2:33 p.m. EST
MR PRICE: Good afternoon.
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
MR PRICE: Good to see everyone. We’ll go ahead and get started.
As you all know, earlier today in Geneva, we concluded the extraordinary session of the bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue, where the U.S. delegation was led by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman.
In candid, substantive discussions that lasted nearly eight hours, the United States came with several ideas of reciprocal actions that the U.S. and Russia can take that would be in our security interest and would improve strategic stability.
These preliminary ideas, as you’ve heard from the deputy, included missile placement and the future of certain missile systems in Europe, along the lines of the now-defunct INF Treaty between the U.S. and Russia.
We also shared that we are open to discussing ways we can set reciprocal limits on the size and scope of military exercises, and to improving transparency around those exercises, again on a reciprocal basis.
We were firm, however, in pushing back on security proposals we’ve heard from Moscow that are simply non-starters for the United States. We will not, for example, allow anyone to slam closed NATO’s “Open Door” policy, which has always been central to the NATO Alliance. We also will not forego bilateral cooperation with sovereign states that wish to work with the United States. And we will not make decisions about Ukraine without Ukraine, about Europe without Europe, or about NATO without NATO. As we say to our allies and partners, “nothing about you, without you.”
The United States is committed to meaningful, reciprocal dialogue with Russia – just as we are committed to consulting and coordinating closely with our allies and partners. We are ready to continue discussions on the bilateral issues we identified today as soon as is practical, and we made that clear in the discussions today. To that end, tomorrow Deputy Secretary Sherman will travel to Brussels to brief the North Atlantic Council and the EU Political and Security Committee as well as to meet with the EU EEAS Secretary General Sannino, all ahead of the NATO-Russia Council meeting planned for Wednesday morning. We have been and will continue to be moving in lockstep with our allies and partners at every level.
Deputy Secretary Sherman will travel to Brussels for continued consultations ahead of those multilateral engagements with the Russian Federation that are slated for later this week.
Russian officials have said that they want to move swiftly, and the United States is ready to do so. At the same time, negotiations on complex topics like arms control cannot be completed in a matter of days, or even weeks. We must give diplomacy and dialogue the time and space required to make progress on such complex issues.
So with that, happy to turn to your questions.
QUESTION: Thanks, Ned. Been a while since I’ve been in this room.
MR PRICE: Yes.
QUESTION: Over a month now.
MR PRICE: Well, it’s good to see you, Matt. It always is.
QUESTION: Yeah, I’m sure you’re thrilled. (Laughter.) A couple of things on that, but I just want to start with one thing logistically. You guys just put out a statement, a Secretary comment on the Chinese sanctions on CIRF members, right?
MR PRICE: We did.
QUESTION: I mean, that happened over a month ago.
MR PRICE: Matt, it’s an important —
QUESTION: Why – if it was that important, why didn’t you react to it earlier? I’m just curious as to why it took so long for you guys to come up with a statement about it.
MR PRICE: Matt, I think you know it’s an important message. The Secretary wanted to be very clear that we view these actions as just another attempt on the part of the PRC to intimidate, to suppress those who are putting forward —
QUESTION: Okay. I’m just wondering why it took so long since this happened in December —
MR PRICE: Well, as you know, we often issue —
QUESTION: — (inaudible) January 10th.
MR PRICE: We often issue formal statements after the fact. We’re always happy to discuss developments on a real-time basis, as you know.
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: Two things. One, is there – was there any agreement on anything, even to have another round of talks, that was agreed to at – in this?
MR PRICE: So Matt, as you know, these were discussions. They were preliminary discussions. And the idea was for the United States and, in our hope, the Russian Federation to come with viable, practical, reciprocal ideas, to put those on the table, and to see if there were the potential for progress. We did not intend this to be a forum where certainly decisions were reached, where any breakthroughs could be achieved, or really even contemplated. This wasn’t, as you heard from the deputy this morning, even what we would consider a negotiation. It was —
QUESTION: Okay. That’s not my question. I just want to know – I mean, because this is the third round of these that you had, and in the previous rounds, there have been an agreement that you would at some point – at some level, whether it’s a working group or whatever, meet again. You’re saying there wasn’t even that?
MR PRICE: What I’m saying is that it was not intended to reach a decision. This was not a decisive session. It was —
QUESTION: I don’t care if it – what it was intended to do. Was there any agreement at all to meet again at any —
MR PRICE: As you heard —
QUESTION: — at this level or any other level?
MR PRICE: As you heard from the deputy, Matt, what’s going to happen over the course of this week, tomorrow, the deputy will travel to Brussels, she’ll meet with our NATO, with our European allies. They, in turn, will then have multilateral discussions with the Russian Federation, and we expect there will be additional dialogue with the Russian Federation in the coming days regarding what the next iteration of this discussion will look.
QUESTION: No, I know, but (inaudible). But the bottom line is that there – no, there was no agreement to have – not that you were expecting to have one, but there was no agreement to meet again at any other level in this bilateral format. Correct?
MR PRICE: There was an agreement that we will talk again in the coming days to figure out what those next steps look like.
QUESTION: And then lastly, I just wanted to – I wanted to – I asked Deputy Secretary Sherman this before, in terms of what it is that the U.S. and its allies would regard as significant or enough de-escalation from the Russian side as it relates specifically to Ukraine. She suggested that that meant returning Russian troops that are now deployed on the border to their barracks. But those barracks can be anywhere in Russia; they could be 10 miles from where they are now.
