US will support Ukraine against Russian aggression ‘as long as it takes,’ US State Dept. spokesperson says
Ned Price, the US State Department’s top spokesperson, told The World's host Carol Hills that the United States is prepared to support Ukraine for as long as necessary to defeat Russian aggression and to also defend themselves against any future aggression.
Ukrainian servicemen prepare their weapon to fire Russian positions in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, early Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022.
Six months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US President Joe Biden chose Ukrainian Independence Day to announce almost $3 billion in funding toward new weapons for Ukraine.
“This is about assistance to provide Ukraine with the anti-air systems, with anti-drone technology, with the UAVs, with radars that will help them over the longer term deter and defend themselves against any future aggression, well after this is over,” said Ned Price, the US State Department’s top spokesperson.
Price joined The World’s host Carol Hills to delve into US policy on the war.
Carol Hills: So, how much longer can the US sustain this level of funding?
Ned Price: We have made very clear that we are going to be with Ukraine for as long as it takes. We have had a tremendous partner in the US Congress. We're able to do much of this because of the funding, the emergency supplemental funding that Congress put forward earlier this year. It was $40 billion.
A New York Times story this week noted that aid agencies have pointed out how the West is focusing on Ukraine, where the population is mostly white and Christian, leaving few resources for those fleeing violence and being pushed to the brink of famine in Africa and the Middle East. Is that a fair critique?
It's not a fair critique, because the United States is the world's humanitarian leader. We've spoken of the aid and assistance we provided to Ukraine, but we have done that across continents, across countries, the world over. We have announced billions of dollars for Africa, for other parts of the world.
It's been six months since Russia invaded Ukraine and the war has sort of slowed to a grind. How do US officials see this war playing out?
Our long-term goal is simple. It is to see that Ukraine remains independent, to see it remain sovereign, to see it remain democratic, but with the means to defend itself against any further aggression. We are going to stick by Ukraine until Russia is prepared to negotiate.
Even if that takes years?
We will be there with Ukraine for as long as it takes.
What if Ukraine decides to carry the war to Russia? Will the US continue to back them?
Everything we have provided Ukraine to date has been for their self-defense. Ukraine has every right to use force on its own territory. We have provided them with the weapons and the systems they need, not only to defend themselves, their civilian population, their infrastructure against this Russian brutality, but to take aim at Russian aggressors on sovereign Ukrainian territory, who are carrying out this war.
The US says that Ukraine will not use US-supplied rocket systems to hit Russian territory. But what about special operations against targets across the Russian border? Is that OK with Washington?
What is OK with us and what we have provided are systems for Ukraine to use to defend itself against Russian territory. We've been clear that the weapons we've provided, the systems we've provided, are for use on sovereign Ukrainian territory. I'm just not going to entertain hypotheticals that go beyond that.
Now, Russia has another big card to play, a cold winter in Europe. How do you see the winter ahead, especially when it comes to Europe's reliance on Russia for energy?
We have been working intensively with our European allies, but also partners around the world to do a couple of things. One is near-term, to see to it that there is adequate global energy supply, including shifting supply of LNG, for example, from the Indo-Pacific to Europe, ahead of this winter. We have also tapped into our Strategic Petroleum Reserve at an unprecedented level. Countries around the world are doing the same to see to it that we can stabilize the global energy supply.
The situation with the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, it's really unprecedented in a war for that to happen. How concerned are you about that situation?
Well, we are concerned and we're monitoring it very closely. We know that in combat operations, Russians staging their forces at this nuclear power plant — it is the height of irresponsibility. What we're calling for is an end to combat operations, to Russia's combat operations in and around the nuclear plant. We're calling, with our international partners, for a demilitarized zone. And we're also calling for access on the part of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] to this nuclear facility as soon as possible. We've heard from the Russians that they expect the IAEA could visit as soon as next month. That is too long. This needs to happen as soon as possible.
But if Russia allows IAEA inspectors to visit the plant, isn't that ceding authority of that plant and giving Russia, sort of tacitly saying, yeah, it's your plant?
Well, it is Ukraine's plant.
No, it is Russia's plant if they're the ones giving the authority to IAEA inspectors.
This is a plant that is on sovereign Ukrainian territory. It is our position that Russia should vacate its positions at the plant that day, that the IAEA should have access to this plant. Russia has no right to anything that is on sovereign Ukrainian territory.
You said the war in Ukraine will only end at the negotiating table. Who is in a position to facilitate that?
Well, ultimately, these are going to be decisions that our Ukrainian partners will have to make for themselves. It is our charge, in the meantime — and by "our," I mean the collective "we," the United States and our partners and allies around the world — to provide Ukraine with what they need to strengthen their hand on the battlefield, knowing that if they are stronger on the battlefield, they will be ultimately stronger at any negotiating table that's to emerge.
President Vladimir Zelenskiy keeps saying he wants to retake Crimea. He really wants to regain things he's lost. What sort of initiatives are Ukraine and its allies prepared to offer as an off-ramp to get negotiations going and to really find a peace with Russia?
Well, again, these are all decisions that President Zelenskiy and his government, and ultimately the Ukrainian people, will have to make. We don't dictate targets. We don't dictate tactics. But every inch of land that Russia has seized or attempted to seize legitimately belongs to Ukraine.
So, even if they want to retake Crimea, the US is willing to hang in and keep funding indefinitely?
Again, we don't dictate targets. We don't dictate tactics. We provide our Ukrainian partners with what they need for self-defense. But Crimea is Ukraine.
Can't the US help fight this war in providing aid and weapons as it is doing, and also help negotiate an end to it, at the same time?
I am sure we will have a helping role to play, an assisting role to play, when it comes to any diplomacy that leads to an endgame when it comes to Russia's war against Ukraine. The challenge is that we have a willing Ukrainian partner, but there is no Russian counterpart to meet them at the negotiating table. So, there is not a true role for the United States to play at this time beyond providing Ukraine with what it needs to strengthen its hand on the battlefield, which will, in turn, strengthen its hand on any negotiating table that emerges.
This far into the war, what do you think is different in the world order now than it was before this invasion?
Well, we're defending the principle that might doesn't make right, that big countries can't bully small countries, that borders can't be redrawn by force and that a country's foreign policy can be dictated only by the sovereign decisions of a sovereign government and an independent people. That is something that Russia is trying to challenge. It's also something, by the way, that other countries around the world are trying to challenge. And there's one particularly large country, economically powerful country halfway around the world in the Indo-Pacific, that would like to see an opening to challenge these very principles. That's why it's so important that we do, and the international community does, everything we can to preserve, defend and reinforce these rules.
This interview was lightly edited and condensed for clarity.