John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator for the White House National Security Council, gave an exclusive interview to media on Friday, March 17, in which he addressed the most pressing issues related to the war in Ukraine and the geopolitical changes. The interview is published with abbreviations.
media: The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova. What does this mean for US policy towards Putin? Does this mean President Joe Biden will no longer meet Putin?
John Kirby: This is news that just arrived. We need to study it before making official comments. Either way, President Biden has made it clear that we want to do everything to hold Russia accountable for the atrocities, war crimes and crimes against humanity it is committing in Ukraine and against the Ukrainian people. . We will help international bodies collect evidence and begin to analyze that evidence. That’s all I can say now.
GA: Chinese President Xi Jinping is going to Moscow for a meeting with Putin next week. Do you think Xi Jinping’s words carry weight for Putin? Are there any concerns about this meeting?
JK: We know that China and Russia are developing relations in many different areas. I can’t say anything about the influence Xi Jinping can have on Putin. We’ll just keep an eye on what they decide to discuss. We are concerned that President Xi has not yet spoken to President (Ukraine Volodymyr) Zelensky, and we believe it is important that he does. He must learn not only the Russian point of view on the war, but also the point of view of President Zelensky.
We have seen China’s so-called 12-point peace proposals that talk about a ceasefire. And we would be concerned if there was a call for a ceasefire at this meeting, because while the ceasefire sounds good, it actually consolidates Russia’s gains on the ground. The call to stop now, without admitting that Russia is illegally in Ukraine, actually serves Russia’s purposes.
GA: How do you comment on the view that if a ceasefire can temporarily postpone the issue of territorial boundaries, then it can be acceptable?
JK: It is not in the interest of Ukraine, in the interest of the whole world, in the interest of the United Nations Charter. It would be a violation of the Charter of the United Nations. Look at the first paragraph of China’s proposals. He says they defend respect for sovereignty. And you know what? We agree with that, everyone should agree with that. But if you want sovereignty to be respected, then you won’t call for a ceasefire that seals Russia’s gains and leaves things as they are, to the detriment of the Ukrainian people.
GA: What can the administration and NATO offer to reduce tensions? And in this regard, can you tell us how the administration plans to negotiate a defense agreement with Ukraine to encourage Kiev to negotiate with Moscow.
JK: We all want the war to end, and it could end today if Putin withdraws his troops. It’s not going to happen, so I think we all see the possibility of some sort of negotiated settlement. I will not speak for other countries. From the American point of view, nothing can be done about Ukraine without the participation of Ukraine itself – no negotiations and no discussion of a settlement. This point of view is fully understood and respected by President Zelensky.
GA: President Xi Jinping will hold talks with President Zelensky in a virtual format, the Chinese side said. What would you like to see from this conversation, and did President Zelensky discuss with the American side the message he was going to convey to Xi Jinping?
JK: Again, we fully support President Xi Jinping’s conversation with President Zelensky. It seems important to us that (the Chinese leader) learn the Ukrainian point of view. I won’t speak on behalf of President Zelensky, but I’m sure if he gets the chance, he’ll be candid and direct with President Xi about what war is doing to his country and his people, and to what ready to continue fighting Russian aggression. We believe that the big picture of these efforts, President Zelensky’s goals and objectives, is what President Xi needs to hear.
GA: In the morning, you commented on a report that Chinese companies have supplied Chinese-made assault rifles, drone parts and body armor to Russia via Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Earlier, you said that we are talking about agreements that were signed a long time ago. Does this mean that if new agreements appear, it will be a violation?
JK: We understand that these are long-standing trade agreements and we have no information or confirmation that any of these dual-use items are on the battlefield. We have not seen China move towards supplying lethal weapons to Russia. They did not make such a decision, an official decision. And we urge them not to. We don’t think that’s in China’s best interest.
GA: Ukraine is experiencing a shortage of ammunition. Are you confident that Ukraine will be able to achieve its battlefield objectives in the weeks or months to come? Are the US and its partners trying to ramp up shipments and production?
JK: We are transferring military assistance to Ukrainian soldiers at unprecedented speed, aware of the urgency of the situation. I will not prejudge Ukrainian operations or their needs, let them speak for themselves. You will see another package of US supplies in the coming days, and I believe you will see in this package those materials, weapons and ammunition that we believe are critical to Ukraine’s success in the weeks and months ahead.
GA: Some things they need right now. For example, last week Russia launched a massive missile strike using missiles that Ukraine has not yet been able to intercept. When will the first Patriot missile defense battery arrive in Ukraine?
JK: The Ministry of Defense has a much better idea than me. It will take several months before a Patriot battery can be delivered to Ukraine. Let me remind you that we provide Ukraine with a full range of short- and medium-range air defense systems, and this is done not only by us, but also by our allies and partners. Four things that Ukraine needs the most right now: artillery, ammunition, armored vehicles and air defense. And if you look at what we have delivered over the past few months and will continue to deliver, you will see that we prioritize air defense.
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