Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Meet and Greet with Embassy Kyiv

Secretary Antony J. Blinken at a Meet and Greet with Embassy Kyiv

AMBASSADOR BRINK:  It is a privilege and an honor for me to be here with you as we give a very, very warm welcome to our Secretary of State, Tony Blinken.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  (Applause.)

As members of Mission Kyiv, we all know the challenges and the demands of this work.  The hours are long – sometimes dangerous – and the future can seem uncertain.  But we also know why we’re here and we know why it matters.  We are here to enable Ukraine to use its own future, to be the sovereign, independent, prosperous country you are fighting for; to protect their choice of the European path, to be the secure democratic and values-based partner that is also in the strategic interests of the United States.  And it’s true – as U.S. ambassador here, I can tell you we have no greater advocate and no greater champion for our work then Secretary Blinken.  Thank you, sir.  (Applause.)

Secretary Blinken’s presence here in Kyiv and his many visits before are proof that he is literally with us in this fight.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and thanks to your extraordinary delegation for your total support to us in Kyiv.  Mr. Secretary – and I know you know this, but I have to say it again – you are with one of the Department of States truly outstanding embassy teams here today.  We are very proud that more than 20 American officers who served at Mission Kyiv made the promotion list just last week.  Yeah.  (Applause.)

Together, you and we are contributing to President Biden, the administration, Secretary Blinken’s agenda and the strategy on Ukraine.  To all of our staff, you have chosen to be here, many separated from families and friends.  As we saw just last night again, it’s dangerous and the pace of work is relentless.  But Mr. Secretary, to a person, there is no other place we would rather be.  To my team, I’m deeply grateful.

I want to relay a special thanks to our Ukrainian colleagues.  We know what you are facing, what your families are facing.  We know how difficult the past 560 days have been.  We know what you have sacrificed.  But each day in this embassy, I am inspired by your sense of hope, by your belief in victory, and by your faith in the future of this country.  It’s an honor of a lifetime to work shoulder to shoulder with you in Ukraine at this vital moment for your country, for Europe, and for all of us.  I thank each of you for your service.

Mr. Secretary, it’s my honor to welcome you back again to your embassy in Kyiv.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Please, have a seat.  Should have done that at the start.  (Laughter.)  I always forget.  I’m still not used to people standing up, never mind having to sit down.  But it’s wonderful to be back with this amazing team at Embassy Kyiv, Mission Ukraine.  Everything that the ambassador said, I know because I get to experience it every day.  I see the work you’re doing.  I see the pressure you’re under; the conditions in which you’re doing this work.  I can’t tell you how much I admire it, admire you, and I’m grateful for everything you’re doing for both of our countries and, quite frankly, for much of the world that’s standing with and standing up for Ukraine in this moment of need.

You also know better than anyone else why President Biden sent Ambassador Brink here to Ukraine.  You have in Bridget one of the truly extraordinary leaders in our department, someone I’ve had the great privilege of working with for many years.  We couldn’t have a better leader for this mission at this critical time than Ambassador Brink.  Bridget, thank you, thank you, thank you.  (Applause.)

Now, to everyone who made this particular trip possible, I wanted to say a special thank you.  I know that sometimes the worst words in the English language for a Foreign Service Officer or civil servant is:  The Secretary is coming to visit.  (Laughter.)  I have a pretty good idea of how much work goes into these visits.  And I get to see the placid calm on the surface; I know there’s always a little bit of churn underneath, and I just want to tell you how grateful I am for doing this work.  Any visit at any embassy is challenging and complicated.  To do it here in the middle of a war only adds to the complexity.  I guess my best wish for you is to say, have a great wheels-up party when we get out of Dodge.  (Laughter.)

And by the way, I know that it’s not as if this is a rare drop-in.  You’re getting visits from many of my colleagues, from members of Congress, which is so vitally important, and I’m grateful for the work that you’re doing to support all of these visits.

I’m also here with some extraordinary colleagues from Washington who, day-in, day-out, are working with you to make sure that we’re maximizing everything we’re doing with – for Ukraine:

The Acting Deputy Secretary of State Toria Nuland.  Toria.  (Applause.)

Our NSC Senior Director for European Affairs Amanda Sloat.  Amanda.  (Applause.)

And hiding back there in the distance, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the State Department Tom Sullivan.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

And I didn’t want to mention this because I’m actually very concerned that I may have made a mistake.  Also with us is Chris Smith.  (Applause.)  So I knew there was more than a little risk that in bringing back Chris to Ukraine, he might decide to stay – (laughter) – but no, he’s coming back with us.

But you have another remarkable DCM here with you now, and I had a chance to meet with the senior leadership team this morning.  Again, I couldn’t be more proud, I couldn’t be more impressed.

What I wanted to share with you is I know when you’re working across an ocean, and you’re going through what you’re going through day-in, day-out to do this mission, it sometimes seems like no one knows it, no one understands what you’re going through.  And I want to tell you that I do and that we do.