And so I want to bring this up again. Understanding the context and the history of what Russian troop deployments might mean to countries along its border, these are still troop movements within their own country. They haven’t gone anywhere else, at least not yet, these —
MR PRICE: So I —
QUESTION: — these. So what is it that you guys are looking for in terms of de-escalation? Because if you’re going to try to bar countries from sending – from moving troops around inside their own borders, I don’t think anyone’s going to – no one’s going to go for that.
MR PRICE: Let me make a couple points on that, Matt. There is a reason we have been talking about this, the United States has put this on the agenda – really the center of our foreign policy agenda, and at the top of our messaging agenda in many ways for the past two months. That is because this buildup of nearly 100,000 Russian troops in recent weeks – we’ve called it unusual, we’ve called it massive, we have called it concerning; it is all of those things. That is why we are taking this with all due seriousness.
You heard from the deputy that what we have consistently called for is for these Russian troops to return to their barracks. You seem to suggest that it is completely normal in the course of business for 100,000 troops to be on the border with Ukraine. That is not normal; that is why we’ve called it unusual.
QUESTION: I’m not trying to —
MR PRICE: That’s why we’ve been talking about this for the past two months.
QUESTION: I’m not trying to suggest (inaudible). But where do you want – what barracks do you want them to go to? Some barracks in Vladivostok? I mean, I don’t understand it.
MR PRICE: We’ve —
QUESTION: I get – I get the concern, I get the history, and I get the fears in Ukraine and elsewhere about what the potential – what the significance might be of these troops. But who – why is it for you to tell the Russians where exactly they can house their own troops? Where do you want – go to barracks where? Back in Moscow? In Yekaterinburg? In – where?
MR PRICE: So Matt, these – this buildup started with the unusual movements that has now culminated in nearly 100,000 troops. It took movement to get to this buildup. What we would like to see is for troops to return to their permanent staging grounds, their permanent bases. If they were to do that, there would not be nearly 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border.
I’ll make another point. The Russians did this without any transparency, without telling anyone. Now of course, we are going to notice 100,000 troops – probably far less, in terms of a buildup. Our allies are going to notice it. Commercial satellite companies are going to notice it. So it’s not that the Russians sought to do this furtively or stealthily. Of course, everyone is going to notice a massive buildup on the order of 100,000 troops. And that’s really the point. The Russians knew that we would notice this. The Russians knew that the intimidating signals that they are very clearly intending to send to Kyiv will be noticed – not only in Kyiv, but in Washington, and in Brussels, and in Paris, in London, in Berlin, and elsewhere. And that’s certainly the case.
You raise the history, but the history here is also important. This is not a country where there is –
QUESTION: That’s why I raised it.
MR PRICE: No, and I’m glad you did. This is a – and just —
QUESTION: How far away from Ukraine’s borders do you want these troops to go?
MR PRICE: Matt, what we have called for is a return to their barracks. And if we see a return to their barracks, that is an indication of de-escalation. If these are truly exercises – and I think you can understand our skepticism as to why that might be the case – we would like transparency. We would like to hear from the Russians what exactly it is they’re exercising, why they’re exercising on this scale, and when they intend to return to their permanent staging grounds.
But just to finish the point I was making before and the point you helpfully raised is that this is a country that has a track record here, and we would be remiss not to point out that track record. As we speak today, there are Russian forces and Russian-backed forces on sovereign Ukrainian territory. As we speak today, Russia, as we’ve just discussed, has amassed tens of thousands, almost a hundred thousand, troops on Ukraine’s borders, and they’ve done so in a relatively short period of time.
It was of course Russia that in 2014 sought to annex Crimea, instigated a war in eastern Ukraine, continues to fuel conflict there. It is Russia that over the years has invaded, has occupied, has fomented conflict against its neighbors and others. The list is long – I probably don’t have time to go through all of them – but Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, just to name a few. It is Russia that over the years has interfered in democratic elections, including our own, but of course not limited to our own. They have used, extraterritorially, chemical weapons. They have orchestrated cyber attacks. They’ve used energy as a weapon, among other tactics.
So again, you’ll have to pardon and probably understand our skepticism when we hear from the Russians that these are just exercises; that, as we heard from them today, that we shouldn’t be concerned. We hear that. What we want to see are signs of de-escalation, and certainly a sign of de-escalation would be for these troops to return to their permanent bases.
QUESTION: First, I wonder if you could just clarify. You said the – and the deputy secretary said you’re going to talk to the Russians again, but at the end of the week. Is that going to be like another bilateral meeting in person? Will that take place in Vienna, I guess, where people will still be at the end of the week? Is there a set time and date for that meeting, and place?
And secondly, on the INF Treaty, I wonder if you could just tell us a bit more. This sort of proposal or idea that we could return to something along the lines of the INF Treaty, is that – would that mean going back to – obviously that’s a treaty that Moscow was found to have violated. Would that mean then going back to before those alleged violations or could there be new terms set on facts on the ground now? And how exactly could you see a new version of that treaty being drawn up?
MR PRICE: Sure. So in terms of what we expect later this week, I’m not in a position to preview any sort of formal engagement. But it is fair to say that we do expect to be in touch with the Russian Federation again in the coming days to determine when and how this conversation will go forward. That conversation at the end of this week or in the coming days will also be informed by what we and our allies and partners here in the two fora that are coming up this week, the NATO-Russia Council and in the OSCE.
