On-the-Record Press Gaggle by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan
12:55 P.M. CEST
MR. SULLIVAN: All right. Well, first, I want to make maximum use of your time, so the only thing I’d say at the top is the President had a productive set of sessions yesterday at the G7 this morning.
He had opportunity to hear from President Zelenskyy and then to spend two hours with his fellow G7 leaders and President Zelenskyy, talking about the way forward in Ukraine.
It was a good session — very detailed and substantive across all the major lines of effort, including military, economic, humanitarian assistance, sanctions, and other steps we’re taking to support the Ukrainians and hold Russia accountable.
And I’ll just leave it there at the top and open it up for questions on the session this morning or really on anything else that’s on your guys’ minds.
Q Can you talk to the new military assistance that is being confirmed by an administration official?
MR. SULLIVAN: So I’ve seen the reports of specific details around advanced air defense capabilities that the United States is preparing to provide to the Ukrainians. I can confirm that we are, in fact, in the process of finalizing a package that includes advanced air defense capabilities. I won’t get into the details of the system. I’ll wait until the contract actually gets done.
But this week, as the President told his fellow G7 leaders — and as he told President Zelenskyy — we do intend to finalize a package that includes advanced medium- and long-range air defense capabilities for the Ukrainians, along with some other items that are of urgent need, including ammunition for artillery and counterbattery radar systems.
Q I was asking more about the conversation with President Zelenskyy this morning with the G7 leaders. Did President Zelenskyy have any specific requests of them? Did the President and the other G7 leaders have a particular message for President Zelenskyy? What was the nature of that conversation?
MR. SULLIVAN: So, he did have some specific requests. His first request in the presentation he made was for further air defense systems. In particular, at the top of his mind was the set of missile strikes that took place in Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine, and his desire to get additional air defense capabilities that could shoot down Russian missiles out in sky.
So, the President was able to be positively responsive to him on that.
He had some other requests relating to economic assistance to ensure that Ukraine’s economy can remain basically stable and afloat. And President Biden and other G7 leaders were able to explain to him the assistance that we’re providing on a monthly basis to the tune of a total of $7.5 billion in economic assistance from the United States.
But the bulk of the conversation was not about asks and gives; it was really about the way forward and how President Zelenskyy sees the course of the war and is trying to assimilate and incorporate all of the assistance he’s been given to maximize Ukraine’s capacity both to resist Russian advances and to pursue counterattacks where possible.
A lot of it was detailed and sensitive. It was a real conversation about strategy. And so, I’m not going to go further in terms of public characterizations of it, because this was genuinely an opportunity for the G7 leaders plus Zelenskyy to really talk turkey about how to help Ukraine achieve its objectives and how to help deny Russia its objectives. And I think a lot came out of it that we can collectively follow up on.
Q Do you have a sense of how the security package that you’re putting together — like what it would tangibly mean on the ground in Ukraine, like how it would help?
MR. SULLIVAN: So it’s a little difficult for me to talk about the specific practical impact of the air defense capability without frontrunning the announcement of that capability.
So what I will tell you is this: that by the end of this week, we’ll make sure that you get some expert military briefers who can walk through what it will actually mean tangibly, in terms of the defense of Ukrainian airspace and particularly population centers.
The other pieces of it — artillery, ammunition — is self-evident. This is an artillery battle in the East. We’ve provided now well more than 100 howitzers, tubes of M777 artillery. And that artillery needs a constant supply of ammunition to continue to be effective, and we’re providing that on an ongoing basis.
And then the counterbattery radars are really about helping give the Ukrainians an advantage in an artillery fight because it helps them have better visibility into what they’re up against.
So what we’re trying to do at this point is tailor our military assistance to the particular immediate needs of the Ukrainians on the battlefield at a given point in time. Months ago, that was really about anti-tank and anti-air systems like Stingers. Then it became about artillery. Now, increasingly, it’s about some of these sophisticated systems like counterbattery radar and the HIMARS. And of course, we’ve announced two tranches of those, along with the very sophisticated munitions that go along with them.
So, we’ll continue to do that as we go forward. I have an open channel with my counterpart, and General Milley has an open channel with his. And oftentimes, the four of us speak, just so that we level-set both around what the strategic picture looks like and then, tactically, what the Ukrainians need. And we use those conversations as the basis to formulate these packages.
Q Jake, I was just going to ask: We have quoted some European officials saying that Zelenskyy made clear that he wants the war to end this year, that it would be difficult to go into the winter. Can you say something about whether the winter poses a particular danger? And can you characterize, you know, what Zelenskyy told the leaders about the —
MR. SULLIVAN: I want to be very careful about characterizing his remarks. I think he should speak for himself on this. What I will say is that Zelenskyy was very much focused on trying to ensure that Ukraine is in as advantageous a position on the battlefield as possible in the next months as opposed to the next years because he believes that a grinding conflict is not in the interest of the Ukrainian people, for obvious reasons.
