July 18, 2024, 6:18 pm

Press Briefing with Ambassador Michael Carpenter

Sarakhon Desk
  • Update Time : Saturday, June 22, 2024

Online Press Briefing with Ambassador Michael Carpenter Senior Director for Europe at U.S. National Security Council

BRUSSELS HUB

MODERATOR: Good afternoon from the State Department’s Brussels Media Hub. I would like to welcome everyone joining us for today’s briefing. We are very honored to be joined once again by Ambassador Michael Carpenter; this time he is the senior director for Europe at the National Security Council.

Quick reminder that today’s briefing is on the record, and with that, I’d like to get started. Ambassador Carpenter, I’ll turn it over to you for opening remarks.

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Great, thanks so much, and it’s great to be with all of you. I’m going to take your questions in just a couple minutes, but I wanted to start out with a few takeaways from the Ukraine peace summit, which took place last weekend on the 15th and 16th in Burgenstock, Switzerland.

As many of you know, this summit gathered a very broad and diverse coalition of roughly 100 countries and international organizations with the aim of developing a framework for a lasting, just settlement to Russia’s war against Ukraine. Eighty-three countries signed on to the summit communique, which underscored the need to achieve peace in Ukraine in keeping with the bedrock principles of the UN Charter, including, of course, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Additionally, participants endorsed efforts to support nuclear and radiological safety and security, food security, and humanitarian exchanges, including the return of children whom Russia has brutally and viciously separated from their families.

It’s really worth underscoring that countries from every continent supported these principles, including many from the so-called Global South, such as Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Gambia, Jordan, Kenya, the Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, and a handful of others. Virtually all European countries also signed on, including all of our NATO Allies. I think it’s a demonstration of remarkable unity.

 

Now, if you do a split-screen with the 100 countries who showed up in Switzerland to support the principles of the UN Charter and Vladimir Putin’s current trip to North Korea where Russia is deepening its military partnership with Pyongyang, you will see two very different visions for an international order. And I might add, President Putin’s vision for a settlement was laid out pretty transparently last week when he made it patently clear that, from his perspective, negotiations could begin only if Ukraine ceded all of the territory Russia has occupied, which is nearly 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory, and then ceded additional land that Russia has long said it wants to take from Ukraine in the south and east. That’s not a negotiation, that’s a surrender. In fact, it’s pretty clear what it is: It’s an imperialist land grab, as many participants noted at the conference.

That’s why the United States has worked so hard to support Ukraine, because Ukraine is defending the international order from precisely such predation. Just in the last week we’ve imposed sanctions on 300 Russian individuals and entities supporting the war effort. We’ve, of course, signed our Bilateral Security Agreement between President Biden and President Zelenskyy in Apulia, Italy, on the margins of the G7, to strengthen Ukraine’s credible defense and deterrence capability, and we’ve continued to provide weapons and ammunition, so far, six packages of military aid since President Biden signed the supplemental bill in April.

The BSA, or Bilateral Security Agreement, will enable us to continue to train Ukrainian troops, to enhance Ukraine’s interoperability with NATO, and to build a future force that can repel aggression. It’s also going to enable us to support Ukraine’s economic recovery and its energy security, and commits Ukraine to pursuing and strengthening democratic reforms as well as accountability.

And just in terms of Ukraine’s energy sector needs, you will have seen that Vice President Harris announced in Switzerland over $1.5 billion to support and address Ukraine’s energy sector, humanitarian, and civilian security needs.

Finally, as many of you know, at the G7 summit President Biden and other leaders agreed to finalize a plan to unlock $50 billion from the proceeds of Russian funds frozen outside of Russia and to put that money to work for Ukraine and its reconstruction.

All of this confirms the United States continues to lead our allies and partners to show the world that we’re not going to back down in the face of Putin’s aggression, and we’ll do whatever we can to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And with that, I’m happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador, for the opening remarks. Well, we have a couple of hands raised. We’ll go to those first. First, Alex Raufoglu. Alex, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, good morning, good afternoon. Thank you so much for doing that. Ambassador, quick questions. It seems like the communique is still open for signature, and even today we heard President Zelenskyy posted that one more country and also one more organization – Organization of American States – joined the document. Will the White House go ahead and lobby for additional signatures in the weeks and months ahead?