So of course, in all of this, we’ll compare notes with our allies and partners as we contemplate those next steps. I’ll move to your question on the INF in a second, but let me just spend a second, a moment, on those consultations that we have undertaken really over the past couple months. As I alluded to Matt just a moment ago, we have been talking about this really since November, and so it is going on two months now. And a preliminary tally, we’ve had over a hundred engagements with our allies and partners in that period.
The State Department has undertaken most of those; more than 60 of them have come from the State Department. But just to give you a very broad and rough flavor, President Biden has spoken to at least 16 European leaders. Secretary Blinken has held more than two dozen calls and meetings with foreign leaders and foreign ministers to discuss our coordinated response to Russia’s military buildup. He’s also participated in meetings with the G7, NATO, OSCE. He’s engaged the EU, and we will continue to do that. Secretary Austin has spoken with a number of his counterparts. And we are in regular, almost constant, contact with our Ukrainian partners.
In the last few weeks alone, President Biden has spoken to President Zelenskyy a couple times. Secretary Blinken has spoken twice with President Zelenskyy as well, and twice with the foreign minister, Mr. Kuleba. Senior officials here, at the Defense Department, at the NSC are in regular contact with their Ukrainian partners. So this is just the very high-level engagement at the wave tops. Obviously, when it comes to the working level, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of more engagements with our allies and partners because we are committed to the principle, to the mantra “nothing about them without them,” whether it’s Europe, whether it’s Ukraine, whether it’s NATO.
And I think that’s precisely why you heard from Secretary General Stoltenberg on Friday that the Alliance deeply appreciates the concerted consultation and coordination that the United States has engaged in. The secretary general mentioned that allies welcome our engagement with Russia in the course of the SSD, the Strategic Stability Dialogue. We have heard similar comments from individual European leaders, including President Macron of France and others.
When it comes to the INF, this was – and you heard from the deputy this morning – this was an area that the Russians discussed this morning. They put on the table and they discussed the concerns that led to the ultimate demise of the INF Treaty, and there was really one overriding, overarching concern in our mind, and that was the fact that the Russians weren’t adhering to it. They were cheating on the INF. So, of course, this wasn’t a forum where we were going to reach any sort of agreement or come to a decision on INF-like provisions that may be viable going forward, but there are ongoing concerns on our part when it comes to intermediate-range missiles. The Russians purport to have concerns on their part.
That’s what this dialogue was all about: to put on the table and to surface areas where there may be ideas for reciprocal measures, steps we can take, steps the Russian Federation may be able to take. As you heard from the deputy this morning, that doesn’t mean that these are identical steps on either side, but they’re steps that, on a reciprocal basis, address some of our concerns as the Russians undertake these measures, and the Russians, in turn, address some of our concerns. So that is what we are seeking, at least testing the proposition, if there is room to come to some sort of arrangement there in full consultation and coordination with our partners and allies.
QUESTION: Is there something that they said that makes you think that they wouldn’t just be in violation again (inaudible)?
MR PRICE: Well, look, again, I think we’re going to leave what was said in the room, the specifics of what was said in the room, to the room. But I think we’ll be mindful of the history of this. We will need our own assurances that any arrangements that we’re able to arrive at, that there is transparency, that we’re not just trusting one another when it comes to what we’re hearing, what we’re saying, what we’re doing when it comes to intermediate-range missiles, weapons, or any other area.
QUESTION: Given what the deputy secretary said today about returning to their barracks with – meaning de-escalation, does that mean that the U.S. would take actions, including sanctions, if they do not return to their barracks absent a move across the border?
MR PRICE: We’ve been very clear that if the Russians were to go forward with an invasion, they will face massive consequences.
MR PRICE: Well, so I think the question of aggression versus the question of an invasion – those are two separate issues. We will and we have – and previous administrations have as well – seek to hold the Russians to account for their aggressive actions, whether vis-à-vis Ukraine, whether vis-à-vis any other realm. And this administration has done that. We did that in the first weeks in office and we’ve done that since on issues as disparate as election interference, use of chemical weapons —
QUESTION: In context of this disagreement.
MR PRICE: Now, in – well, I would take issue with the idea that this is a disagreement. This is not a disagreement. One side has a hundred thousand troops massed on the border with Ukraine. The other side is pointing that out, and the other side is taking —
QUESTION: In the context of this crisis.
MR PRICE: In the context of what we’re seeing now, we have said that these strong, unprecedented measures – measures that we very intentionally did not utilize, the United States has not utilized up until now – that they would be implemented in concert with our allies and partners if Russia were to invade Ukraine, if it were continued – if it were to move forward with that aggression.
Now, that doesn’t mean that even if Russia doesn’t move forward with an invasion, that we expect Russia will turn into an entirely benign influence and actor. But we also have other means to continue to hold Russia to account for the types of activities it has engaged in as of – as in recent years. But what we are talking about with these unprecedented, strong measures that we would implement together with our allies and partners – that is in response – would be in response to a Russian invasion.
QUESTION: But – so what actions are you prepared to take to get Russia to move the troops back from the border, de-escalate, and back into their barracks?