So he would like to see his military and those in the West who are supporting his military make maximum use of the next few months to put the Ukrainians in as good a position as they can possibly be in with respect to the situation on the ground in both the East and the South. And that’s consistent with the American approach of trying to flow in the necessary materiel and equipment to put the Ukrainians in an advantageous position on the battlefield. But that’s really what he was focused on.
I think, from his perspective, pushing the pace of both assistance and operations on the battlefield is an important part of Ukrainian strategy, as opposed to letting things just drag out indefinitely.
Q On the oil price cap that we know you guys are announcing tomorrow, or on that process of it, can you talk a little bit about why there wasn’t more success in getting closer to an agreement in principle? Who are the holdouts? What’s the dynamics there?
And given that this is one of the main revenue streams for funding his war — Putin’s war — did this come up in the Zelenskyy conversation? Is this at all something that he’s pushing the leaders to, you know, get to an agreement sooner rather than later?
MR. SULLIVAN: Zelenskyy didn’t specifically raise the price cap. What he did raise was denying Putin revenues from oil sales. And I think the characterization that there are holdouts in this conversation isn’t quite correct. If I take a step back, there is absolute consensus across the G7 that the purpose of our energy sanctions on Russia should ultimately be to deny revenue to Russia while at the same time ensuring a stable global energy market.
There is also consensus emerging — although there continue to be discussions around it, so I don’t want to get ahead of the leaders on this — that the price cap is a serious method to achieve that outcome.
So then the question becomes: How do you implement it working with consuming countries and with the private sector? What are the details? What are the methods of execution? That requires technical work that has to be done by ministers — energy ministers and finance ministers — in order to develop an actual executable cap that then goes into effect.
So the leaders can’t design every element of the program here at Elmau. What they can do is give direction to ministers to design such a program and then come back to leaders to bless it and have it be implemented.
Nothing is finalized yet, but we think that the trend is looking good towards leaders coming together around the idea that this is one of the options available to achieve the goal of driving down Putin’s revenues from oil while maintaining stable oil — energy markets.
Q Jake, just on that, can you tell us: Has the President been sort of personally lobbying the other leaders on the idea of the price cap? And what have you all had to convince them of? Are they worried that it won’t work? Are they there might be sort of bad effects to it? Like, what’s been the holdup?
MR. SULLIVAN: I think the single biggest factor here is that this is not something that can be pulled off the shelf as a tried-and-true method that has repeated historical precedent and therefore can simply be taken as a standing option and implemented.
It is a new kind of concept to deal with a particularly novel challenge, which is how to effectively deal with a country that’s selling millions of barrels of oil a day and try to deprive it of some of the revenues that they’re getting from the sale of that oil.
And so, this has been less about having to break down particular resistance and more about a process of consultation, education, thinking through all of the puts and takes.
And so I wouldn’t describe what the President has been doing here as lobbying so much as posing the problem, which is: If you merely try to reduce flows and not reduce price, you have certain impacts on the energy market that are averse, whereas if you reduce price — if you focus on price more than flows, you might be able to actually maximize your overall objectives of both depriving revenues to Putin and keeping energy market stable.
So, in a way, this conversation — starting at the expert working level, then ministers, now leaders — has been one of the G7 countries puzzling through a difficult challenge together and arriving at a point, we believe, where there is convergence around really trying to pursue this.
And the President has been at the center of that over the course of the past 24 hours, talking it through with leaders, both one on one and then in group settings.
And we’ll see where things land. You know, I’m not announcing some deal. I’m just saying I think it’s headed in the right direction because everybody sees the logic and merit of tasking ministers to really try to develop a — an affirmative proposal on this score.
Q What is the realistic timeframe, though, for this given — you know, you just said, Zelenskyy really wants to move things along, not have this drag out into years. This isn’t going to happen over this — you know, at the summit. How long is realistic to see something like this take shape and take effect?
MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first of all, if we do get an agreement to task ministers, if that actually happens, I think
you guys can obviously look at that and say, “Okay, we don’t have a price cap in effect” on Wednesday of this week. I look at that as a pretty dramatic step forward and one that would be a — looking back over the course of the last several years, one of the more significant outcomes of a G7 summit.
Then, in terms of the actual timetables and modalities, it’s hard for me to say. There is no reason, though, that if leaders come together around this, that there couldn’t be relatively rapid work done on it, but I’m not going to put a timetable on it.
Q You can’t say whether that’s — “rapid” is weeks or months or —
MR. SULLIVAN: Just in the interest of not having you guys come back to me and read a particular timetable prediction, I’ll just say I think it can be done relatively quickly.
Q Back to the “months, not years” from President Zelenskyy — or request from President Zelenskyy for urgent support. Does that stem, in fact — how does that — does that stem from sort of the assessment that Russia is having difficulty resupplying its forces, backfilling casualties, and that by flowing in Allied resources now that it can sort of provide Ukraine, there’s a window of opportunity for Ukraine to launch a counteroffensive in some places before Russia can sort of bolster and rearm and resupply its forces? Is that — is there a window of opportunity here?
MR. SULLIVAN: President Zelenskyy wasn’t explicit on that point. I think it’s fair to say that that battlefield analysis is one consideration. I think another really important consideration is just the sense of suffering of the Ukrainian people with each day and week that this goes on.
