March 19, 2014
1:20 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT GRYBAUSKAITE: (As interpreted.) Good afternoon. So today we had an important meeting with U.S. Vice President Biden and Latvian President Berzins. With our partners, we discussed the situation in Ukraine and its impact on the security of the Baltic States and Europe as a whole. I see it as a threat not only to Ukraine but also to the entire international community.
We witnessed the use of brutal force to redraw the map of Europe and to undermine the postwar political architecture established in Europe. We strongly condemn Russian actions on the territory of sovereign Ukraine. We consider Sunday’s referendum and its results illegal. The so-called referendum is a violation of the constitution of Ukraine, international law and the United Nations Charter.
De facto Russia is carrying out the annexation of Crimea and this is happening very close to the borders of Lithuania. The situation is a direct threat to our regional security. Therefore, we must take all the necessary measures to ensure the security of Europe and the Baltic region.
And this is what we discussed with Vice President Biden and Latvian President Berzins. And I would like to thank the United States, especially, which immediately responded to the threats and took all necessary actions to ensure regional security, including the reinforcement of NATO-Baltic air policing mission. The United States is a strategic partner of Lithuania and the Baltic countries. It has always firmly supported and continues to support our aspirations to ensure political, military, economic, and energy security in the region.
PRESIDENT BERZINS: Ladies and gentlemen. Dalia, thank you for hosting this event. I was happy in a different way to see your country (inaudible.)
Secondly, I would like to appreciate the visit of Vice President Joe Biden to the Baltic States. Thank you for fulfilling your promise to come to us on this very, very important current stage. But I would like to thank you for unwavering reassurance. It is a clear reference to Article 5 by our NATO ally, the United States, to the security of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, as expressed by the Vice President during our meeting earlier today.
The situation in Ukraine caused by annexation of Crimea is alarming. This dramatically re-forms the European security structure with global implications. Today we discussed the need for not only the immediate de-escalation of the situation, but also for long-term solutions for the security architecture. I am glad that we could offer some practical steps with regard during our discussions today. The same practical approach (inaudible) energy security — there is the issue of supply need to be addressed. As a good example here, I would like to underline the need to accelerate the construction of gas interconnection linking Poland, Lithuania and further on, to Latvia, and using storage facilities in Latvia.
Madam President, dear Vice President, we exchanged views on the situation inside Ukraine. We share the opinion that Ukraine must be helped immediately, both politically and economically. And I can only praise the United States and the European Union alike for very decisive steps outlining their commitment in this regard.
Yesterday, immediately after meeting with President Komorowski, I got a call from him and we agreed to coordinate our activities over the short term and also in longer term. (Inaudible) this common view on September in NATO meeting in U.K. This coordination and support of U.S. is very, very crucial in current stage and we are fully convinced that working closely together we will come to peaceful solution immediately for Ukraine and for all future activities for whole world. This is most crucial for it.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you. Madam President, thank you for the hospitality. It’s great to see you again, to be with you again, particularly in such magnificent surroundings. Thank you for the hospitality. And, Mr. President, it’s good to see you again. It’s good to be back in Vilnius.
For 50 years, three embassies in exile in Washington, D.C. stood as a symbol of America’s commitment to freedom and independence and the people of the Baltics. Next week, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of your membership in NATO as fellow free nations and close friends. Nobody understands better than the people of the Baltics the value of freedom. And nobody understands better the promise of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.
Today, I spoke with my colleagues, the Presidents of Lithuania and Latvia, about the situation in Ukraine. Yesterday, I met with Estonian President Ilves and the President of Poland and the Prime Minister of Poland in Warsaw. Just as you did a generation ago, the Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians join hands in a human chain of freedom.
Ukrainians have shown tremendous courage to realize their aspirations for a better life and integration into the institutions of their choice — not anyone else’s choice — of their choice. Russia has chosen to respond with military aggression, a referendum rejected by virtually the entire world, illegal efforts to annex Crimea, and now reports of armed attacks against Ukrainian military personnel and installations in Crimea.
I want to make it clear: We stand resolutely with our Baltic allies in support of the Ukrainian people and against Russian aggression. As long as Russia continues on this dark path, they will face increasing political and economic isolation.
There are those who say that this action shows the old rules still apply, but Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behavior. Global markets and the international community will and should bet in the long run on countries that reject aggression and corruption, embrace openness and live up to their obligations. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania understand this well. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t aggressors out there that require firm and resolute response. There always have been and there always will be. But it does mean that there are costs, and growing costs, that come with naked aggression.
Madam President, Mr. President, the reason I traveled to the Baltics was to reaffirm our mutual commitment to collective defense. President Obama wanted me to come personally to make it clear what you already know, that under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, we will respond. We will respond to any aggression against a NATO ally.
As someone who fought for your nation’s admission into NATO, rest assured we take our responsibilities very, very, very seriously — the President does; I do; my nation does. That’s why we have in the recent past beefed up our U.S. rotation in NATO Baltic air policing program, which protects the skies above Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. And that will continue to be the case. We’ve also asked other members of NATO to make additional contributions to this and other efforts, and I’m confident they will step forward.
Looking ahead, we’re exploring a number of additional steps to increase the pace and scope of our military cooperation, including rotating U.S. forces of the Baltic region to conduct ground and naval exercises, and training missions. The question today is not what can America do for the Baltic nations; it is what can we do together — what can we do together.
The Baltic nations have shown leadership at the OSCE, the European Union, the Eastern Partnership and the U.N. Security Council. Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian troops have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Americans in Afghanistan and have served in difficult regional and global security missions.
I know that President Obama will want to use the upcoming NATO summit in South Wales to generate concrete commitments to ensure that NATO is able to meet its Article 5 obligations to all members, which has been a priority from him and me since the beginning of our administration.
And, finally, we spoke of energy. We spoke about energy cooperation. We have learned the hard way that protecting the sovereignty of nations depends on having more than one supplier of energy. We support your efforts within the European Union to diversify your energy sources, to create more flexible energy markets, and to translate energy innovation into energy security so that no nation can use supplies of energy as a political weapon or a quasi-military weapon against you.
As Ukraine fights for its future, the success of the Baltic nations, your success, paints a picture of what is possible for nations that respect the rights and unleash the talents of their people as both your countries have done.
We are in this with you together. We are absolutely committed. May God bless you and your people, and my God bless our troops. Thank you very much.