MR PRICE: Well, again, this is part of the reason why we’re engaged in diplomacy with them, whether it’s through the SSD, whether it is in the context of NATO, whether it’s in the OSCE. The only point I would emphasize here – and again, we’re not going to put our entire playbook on the table for reasons that I’m sure are obvious – but the only point I would make here is that we aren’t talking about concessions. We aren’t talking about unilateral U.S. steps or unilateral NATO steps or European steps. We are talking about reciprocal measures, meaning that if we were to do something, the Russians would in turn have to do something, whether it’s in the bilateral context that redounds positively on our security concerns; in the European context, which redounds positively on the transatlantic security concerns; or NATO, or when it comes to Ukraine. So that’s what we’ll be looking for. But again, that’s the reason why we’re engaged in this diplomacy: to test the proposition that there are fruitful areas where we can arrive at these mutual reciprocal steps that would address the various security concerns that have been put on the table.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Ned. Just wanted to follow up with what Andrea was asking, kind of the space between aggression and invasion. The Russian deputy foreign minister said today that it was clear from the things that you guys declared to be non-starters that the U.S. underestimates the seriousness of what’s going on, which sort of states the obvious that the Russians see their pressure, their military pressure, as leverage to get you guys to take them seriously and make moves.
So I wonder, do you – do you anticipate that they will take some further escalatory step to try to shape your behavior? And do you have any plan to take such a step of your own during the talks to shape their sense of the seriousness of what’s going on? Because it seems like – I think this is what kind of we’ve been asking about – there’s an asymmetry here where you have the leverage that you have and they have the leverage that they have, but it’s much more convenient for them to use their leverage than the U.S. to use yours. So —
MR PRICE: Joel, what I would say is I wouldn’t underestimate the leverage that the United States has, the leverage that collectively we have, and I think that’s the point. The United States has a lot of leverage when it comes to the Russian Federation. We have a whole lot more leverage when it comes to the Russians when we’re working in concert – as we are with NATO, as we are with the EU, as we are with other partners, including Ukraine.
So yes, the Russians are the one with 100,000 troops on the border, but the transatlantic alliance, the transatlantic alliance in tandem with our partners – we have forms of leverage, many of which we have mapped out and we have discussed extensively in various fora with our European partners and allies and others that we’re prepared to use.
So the Russians – there may be the idea out there that the Russians are the only one with leverage. I think that misunderstands what we have available to us and what we’re prepared to do if the Russians aren’t willing to back down.
QUESTION: Are you going to do anything – during the talk – you’ve outlined leverage that you’ll do if they invade. I’m saying are you going to do anything – because they seem to think that they can do things within the process that will change your behavior. Are you guys doing to do anything practically, militarily, security assistance going – over the next weeks that will shape their risk perception?
MR PRICE: Well, one of the most important things we’ve done is to make very clear what the consequences will be. And of course, that is part and parcel of our communications. But it is also part of our strategy of deterrence. We have not shied away from the fact that the Russians will face these consequences if they go forward, and that is to make very clear that we are serious about deterrence, we are serious about defense.
So we have talked about the sanctions and economic measures that we’re prepared to implement together with our allies and partners. We have talked about the defensive support that we are prepared to provide Ukraine above and beyond what we are already providing to Kyiv. And this year, we have provided more defensive support to Ukraine than any year since 2014, and we’ve also talked about the measures we are prepared to take to reinforce the eastern flank of NATO. These are all steps that we have made public. We have undertaken, as I alluded to before, a great deal of consultation and coordination in private to discuss specific measures that would impose unprecedented costs on the Russian Federation, all with an eye towards deterrence and defense.
QUESTION: So just kind of to go back what Andrea was saying, I’m just wondering if the U.S. and allies are considering sanctions as a deterrent if Russia doesn’t de-escalate.
MR PRICE: Kylie, we believe that diplomacy has the means to de-escalate and to defuse the situation. That’s why we’re engaging with the Russians together with our allies and partners in the SSD, in the NRC, the NATO-Russia Council, in the OSCE PC. We wouldn’t be doing otherwise. We have been very clear: This is our preferred course, to find a way diplomatically to address the security concerns that the United States, that NATO, that Europe, that the Ukrainians have put on the table, and to see if there are ways on a reciprocal basis to address some of the concerns that Moscow has put on the table.
We’ve been very clear that – and the Russians have been very public about the issues they have raised in their two treaties. We’ve been very clear that there are some areas of potential overlap when it comes to our security concerns and theirs. We’ve also been very clear there are areas that are non-starters for us. And so the point of today, the point of Wednesday, of Thursday, is to determine if there is enough in that Venn diagram of overlap for us to make progress going forward on a reciprocal basis.
Now, again, I don’t expect any breakthroughs will be reached on Wednesday. I don’t expect any breakthroughs on Thursday. This is the beginning of a diplomatic process. We are – we welcome the fact that the Russian Federation is taking part in this dialogue we – with us. We think it’s important. Again, it is our preferred course, and we believe it’s a viable course, and we’re testing that now.
QUESTION: Did Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed come up at all in the discussions?
MR PRICE: I will get back to you on that. As you know, we consistently raise the case of Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed when we have high-level discussions with our Russian counterparts. Their safe return, we have no higher priority when it comes to our engagement on that.
QUESTION: There does seem to be something that Ryabkov agrees with you guys on after (inaudible), which is that you didn’t offer concessions, and that there is not – and that’s a big problem from their perspective, that their concerns – that their gravest concern, NATO’s “Open Door” policy – were not taken seriously by the United States. Does that mean that the United States is more comfortable with Russia taking a small bite or a large bite out of Ukraine than seriously revisiting the “Open Door” policy?
QUESTION: John, we have been very clear – and I am surprised, frankly, that the Russians would be surprised, because we have been nothing but clear that there are some things that are not on the table. Well, let me say the Russians are welcome to put them on the table. There are some things we are not going to engage on, and one of those is NATO’s “Open Door” policy. This is about one of the founding elements of the Alliance, namely the idea that any country can aspire to meet the criteria by which admission to NATO can be granted. It’s in the founding charter of NATO, it’s been underscored and reiterated ever since, and the Russians too have at various times agreed to this same principle.
