to Russia and the implications of that. And so we are expecting the PRC not to get more tangibly involved in Russia’s war that could lead to more loss of innocent lives and actions against PRC firms involved in such support. Thanks.
MR PATEL: Thanks so much. Next, let’s next go to Anton LaGuardia with The Economist.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this. One question is: To what extent is the question of Ukraine’s future membership of NATO likely to be a topic of conversation? There’s been growing talk about it among experts and some countries in Eastern Europe, pushing for Ukraine to begin to make more progress towards the promise of membership. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thank you, Anton, for that question. I mean, when it comes to Ukraine and its relationship with NATO, we have been focusing very much on the practical support that Ukraine needs to be able to defend its territory, to be able to defend its sovereignty and its democracy. And so allies and partners have been doing that in a very robust manner, and we expect our discussions in Brussels next week to go further along those lines. And just in general, we remain steadfast in our commitment to NATO’s “open door” policy. And so any Alliance decision is between the 30 Allies and the aspirant country. So as I said before, we are focused on what we can do to support Ukraine’s efforts on the ground as they defend their country against Russian aggression rather than a process in Brussels. Thanks.
MR PATEL: Let’s next go to the line of Rafal Stanczyk with Polish Television.
QUESTION: Yeah, thank you for taking my question. Actually, I’ve got two question in one. I’d like to ask you, among the topics to discuss in Brussels, there is also Belarus. Polish Government today suggested to impose sanctions on Belarus. Those sanctions would be also a reaction to Russian information about deploying nuclear weapons in Belarus. So what is the State Department view on this issue?
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thanks. So no dedicated discussion on Belarus other than, of course, its complicity in Russia’s war in Ukraine there. But when it comes to sanctions, we don’t preview our approach there on that. And just to point out, for Belarus, this – what we’re seeing here is Lukashenka making irresponsible and provocative choices and, in effect, ceding control of Belarus’s security and military institutions to Putin. So we are calling again on the Lukashenka regime to cease its complicity in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Thanks.
MR PATEL: And Grace, could you remind us again on instructions on how to ask a question?
OPERATOR: Thank you. As a reminder, if you wish to ask a question, please press 1 then 0 at this time.
MR PATEL: Let’s go to the line of Leon Bruneau from AFP.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Can you hear me?
MR PATEL: Yes. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, sorry. Just to follow up on two items. One, on the energy, the question was asked about deliverables and on the meeting with the EU on energy security and – yeah, I didn’t hear any deliverables. So are there any? Can you be more specific? And second, on Finland, if everything goes to plan with the votes – we’re hearing that Finland could deposit the tools to the Secretary in Brussels at NATO headquarters. I didn’t know if that would be done at the same time in Washington. But is there a chance that – is that what your expectation is that we will have Finland in NATO during the meeting, at the foreign ministers’ meeting?
AMBASSADOR HOGAN: Thank you. So on the first question, I mean, I don’t want to get ahead of what we are going to be trying to work out there in Brussels in this U.S.-EU Energy Council. But we are going to be very much focusing on, first of all, when it comes to the European energy security picture, working on energy efficiency, working on energy diversification, as well as working on energy transition. We’ve had a number of discussions with our EU colleagues over the past year on this topic, and so we’ll have an opportunity to go a bit deeper on that.
And then when it comes to the Ukraine piece, we – both the EU as well as the United States have contributed significantly to keeping Ukraine’s energy grid as resilient as possible. So what additional steps we need to take in the coming months is something that we will focus on quite a bit.
Now, when it comes to the process of – for finalizing Finland’s accession and – so what we – what it will be is that the United States is a depository country for the Washington treaty. So Türkiye and Hungary will deposit their instruments, ratifications, with the U.S. Government. And then the United States will inform the NATO secretary general that all 30 NATO Allies have deposited their instruments for Finland to join NATO, and the secretary general would issue a formal invitation to Finland to accede to the Washington treaty.
So the timeline for that, not able to get into right now, in part because of what I just mentioned; we’re not there yet. Türkiye still has to ratify the accession protocols in parliament. So we’re working through that, but clearly we want to have Finland and then of course Sweden fully on board as members just as soon as possible. Thanks.
MR PATEL: All right. Thanks so much, everybody, for joining today. Really appreciate it. Again, this call was on the record but embargoed until the call’s conclusion, which will be momentarily. Looking forward to talking to you all very soon.
originally published at Politics - JISIP NEWS