Second question, if I may, on the U.S. security agreement with Ukraine, which the White House made it clear that it allows Kyiv to fire American weapons into Russia across from Sumy. I know Jake spoke about it in an interview with PBS last night. But I want you to go one step deeper, if possible. Can you confirm that in practice Ukraine is now able to hit any Russian target close to the border regardless of the region?

And a final question. You spoke about the – Putin’s trip to North Korea. Anything stood out to you in terms of the agreement that they signed, strategic partnership agreement with North Korea today? Thank you so much.

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Sure, okay. So three questions. Let me take each of those in turn. So with regards to the Burgenstock summit communique, President Amherd made clear at the end that it would be open for both participants who did not sign on at the conclusion of the summit but would subsequently have a desire to do so as well as to other countries and organizations that might be willing to join.

What I can say from the U.S. perspective is we have long advocated for countries to show up in Switzerland for this summit. We thought it important to demonstrate collective support for this framework that was being discussed, which I laid out at the start of my remarks this morning, a framework that is rooted in the fundamental UN principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. And certainly we would encourage and support all countries to sign on to that framework.

On your second question regarding rules of engagement for American-supplied weapons to Ukraine across the border, we’ve been pretty clear that this rule of engagement to allow for Ukrainians to fire back on those Russian positions just across the border in the Kharkiv region but also in the Sumy region is designed to prevent Russia from having a de facto sanctuary on its side of the border from which it is attacking Ukrainian territory and Ukrainian military posts on the Ukrainian side of the border. So that has been made clear. I think we’ve discussed it at some length, and that will continue to be the case.

With regards to the meeting between Putin and Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang and all the pomp and pageantry that really reflects the totalitarian nature of the regime in North Korea, it’s clear that this is a partnership that has been expanding, but it also shows you where Russia is on the world stage, where its closest partners in the world are North Korea, Iran, Syria, and then to a certain degree, to a different degree, the People’s Republic of China, which is not providing Russia with weapons but which is providing a lot of the dual-use products that go into the production of advanced weapons systems – things like nitrocellulose and optics and machine tools that directly support Russia’s defense industrial base and, hence, pose a threat to Ukraine but also to European security. That’s the coalition, broadly speaking, that Russia has assembled. Contrast that with the coalition of 50 countries at the Ukraine Defense Contact Group that’s supporting Ukraine and then the roughly hundred countries that have supported the principles of the UN Charter in Switzerland, and you’ll see a distinct contrast there.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. We’ll go to another live question: Oskar Gorzynski from the Polish Press Agency. Oskar, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you for doing this, Ambassador. So we’ve seen the recent round of sanctions, including many of them on the Chinese companies that supply the Russian war machine. So I assume it’s fair to say that China did not heed the administration’s warning to stop supplying Russia. And do you expect the sanctions to seriously disrupt this process?

And also, to follow up on the Pyongyang visit, do you expect any significant increase in support that Pyongyang is offering to Russia beyond what has already been agreed? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Yeah, good questions. So, as I said just now, the PRC has provided a significant amount of dual-use technology to Russia that has been directly used in creating weapons systems, including nitrocellulose that’s used for propellants, machine tools, and optics that produce – help produce UAVs, missiles, rockets. And by taking this action now to sanction Chinese entities that are cooperating in building up the Russian defense industrial base, we’re making it clear that no entity is immune from this sort of support to Russia’s war effort.

There is a distinction between the provision of weapons, however, and the provision of such dual-use items. We have made it very clear through our statements but also, frankly, a number of our European partners have made clear, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, French President Macron, German Chancellor Scholz, all of whom have engaged with Xi Jinping in recent months, that the provision of this sort of equipment to Russia is, as I said earlier, not just enabling Russia to attack Ukraine in the current moment, but it is also building up a deterrence and a weapons capacity that over the long run will pose a significant threat to European security above and beyond the threat that it poses to Ukraine. So really, this is something that we see as a long-term challenge, and we’re going to keep at it. We’re going to make sure that there is no sanctuary for companies that are supporting the Russian war effort.

MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. One more live question here: Ethan Holmes. Ethan, could you please identify the outlet you’re reporting for? Ethan, go ahead. You have the mike.