So there is no going back on that principle. There’s no going back on it because it is written into NATO as an alliance, but there’s also a bigger point here, a larger point here. And in some ways it’s a point that is larger than NATO, it’s larger than Ukraine, it’s larger than any international organization, it’s larger than any one country. And that is the idea that no country – no matter how big, no matter how powerful, no matter the size of their arsenal, no matter if they have nuclear weapons – no country can be in a position to dictate the foreign policy of another country. No country, no matter how large, can bully or intimidate or seek to change internationally recognized borders of another country.
These are basic tenets of the rules-based international order. And if we allow them to be eroded in this context or any other context – and we’ve talked about them here, we’ve talked about them in the Indo-Pacific – it undermines the entire system upon which the international system has operated for the past seven or so decades. It undermines the system that has afforded really unprecedented levels of stability, of prosperity, of security the world over.
So that is why we are making such a concerted point about this. Ukraine is incredibly important; Ukraine is a close partner. But what the Russians are seeking to do in this context, it’s about more than Ukraine. It’s about what underpins the international system.
QUESTION: I just want to follow up a little bit on John’s question, because clearly NATO’s activities are the big concern of Russia coming into this. And they’re looking at Sweden, where Secretary Blinken’s just been, which has never worked more closely with NATO. They’re looking at Finland and the F-35s. They’re looking at Ukraine, which they call a de facto NATO member. And what I’m wondering, I guess, is looking ahead to the Wednesday meeting, is there anything – obviously, that’s a red line in terms of NATO member inclusion, but is there anything else NATO could do or would be willing to work with the Russians on that could provide some kind of gain or some kind of basis for agreement on what is their biggest basket of issues? Do you exclude that?
MR PRICE: Well, as you know, these are questions for NATO. Of course, the United States is a member of the Alliance, a proud member of the Alliance. The Secretary took part in the extraordinary NAC – the North Atlantic Council – meeting ministerial on Friday, where the ministers came together along with the secretary general to talk about what this session on Thursday will – on Wednesday, excuse me, will look like. So I will leave it to NATO as an alliance to speak to how they’re thinking about this. It is not for the United States to speak to that ourselves. But we are, of course, engaged with NATO as an alliance. The Secretary took part in that meeting precisely so that we can ensure that all 30 NATO Allies are on the same page going into this set of discussions with Moscow on Wednesday.
QUESTION: Ned, you said there are some things which are not on the table, but then there are other things which are now on the table, such as limiting NATO and U.S. exercises. And so it seems to me that those weren’t in consideration before Russia’s aggression – they are being given, in a sense, as a concession to their aggression if something is agreed. And I wonder what message that sends to anyone else who wants to just go out and make concessions and get concessions from the U.S.
MR PRICE: Ben, to be very clear, we are not talking about concessions whatsoever. We are talking about seeking elements, seeking ideas, seeking proposals that are in our – the collective we – that are in our security interest. So again, these are not things that we would do unilaterally. These are not things that we would do in an effort just to get Moscow to get back down, just to get Moscow to return its troops to their permanent bases. These are things that ultimately would redound in favor of our collective security.
And there are areas that are potentially ripe for that, and you’re right that we’ve talked about a few of them. Missiles is one. Reciprocal measures of transparency around exercises, for example – and then broadly, arms control, including strategic and what are called nonstrategic nuclear weapons. So these are at least a few of those areas; there may be other areas. But to be very clear, these are not concessions. These are not favors. This is not with an eye to inducing Moscow to back down. These are measures that we would take for our security, for our collective security.
QUESTION: Do you agree they wouldn’t have been on the table had Russia not started this whole crisis?
MR PRICE: No. Ben, to give you one example, there were elements of the INF Treaty that were certainly to our national security interest —
MR PRICE: — in the national security interests of NATO, of our European allies, of our partners. That’s what we’re talking about. We would have liked to speak to those areas even before this. And in fact, that’s the point of the Strategic Stability Dialogue.
I think the broader point here: The Strategic Stability Dialogue has met twice already. It met in July and it met in September. This was a forum that President Biden and President Putin agreed to put together well before Russia moved tens of thousands, nearly 100,000 troops to Ukraine’s borders. I think that speaks to the fact that arms control is something that we do wish to engage Russia on. It is an area that will have a positive impact on our collective transatlantic security. So even in the absence of what we’re seeing now on Ukraine’s borders, yes, it would be in our interest.
QUESTION: You would have discussed limiting NATO and U.S. exercises had this Russian aggression not taken place?
MR PRICE: Ben, what we’re talking about is transparency, and what we’re calling for now is transparency from the Russians. There are – Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, for example, that has measures of transparency built into it. Those are areas that will always be welcome if they are arrived at on a reciprocal basis. If the Russians adhere to the transparency requirements, they will have a willing partner on the other side, whether it is the United States, whether it’s NATO. We believe that transparency, that confidence-building measures, that arms control measures as well – that all of these things work to our benefit. And we are always looking for ways that we can advance these causes.
QUESTION: Just a detail. Have the Russians raised concerns about your transparency or about the transparency of the United States in military exercises? I mean, do they feel this is something they can gain from if – you’re obviously wanting transparency from them. Do they feel they’re not getting enough transparency from you?