And so, he’s got an urgency to try to show his people that Ukraine is, first of all, holding fast against the Russian onslaught and, secondly, making some progress in areas where they feel that they can, in fact, push back against the Russians.
So, I should probably leave it there because I think, in terms of Zelenskyy’s logic for this, I’d rather have him speak to it himself than me speak for him.
Q Can you speak about the U.S. assessment of Russian — of the degradation of Russia’s military capacity now as it sort of seems to be on the cusp of taking Luhansk and maybe can’t go much further beyond that? That — you know, what — is Russia running out of resources, running out of people to throw into this fight?
MR. SULLIVAN: I would put it this way: Russia faces limitations in terms of its ability to resupply and to fill out its battalion tactical groups. Those limitations are real. They have an impact on Russia’s capacity to achieve its ultimate strategic aims in this conflict, which we do not believe are limited to the Donbas, certainly are not limited to Luhansk.
But I will leave it to the Pentagon to characterize more specifically the question you’re posing about — you know,
whether or not they have enough munitions or whether or not they literally have enough people to be able to keep going over the next several months.
I would just say that the limitations — the operational, logistical, manpower, and munition limitations on them are a constraint on their capacity to achieve what they want to achieve.
Q Jake, as we get to the very end, I want to ask you quickly whether you think that there could be possibility for bilateral discussion for the President with President Erdoğan.
And also, on the Iran missile strike, just if you could say a word or two about the prospects for — your assessment of that situation with Iran and the missile strike and the possibility of moving forward.
MR. SULLIVAN: So, first, on the question of meeting with President Erdoğan, nothing is scheduled at the moment, but they may very well have the opportunity to see one another at the NATO Summit. Let’s see how the next 24 hours unfold.
There is a flurry of diplomatic activity occurring. Today, the Swedish Prime Minister will be in Brussels making a statement. Tomorrow, we understand that there will be further engagements among the Turks, Finns, Swedes, and the NATO Secretary General. And so we want to see how that unfolds as we head into Madrid.
The President is following this very closely. His team is working it with the Finns, Swedes, and Turks, and I’m on the phone daily with my counterparts from all three countries. So let’s — let’s see how things go, I guess is the — the answer to your question.
On Iran, the United States’ view is straightforward and has been now for quite some time, which is that we’re determined to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. We think a diplomatic agreement is the best way to do that. We think a mutual return to the JCPOA is in the interest of the United States and our partners. And there is a deal available on the table to Iran, and it’s up to Iran to decide whether or not it wants to take it.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Last question.
Q On that flurry of activity with the Finns and Swedes and the Turks, are they — we aren’t expecting, like, action at this NATO Summit, or are we? Or is it moving in that direction that they could be added to NATO this quickly?
MR. SULLIVAN: I think the goal is to create as much positive momentum as we can behind the candidacies of Finland and Sweden. I am not sitting here today suggesting that all issues will be resolved by Madrid, but we’re going to try and resolve as many of them as possible so that Madrid gives a boost to their candidacies, even if there remains some concerns on the part of Turkey that need to be worked out.
Q Jake, can I ask one more on China —
MR. SULLIVAN: Sure, one more.
Q — since we’re also expecting language on that that you guys tell us is very strong — stronger than last year’s.
Obviously, we’re expecting a call and potential meeting between the President and the President of China. Is this — to what extent is this an opportunity to sort of brief the G7 leaders?
And then, should we expect on, you know, the U.S. policies and, you know, announcements that you have forthcoming? And then should we expect a call with Xi shortly after this meeting, given — I don’t know what you need to schedule it; sort of, the dynamics on that one.
MR. SULLIVAN: So, first, the President has already had the opportunity to have a discussion with his fellow leaders on China and, in particular, in briefing them on the U.S. approach to China and some of his recent conversations, as well as my own and others’ conversations with Chinese counterparts.
We do expect that the President and President Xi will have the opportunity to engage over the course of the next few weeks. I can’t put a particular timeframe on it. It’s not going to be immediately after the G7.
And we do think that there is increasing convergence, both at the G7 and at NATO, around the challenge China poses and around the need — the urgent need for consultation and especially alignment among the world’s leading market democracies to deal with some of those challenges — in particular, China’s non-market economic practices, its approach to debt, and its approach to human rights.
And I think you can expect that the G7 statement will speak to all of those, and then I think you can expect that the NATO Strategic Concept will also speak in ways that are unprecedented about the challenge that China poses.
But in both contexts, it’s important to underscore something the President says to all of his fellow leaders and which they all agree, and it’s: Competition does not mean confrontation or conflict. We’re not looking for a Cold War, and we’re not looking to divide the world into rival blocs and make every country choose.
We want to stand for a set of principles, rules of the road that are fair and understood and agreed by everybody. And we want to ensure that we’re working with like-minded partners to hold China accountable to adhere to those rules. And that’s the spirit and the message that I think will emerge both from Elmau and from Madrid.
1:18 P.M. CEST