Okay, we’ll go back to Ethan in a second. Why don’t we ask a question that was submitted by Christopher Miller from the Financial Times: “While the U.S.-Ukraine security pact and the U.S. commitment as a signatory to the peace formula are positive developments, they are not, quote/unquote, ‘Trump-proof.’ Both can be withdrawn under Trump without notice” – or “with notice, should he decide to do so. What is the Biden administration doing right now to ensure U.S. support for Ukraine in any circumstances beyond November of this year?”

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Well, look, here is how – I don’t do politics, but here’s how I’ll answer this question. We’ve just signed a 10-year Bilateral Security Agreement with Ukraine that will enable us to support Ukraine over the medium to long run to establish a future force that can deter and defend against Russian aggression. Both – now, that future force – right now Ukraine is obviously fighting for its survival, but that future force – we hope – will be able to deter and defend such that it will create a ready, capable Ukrainian military that is ready to join the NATO Alliance at some point in the future when conditions permit and when Allies agree.

Now, we’re sort of seeing the collective effort that various countries have put into their now various – I think all of the G7 countries have at this point signed bilateral security agreements alongside the United States. We’re seeing that together with other efforts, including the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, also known as the Ramstein format, as providing sort of a bridge from here to Ukraine’s eventual NATO membership. So we’re building up the Ukrainian force, making it interoperable, making it more capable, stronger, more ready, able to resist Russian aggression, and hopefully able to deter it at some point in the future. And that is by definition not a short-run commitment, it’s a longer-term proposition. And so this executive agreement, the BSA that we just signed, aims to do that.

MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. We’ll go now to Lara Jakes from The New York Times. Lara, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi there, can you hear me?

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, great. Thank you. I’m wondering if you anticipate Ukraine to be a major focus of the upcoming NATO Summit in Washington, and if so, what deliverables will be announced, and do you expect air defenses to be among them? Thank you.

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: So yes, I do expect that Ukraine will be a significant subject of discussion at the NATO summit. We also expect President Zelenskyy to come and to hold a NATO-Ukraine Council meeting at the leaders’ level. We are currently in discussions, and I know NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has already publicly discussed some of this in terms of how we intend as an Alliance to support Ukraine going forward with such things as training coordination, equipment coordination, defense institution building, and things of that nature.

So I don’t want to get ahead of any announcements that will be made at the summit, but Allies have had a chance to discuss in detail our support for Ukraine both at the foreign ministers’ meeting at the end of May in Prague and then also at the recent defense ministerial that Secretary Austin attended. And we are coalescing around a robust package of support for Ukraine that will enable NATO to continue to support Ukraine in the ways that it has – not through the provision, direct provision, of lethal equipment, but through coordination of allied efforts.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. A question here from TV8 in Moldova, from Mihaela Rudenco: “Given the geopolitical situation in the world, the war in Ukraine, the peace summit, and the presidential elections in Moldova in October, what in your opinion are the security risks for Moldova?”

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Well, that’s a very good question. Thank you. Moldova, in fact, faces a range of challenges going into these elections, and the United States is committed to supporting Moldova’s election integrity. It seems fairly obvious over the course of the last few months that there are a number of external efforts to influence the elections and anecdotal evidence of various operations, to include information operations, perhaps cyber and other operations to try to influence online perceptions going into this election. I wouldn’t exclude also other forms of manipulation like attempts at dark-money operations.

We’re pretty clear: We’re going to stand with Moldova; we’re going to support election integrity in this very important election for Moldova’s continued European trajectory. As you know, Moldova is a candidate country for EU membership, and we have supported with a range of humanitarian, economic, and other types of assistance. And we just think it’s very important that these elections be free and fair and conducted without outside influence, and that is key, because certainly Russia and other countries have a history of interference in elections both in Moldova and in other countries on Russia’s periphery. So we’re going to be looking out for that and helping bolster Moldova’s resilience against such efforts.

MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Ethan Holmes did submit a question. He asks: “The Kremlin has repeatedly warned that the continued Western arms delivery to Ukraine will only prolong the conflict, whereas NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said yesterday that stronger support for Ukraine will end the conflict sooner. Does the Biden administration believe that continuing to provide weapons to Ukraine bolsters prospects for peace or harms them?”