MR PRICE: I would leave that to Moscow to —
QUESTION: Because they obviously have to have – see a result for themselves if you feel that this is something that —
MR PRICE: I would leave it to Moscow to characterize how they view our transparency. What I will say for our part is that transparency, confidence-building measures, arms control provisions – all of these things have the potential to work to the advantage not only of the security of the transatlantic alliance, but also global security. These are things that have the potential to be in our interest, these are things that may have the potential to be in the interest of the Russian Federation. And the task ahead of us, the task that started today, is to map out where those areas of overlap might be, and once we have identified them, to figure out if there is room to reach a reciprocal – to come to agreement in terms of reciprocal measures that we might both take.
QUESTION: Sure, but then you might be giving them an answer to a question that they’re not asking, right?
MR PRICE: Look, I will leave it to the Russians to characterize what it is that they seek. Mr. Ryabkov was answering questions to the press today. I saw some of the statements he made. But I will leave it to them to characterize what it is they seek in these – in this diplomacy.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up with a – you mentioned and the Deputy Secretary Sherman also mentioned with Ukraine that there’s the “Open Door” policy and that the – that no country can dictate. But what’s the position now on whether Ukraine should be a member of NATO? That’s been an issue that’s been going on for some years. What’s your position at this point?
MR PRICE: Our position on this has not changed. NATO has an “Open Door” policy. Any country that aspires to join NATO should be able to do so. We are a partner to Ukraine. We, of course, engage with them regularly, but our position on this has not changed, and it’s consistent with NATO’s “Open Door” policy.
QUESTION: Really? So wait a second, does that mean Madagascar is okay to —
MR PRICE: Matt, the —
QUESTION: Any country at all? Peru?
MR PRICE: The NATO charter spells out the requirements there, yeah.
QUESTION: No, no, I get it, but I mean, shouldn’t it have at least some relevance to the actual founding document? I mean —
MR PRICE: I will leave it to the founding charter to speak to those requirements, but yes.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the leverage that you’re talking about —
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: — when you say – presumably, this is not new leverage. This is leverage that has been around for some time. It didn’t just appear magically over the course of the last year. So where was it with – when – with Crimea? Where was it with South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Where was it? And if it’s been used, it certainly hasn’t had any impact, so why do you think it’ll have any impact now?
MR PRICE: Well, I would distinguish what we’re seeing now from what we’ve seen in the past in a couple different ways. One, there’s a very simple point that we have made repeatedly now that the types of measures that are on the table, that have firm support from our European allies and our partners as well – these are measures that we intentionally have not pursued in the past.
QUESTION: Okay. But I guess my question is: If this is that serious and if Crimea was the beginning – if Georgia and Abkhazia and South Ossetia back in 2007, ’08 were the beginnings of this and are just as serious as what’s going on now, if not more because they actually did move in, why didn’t you use them then? And the punishment, the sanctions that were imposed afterwards clearly haven’t made any difference. So what – where do you – why do you think that this leverage that you claim to have is actually going to have any impact?
MR PRICE: A couple points. One, it’s difficult for me to speak to past administrations. I am speaking for this administration —
QUESTION: Okay. (Inaudible.)
MR PRICE: — and I will tell you that this administration has put on the table – and we have heard broad and strong consensus from our allies and partners that they are behind this – we have put on the table measures that previous administrations have not pursued, and have not pursued —
QUESTION: Okay. But in 2014 when you were at the NSC, what did – why didn’t you pursue these measures after the annexation of Crimea?
MR PRICE: 2014 and 2021 – there are some key differences here.
QUESTION: Seven years. I mean —
MR PRICE: There are some key differences. One of them is that we are now in January, we’re now in 2022. We have been speaking about this since November of 2021. And this is about more than public messaging; this is about deterrence. This is about making very clear to Moscow that we know what they’re up to, we’re concerned about it, and we are prepared as an alliance, as a transatlantic community, to take these steps that would have massive consequences for the Russian economy.
We were not – the Obama-Biden administration was not in a position to do that —
QUESTION: Why? Why not? If it was the (inaudible) —
MR PRICE: — in 2014.
QUESTION: Well, if – but if you saw the danger, what you see now or claim as the danger, and that the whole international system is at risk, why didn’t you then and not —
MR PRICE: Again, Matt, it is difficult for me to speak to previous administrations. It’s difficult enough for me to come out here every day and —
QUESTION: Is it because the Europeans wouldn’t cooperate with the sanctions? And are you worried about that this time?
MR PRICE: So I will take the second part of that question, because again, this is not a – this is not about history, this is not about previous administrations, this is about what we’re doing, what we’re seeing right now. We have heard very firmly in our in-person consultations, in the calls that the Secretary, that the President, that others have undertaken – the deputy secretary now in her consultations – and in the virtual engagements that we’ve had with NATO, with the EU, with the G7, which was in-person last month – we have heard a very strong consensus that our European allies are very much behind this. You have seen the statements that have come out from NATO, the statements that have come out from the European Council, the statements that – the statement that came out from the G7. And all of these statements came out within a series of days, and as has been pointed out in some of the coverage, some of what all of you have written, the language in all of these statements, in addition to what have emanated from the United States, they’re strikingly similar, if not identical.
And so I think that speaks to the level of agreement, the level of strong consensus. There should be no doubt, and certainly there should be no doubt if you’re sitting in Moscow, that the transatlantic community is prepared to take these strong, decisive measures that we hope to be able to avoid. It’s not our preferred course. Our preferrred course is diplomacy, our preferred course is dialogue, our preferred outcome is de-escalation. But it would be irresponsible of us not to prepare for all contingencies, and that’s why you’ve seen us so focused on deterrence and defense, just as we test the proposition that diplomacy and dialogue is a viable means to achieve de-escalation.
