Interview With Latvian Television (LTV)

Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Riga, Latvia
November 20, 2014

Question: Madame, the long-awaited parliamentary elections took place in Ukraine but is Kyiv delivering on the promises and expectations of the Maidan?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Thanks for that question. I will be with Vice President Biden in Kyiv later this evening and for a great day tomorrow and we’ll have a chance to hear first-hand from the Ukrainian government about their reform plans.

Certainly all of those people who stood out on the Maidan and all of the voters who voted for change in the October elections want the kind of reform that their candidates have promised, and now you’re right, it’s up to Kyiv to deliver and to the newly-elected Rada to deliver as well.

Question: Russia is claiming lately that it has been sidelined when it comes to NATO, to EU expanding their interests. Now it has even demanded for guarantees that Ukraine is not becoming a NATO member state, never in the future.

Is this something that is being understood in West? For us, that would be sort of a tragedy, wouldn’t it? I mean for Baltic countries. Are we to understand at some point this Russia’s claim about the sphere of interest and big and strong will be deciding for small and weak?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: What I would say to you is what we said to Latvians 10 years ago, 20 years ago. No country has the right to decide the future of another. No country has the right to make decisions of alliance for another. The doors to NATO are open to any Euro-Atlantic country that can meet NATO’s extremely high standards and meet the responsibilities of membership.

So it will not be for Moscow to decide about Ukraine’s future. It will be for Ukrainians to decide. With regard to the Alliance it will be a conversation, if and when Ukraine wants it, between NATO and Ukraine.

Question: Now about sanction policy. Do you think it has been effective really? Because sanctions are going up, but economic problems are piling up even faster. Support for Putin in Russia has never been that high as it is now. Do sanctions really work?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: We do believe that the sanctions that the U.S. and the European Union have together imposed on Russia are biting deeply. I think you can see how the ruble has fallen. You can see the amount of money that Moscow’s had to spend to defend it going up. You see inflation going up.

Unfortunately the economic hardship is also going up for individual Russian people and we very much regret that this is a decision that the Russian government has made.

We’ve been making clear that if the Minsk peace agreements are fully implemented, sanctions can be rolled back. They can be rolled back by the U.S., by the European Union. But that will require Russia and its proxies making the decision to restore sovereignty on the Ukrainian border, to end the fighting, to take their equipment and their forces back home and allow peace and prosperity in Ukraine and to allow Ukraine to be the kind of peaceful neighbor that it could be.

Question: Just a short turn at the end of this, can we really see --

Assistant Secretary Nuland: No questions about Latvia today?

Question: The United States is promising Ukraine, is actually a very clear signal of what can we expect from America, and that’s why the last question is can we really see Russia now being contained back to the borders before the conflict in Eastern Ukraine so that the territorial integrity of Ukraine is truly restored and Crimea goes back, or are they not going to be expect [inaudible]?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: What we want is a Russia that makes a different set of choices. We want a Russia that is willing to be a good neighbor, to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the countries in the Euro-Atlantic space. We want a Russia that has come back to the path of integration with us. But those choices are for Russia to make. We will continue to be strong in the face of aggressive choices by Russia, in the face of choices that impinge on the sovereignty of Ukraine or anybody else. We will continue to be strong, the United States will, in fulfilling our NATO commitments to Latvia as we are with the strong U.S. presence here. We’re very proud to have American young men and women serving in Latvia today and to work with you on your own security. But the choices are for the Russian Federation to make and all of us who have worked so hard to see a more European choice for Russia hope they come back to that choice.

Question: Thank you.

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Thank you very much.