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Look, Ukraine is being attacked and has been attacked by Russia for the last two and a half years in a full-scale invasion of the – through a full-scale invasion of the country. This conflict has been ongoing since 2014, obviously. Russia could end this war today if it withdrew its forces from Ukraine. So the onus is on Russia to withdraw from Ukrainian territory that it occupies.

What we, the United States and our allies and partners who support Ukraine, are trying to do is strengthen Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, to liberate additional territory, and to negotiate – if they choose to – from a position of strength. Our ultimate goal is a sovereign, democratic, independent Ukraine, and we support, as do all of the various countries that gathered in Switzerland that signed on to that communique that I referred to earlier, we support the basic principles of the UN Charter such as sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the inviolability of borders. And Russia has transgressed those three principles in the course of this war, and if we allow Russia to continue to transgress such principles, we’re going to end up in a world where might makes right and where any powerful country can decide on a whim to invade a weaker neighbor – and that’s not the type of world that I think any country around the world would want to live in. And so we have an obligation to defend the international order, to support Ukraine, and to support the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Next question was submitted by Eric Schmitt from The New York Times, who asks you to assess the level of Russian casualties over the past month of combat near Kharkiv and the east, and what impact will that have on the Russian campaign overall? Will Putin need to conduct another mobilization?

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Well, I don’t have a specific number for you, Eric, to announce in terms of Russian casualties just in the Kharkiv region or since the Kharkiv offensive began. We do have evidence from our Ukrainian partners that there have – that Russia has incurred heavy casualties in its efforts to attack from the north in the Kharkiv region. And the Ukrainians have bravely stopped the Russians in their tracks. This has been an untold story of Ukrainian military success, the degree to which they have stood the line and really fortified their defensive lines against this offensive incursion.

I will tell you more broadly that, as President Biden has recently referenced, we estimate as many as around 400,000 killed and wounded in the course of this war, which is, if you think about it, a staggering number – more than – more casualties than Russia sustained during the course of its war in Afghanistan, for example. And Putin could end it all today, as I said earlier. He could end this war today if he withdrew from Ukraine. This was an unprovoked war of choice by Putin, and he could end it right now.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Ambassador. I think we have time for one last question, this time from Karol Darmoros from Polish Radio Poland. He asks: “Some Central European leaders even before the summit in Switzerland were worried that the biggest problem for peace in Ukraine is not the absence of Russia or China but the lack of actual behind-the-scenes conversation or negotiations with Russia. What is your comment on this? Is the U.S. actually involved in these activities?”

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Well, when you say when the U.S. is involved in these activities, I assume you mean negotiations with Russia, and the answer to that is no. As I said earlier, President Putin just a couple of days ago gave a speech where he laid out his preconditions for negotiations with Ukraine, and those included Ukraine giving up the roughly nearly 20 percent of Ukrainian territory that Russia currently occupies and, in addition, giving up an additional 3 or 4 percent of Ukrainian territory that Russia covets, and then on top of that he demanded that Ukraine forswear any future integration with NATO.

That is not a serious proposition for a negotiation for a just and lasting peace. That’s a demand for capitulation. That’s a demand for surrender. Ukraine has made clear that they are eager to entertain serious negotiations that would bring about peace in their country. Nobody wants peace more than the Ukrainians, who have suffered enormously during the course of this war. Just think about all the killed and wounded, including civilians, the horrors of Bucha, the filtration camps, the children who have been ripped apart from their families and sent across the border involuntarily to Russia, where they’ve been, as was recently exposed, put on Russian adoption websites. This is a horrific tragedy for Ukraine, and I am sure that President Zelenskyy would like to end this war, but on conditions that support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And so that’s what this meeting in Switzerland was all about, was establishing a framework for a just and lasting peace. The United States supported the communique that came out of that session in that summit in Switzerland. And ultimately, we’re going to support Ukraine until they decide that they feel that it’s time to negotiate with Russia. Nothing about – as we’ve said all along through this war, “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine” has been our motto and we’re going to continue to stick with that.

MODERATOR: Ambassador, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today.

AMBASSADOR CARPENTER: Thanks so much.

MODERATOR: Unfortunately, that is all the time we have for today’s call. Thanks, everyone, for your questions. We will send around a recording of the call shortly. Today is actually a U.S. holiday, so the transcript won’t be up until tomorrow. But thanks again for everybody who joined us today, and this ends today’s briefing.

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