MR PRICE: Well, look, I’m – I don’t want to conflate two situations which of course are very different. Let me – since you raised Kazakhstan, let me just offer a couple general points, and then I’ll get to your question.
We offer our deepest condolences to the people of Kazakhstan on the loss of life and the injuries that have been sustained in recent days. When it comes to Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan has been a valued partner to the United States. We believe in the resilience of the people of Kazakhstan and their ability to rebound from this crisis.
As you’ve heard us say before, we’re concerned by the ongoing state of emergency in Kazakhstan. We understand that a significant number of civilians have died in the fighting. We’ve seen some of those tallies emanate today from the health ministry. We remain concerned about the potential loss of life and the possibility of human rights abuses during security operations, and we call on the government to exercise restraint, including, as you heard from the Secretary yesterday, to rescind the so-called “shoot without warning” order, to protect the people of Kazakhstan and to restore order.
We also understand that approximately 8,000 people have been detained. There, of course, should be consequences for those found guilty of violence and rioting, but we call on authorities to respect legal protections and fair trial guarantees for those facing such charges. And we urge the release of any who were detained for exercising what is a universal right, for exercising their right to freedom of expression and right to peaceful assembly.
As you know, the Secretary spoke to the foreign minister on Thursday. He reiterated our full support for Kazakhstan’s constitutional institutions and the importance of respecting human rights and media freedom. He also urged the Kazakh Government to undertake a rights-respecting resolution to the crisis that includes restoring internet access so that the people of Kazakhstan can have access to independent news sources and access to a broad set of information.
Now, when it comes to the deployment of the CSTO and the CSTO forces to Kazakhstan, I believe I said this on Friday, but we have questions about the nature of this request. We have sought to learn more about it from the Kazakh Government. We call on the CSTO collective peacekeeping forces and law enforcement to respect human rights and support a peaceful resolution, and importantly, to depart Kazakhstan when the Government of Kazakhstan requests it.
QUESTION: And do – just one quick follow-up.
MR PRICE: Yep.
QUESTION: During that conversation on Thursday, did the Secretary express any concern about the presence of the Russian troops?
MR PRICE: If I recall the chronology correctly —
QUESTION: But – did he ask that they not go in?
MR PRICE: Look, we issued a readout of this, but I will just note that if I recall the chronology directly, the CSTO force had not yet gone in by the time the Secretary spoke to the foreign minister on Thursday.
QUESTION: So were there any – was there any conversation about not having Russian troops in there?
MR PRICE: Well, we – you have heard us speak to the questions we have. These are questions that we are posing directly to the Kazakh Government. What we have said very clearly is that CSTO forces should leave when Kazakh authorities ask them to do just that. But look, we have questions because to the best of our knowledge, the Kazakh Government is fully capable of maintaining law and order and defending its institutions in a way that respects individuals’ rights and addresses their concerns. And so that’s why the need, the nature of this request is something that we have sought to learn more about, just as we call upon the CSTO and security forces to respect international human rights, uphold a peaceful resolution, and again, promptly depart Kazakhstan when the Government of Kazakhstan requests.
QUESTION: Just on that point, the Secretary took a lot of heat from the Russians after his Sunday show comments saying once the Russians are in your house it takes a long time for them to get out. Russians hit back saying, well, once the United States are in Afghanistan or Iraq, it actually takes them a pretty long time to get out. Any response?
MR PRICE: I’m – we’re not going to engage in a tit-for-tat with Moscow on this. I think the Secretary’s statement is informed by years and decades of historical experience. It’s very hard to argue with what —
QUESTION: Was the Russian statement informed by —
MR PRICE: – with what he said. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: RND Germany. Back to the Ukraine, I’ve got two questions on potential sanctions. Last week, after his meeting with German Foreign Minister Baerbock, Secretary Blinken said that in the case of an invasion, he could hardly imagine any gas flowing through the pipeline. So does that mean that Nord Stream 2 is definitely on the list of potential sanctions?
And second, you’re obviously considering increasing security assistance to the Ukraine in the case of an invasion. Since you see there is a lot of consensus with the Europeans, would you expect the Europeans and especially the Germans to participate in this kind of security assistance to the Ukraine?
MR PRICE: On your first question, the Secretary did say that about Nord Stream 2. Just as importantly, his German counterpart has made very strong statements about Nord Stream 2 and the eventuality of a Russian invasion and the implications that might hold for Nord Stream 2. So I know that the foreign minister, she has spoken to this. But the German Government as a whole has also spoken to this. In July of last year, in July of 2021, the United States together with Germany, we put out a joint statement that made very clear that Germany would take strong measures in the event of additional Russian aggression when it comes to —
QUESTION: But “strong measures” doesn’t necessarily mean closing down the pipeline.
MR PRICE: There is some ambiguity to it, and I think that is intentional. But the foreign minister has also made very strong statements about what additional Russian aggression in the form of an invasion against Ukraine would mean for Nord Stream 2. You – but let me make one broader point – and we’ve talked a lot in this briefing about the issue of leverage – I think there’s a misperception that Nord Stream 2 is leverage for Vladimir Putin. Nord Stream 2, there’s no gas running through it right now, and you’ve heard various statements, including from the German foreign minister and others, that would call into question the viability of a fully operational Nord Stream 2 if Russians – if the Russians were to move forward with an invasion against Ukraine. So when we talk about the sources of leverage that we have – and we’ve talked about them in the abstract; we’ve talked about some of them specifically – certainly Nord Stream 2 has the potential to be an important source of leverage.
