SECRETARY OF STATE BLINKEN: Morning, everybody. Secretary Austin and I just returned from Kyiv, where we went at the request of President Biden and the invitation of President Zelenskyy. We had an opportunity to demonstrate directly our strong support, our strong ongoing support for the Ukrainian Government and for the Ukrainian people. This was, in our judgment, an important moment to be there, an important moment for Ukraine, for the war – an important moment to have face-to-face conversations in detail about the extraordinary support that we’ve provided: security, economic, humanitarian, as well as the massive pressure that we’ve been exerting on Russia, and then to talk in detail about how we carry that forward across all of those fronts.
I would say that, without putting words in his mouth, President Zelenskyy expressed deep appreciation for President Biden’s leadership and for the incredible generosity and support of the American people. In turn, we expressed deep admiration for his leadership, for the extraordinary courage of Ukrainians in standing up to and pushing back this Russian aggression.
Part of our commitment going forward involves a number of things that I was able to share with President Zelenskyy yesterday, including the return of American diplomats to Ukraine starting next[i] week, including President Biden’s intent to nominate a new ambassador to Ukraine, Ambassador Bridget Brink – currently an ambassador, someone I’ve served with for a long time, deeply experienced in the region, who’ll be a very strong representative for the United States in Ukraine.
We had an opportunity as well to talk about where this goes from here, with the success that Ukraine has had. It’s also true that Russia continues to try to brutalize parts of the country, and the death and destruction that we continue to see is horrific. But Ukrainians are standing up, they’re standing strong, and they’re doing that with the support that we have coordinated from literally around the world.
The strategy that we’ve put in place – massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts – is having real results. And we’re seeing that when it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing, Ukraine is succeeding. Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine – to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed. It’s sought to assert the power of its military and its economy. We of course are seeing just the opposite – a military that is dramatically underperforming; an economy, as a result of sanctions, as a result of a mass exodus from Russia, that is in shambles. And it’s sought to divide the West and NATO; of course, we’re seeing exactly the opposite – an Alliance more divided[ii] than I’ve ever seen it and, indeed, new countries considering applying for membership.
The bottom line is this. We don’t know how the rest of this war will unfold, but we do know that a sovereign, independent Ukraine will be around a lot longer than Vladimir Putin is on the scene. And our support for Ukraine going forward will continue. It will continue until we see final success.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE AUSTIN: Yeah. Good morning. And first of all, let me echo what Secretary Blinken has said in terms of the characterization of our meeting. I think it was a very productive meeting, very engaging session, and we were very happy to have that opportunity.
So during the meeting, we expressed our deepest condolences to the president for the loss of so many civilians and, of course, the loss of those courageous troops that have done just a magnificent job of pushing back Russian forces. We also expressed our admiration for their professionalism and for their commitment to defend their democracy. Just it’s been extraordinary to watch, and I think…