You’ve endured a lot of hardship at this post: suspending operations and securing this facility and other facilities, figuring out how to do the job outside of Kyiv – and then outside of Ukraine – then – thankfully – returning to Kyiv, raising this flag again over the embassy, resuming operations – but all of that in the middle of a war.

Each of you has shown remarkable courage, remarkable resilience, remarkable resolve.  And that has a profound impact on the entire institution – all of the State Department, other agencies of government.  It’s quite simply inspiring to your colleagues to see the work that you’re doing and the way that you’re doing it.  I feel that very strongly all the way back in Washington.

You are at the top of our minds back home.  Regular notifications we get on the phones remind us time and again that you have to go in and out of bunkers.  And we know the toll that just doing that takes on each and every one of you.

The reason for this visit at the President’s behest is simply to reaffirm first and foremost that we continue, we will continue to stand with Ukraine so that it has what it needs to defend itself, to deal with the current Russian aggression; that it’s prepared for the future, able to deter future aggression; and at the same time that it helps rebuild a successful economy, a strong democracy.  That’s what’s needed to make sure that Ukraine not only survives but actually thrives going forward.

Today, we’ve had an opportunity to meet with many of the people that you’re working – work with, excuse me – day-in, day-out across the government.  We’ll also have a chance to meet with some leaders in the civil society – all of this with the objective of getting this work done together.

And tomorrow, we’ll get a chance to see some of the work that some of you were doing as we work to support Ukraine’s border guards – one of the many investments that you’re making and we’re making in Ukraine’s security.

Never go to someone’s home without bringing a housewarming gift.  We come bearing some further assistance for Ukraine across multiple areas, but that assistance doesn’t actually mean anything unless it is used effectively, and so many of you every single day are working closely with our Ukrainian colleagues to make sure that the assistance we’re providing is being used effectively and is being used properly.

What the ambassador said could not be more true.  The stakes of this mission couldn’t be any higher, because – you all know this – yes, we’re standing with and standing up for Ukraine, but we’re also standing with and standing up for the very principles that are at the heart of the international system, that are necessary to help us keep peace, stability, and security around the world; the principles that animate the United Nations Charter; the concepts, the principles of territorial integrity, independence, sovereignty.  All of those, as you know very well, are at stake right here in Ukraine, and what happens here has profound repercussions quite literally around the world.

So the stakes really couldn’t be higher, which, again, is why I am so proud of the team we have here doing this.

There’s another thing I wanted to share, because I see this in every embassy around the world.  It really does take a village, and this is a village.  And it’s a village that has incredibly important communities that are each working together to make sure that the job gets done.  Our RSOs, our Marine security guards – it starts with them, the security that they provide to us.  And by the way, for the Marines who are here, I am so especially grateful to you.  We have a unique partnership, the State Department and the Marine Corps.  We know that any American anywhere the world going into a United States embassy, the first person they are likely to see is a United States Marine.  We can’t do our jobs without our Marines doing their jobs.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for the partnership; thank you for the service.  (Applause.)

Our Public Diplomacy and consular teams, our political and econ officers, Management, INL, PEPFAR, the Office of Inspector General colleagues who are doing vitally important work making sure that the resources that we are devoting to this enterprise are used properly and wisely, and so many of our partner agencies who are working hand in hand every day – DOD, DOJ, DOE, DOC, USDA, USAID, Federal Trade Commission, federal commercial service – excuse me, foreign commercial service – each and every one of these is part of this vitally important enterprise.

Finally, I just want to say how grateful I am for the compassion and solidarity you’ve shown to each other, because, especially when you have a difficult mission in difficult conditions, that’s what makes all the difference.  We saw that during COVID; we see that here in this mission – having each other’s backs, looking out for each other.  That really is the recipe for success, and I’m grateful to see that here.

Finally – and Bridget mentioned this – I really want to say a special word of thanks to our locally employed team.  In every embassy around the world, the locally engaged staff is the lifeblood of our work.  We couldn’t do it without you.  We could not be more grateful for the fact that you choose to serve alongside us as partners, as colleagues, as friends.

Now, 12 of you, hard as it is to believe, have been here for 30 years – when the embassy opened its doors not long after Ukraine declared its independence.  That in and of itself speaks volumes, that we have 12 our locally engaged staff who’ve been with us for three decades.  We know, as Bridget said, that no one in this mission is bearing the hardship of this moment more heavily than our local team.  I know that many of you have lost friends, loved ones.  Others have seen your communities destroyed.

Twenty members of our embassy family are bravely serving in Ukraine’s armed forces – and we salute their service; we salute their courage.  Two men who guarded this embassy for years – Serhey Timoshenko and Volodymyr Kapelka – were killed defending their country against Russian invasion.  I know that each of you and all of us honor their memory, honor their sacrifice, and think of their family and friends.

A day will come when this war ends, Ukraine will have secured its right to choose its own future, because fundamentally that’s what this is about.  And when that day comes, it will be in no small measure because of the work that all of you have done.  I couldn’t be prouder to stand before this particularly team, I couldn’t be prouder to be your Secretary at this moment in history, and I couldn’t be more committed to supporting the work that you’re doing every step of the way.

Thank you very, very much.  (Applause.)

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