When it comes to European support for Ukraine, look, Ukraine is a valued partner not only to the United States but also to our European allies. Different European countries are going to provide different forms of assistance to Ukraine. And to go back to the joint statement that we signed together with Germany in 2021, mid-2021, that statement spelled out some of the steps the German Government would and is undertaking to help Ukraine achieve energy independence.
So there are – there is defensive military support, there is energy independence, there is economic support, there is political support. There are various forms of support that our European allies are demonstrating to Ukraine and affording to Ukraine, but we would leave it to them to speak to that – to speak to those specifics.
QUESTION: Hey Ned, I’ve got one not related to this.
MR PRICE: Anything else before we take one final question?
MR PRICE: Sure.
QUESTION: The Government of Kazakhstan (inaudible). Does the U.S. see (inaudible)?
MR PRICE: We’ve seen those reports. What we call on is for our Kazakh partners to undertake a rights – to seek a rights-respecting resolution to this in a way that protects the human rights of the Kazakh people, in a way that restores internet access, and in a way that protects civilians. But I don’t have a specific comment on that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Burma.
MR PRICE: Before – we’ll do two questions at the end. Did you have a final question on —
QUESTION: No, mine is on Taiwan/Lithuania.
MR PRICE: Ah, okay. All right, we’ll take a few final quick questions. Matt.
QUESTION: No, go ahead.
MR PRICE: Okay. Shaun.
MR PRICE: Sure. I do. Let me – sorry, let me actually come back to that. Sorry. Yes, so the Burmese military’s regime unjust arrests, conviction, and sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi is an affront to justice and the rule of law. We call on the regime to immediate release Aung San Suu Kyi and all those unjustly detained, including other democratically elected leaders. The regime’s sham judicial processes to attack its political opponents, the rule of law, as well as its continued use of violence against the Burmese people only underscore the urgency of restoring Burma’s path to democracy.
The people of Burma – and we’ve seen this consistently – continue to show that they do not want to spend another day under a military dictatorship, and we’ll continue to support them and all those working peacefully to restore Burma’s path to democracy. We continue to call on the regime to engage in constructive dialogue with all parties to seek a peaceful resolution in the interests of the people as agreed to in the ASEAN five-point consensus.
QUESTION: China is accusing the U.S. of supporting Lithuania in their recognition of Taiwan, and I just wondered if that were true, if you have any comments. Of course, China has banned imports from the country. They say that you’re undermining the “one China” policy as a result. Is the U.S. supporting Lithuania in its decision?
MR PRICE: Well, look, this was a sovereign Lithuanian decision, but we have always said that we welcome steps by Taiwan and Lithuania to deepen their cooperation, including through Taiwan’s opening of a representative office in Vilnius and Lithuania’s plans to open a reciprocal office in Taipei. We do see this as an important step to expand Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the international space, and the opening of these offices will help expand economic and technological cooperation between Taiwan and Lithuania.
Lithuania, as you know and relevant to the broader conversation here, is a valued NATO Ally. It’s a partner as well for the United States across a range of issues, including our strong ties across the economic and defense realms and in terms of the promotion of democracy and human rights. We reaffirm our support for Lithuania, and we’re working to expand and deepen our already robust bilateral relationship.
One final question, Joel.
QUESTION: Yes, I just wanted – just sticking with NATO, Denmark’s foreign intelligence chief, Lars Findsen, has been arrested. According to Danish media reports, the charges involve leaks of highly classified material. Have you received any kind of briefing or consultation? Is there anything going on, any conversations underway to see if any U.S. or transatlantic equities were affected in these case – this case?
MR PRICE: I would refer to our Danish authorities to comment on that. And as you know, we don’t comment on matters of intelligence.
QUESTION: So just extremely briefly, your line on Nord Stream 2 and that you have – it’s misrepresented that this is leverage that Putin has – are you really suggesting that the fact that the pipeline is complete but there’s nothing going through it yet gives you more leverage than if the pipeline hadn’t ever been completed?
MR PRICE: I’m not sure it gives us more leverage. My point is that it is a source —
MR PRICE: It is currently a source of leverage not for the Russian Federation but for Germany and the transatlantic community.
QUESTION: But as we’re in the middle of winter, isn’t it also a source of leverage for them if Europe wants the – if Europe, Germans in particular, want the gas flowing through it?
MR PRICE: How is a non-operational pipeline leverage for —
QUESTION: How is a non-existent pipeline not leverage?
MR PRICE: I’m not talking about a fantasy world in which Nord Stream 2 didn’t exist. I’m talking about the world we inherited.
QUESTION: No, you’re talking about a fantasy world in which you have leverage (inaudible).
MR PRICE: The world we inherited in January of 2021, when this administration came into office and Nord Stream 2 was more than 90 percent complete and —
QUESTION: I didn’t want to get into this. This is – are you familiar with the case of Hoda Muthana? This is a woman who went and joined ISIS back in 2014, right, and then she was trying to get back into the country. She was born here. She had a U.S. passport. Well, anyway, the Supreme Court today has declined to hear her appeal of the 2019 case, which now is, I guess, three years ago. But I’m just wondering: Has the State Department at all changed its position on whether or not she is, in fact, a citizen, or is – are you guys okay with letting the Supreme Court rejection of this stand?
MR PRICE: I am not immediately familiar with the implications of the Supreme Court ruling today, but we’ll get back to you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR PRICE: Thank you all very much.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:33 p.m.)