Remarks by President Obama and President Poroshenko of Ukraine After Bilateral Meeting
3:21 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it is a great pleasure to welcome President Poroshenko to the Oval Office. He and I have been working together a lot over the last several months. And as I told him personally, and I want to repeat publicly, I think his leadership has been absolutely critical at a very, very important time in Ukraine’s history.
Obviously, we have watched over the last several months as the people of Ukraine have declared their desire for a sovereign, independent economic and foreign policy that promises them freedom and prosperity and self-determination. And President Poroshenko’s election I think represented those aspirations of the Ukrainian people.
Unfortunately, what we’ve also seen is Russian aggression -- first in Crimea, and most recently in portions of eastern Ukraine -- that have not only violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, but have also been designed to undermine these critical reform efforts that have been taking place in Ukraine.
I am very proud that the United States has led the international community and our European partners in making sure that there is a cost to Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. We have applied some of the toughest coordinated sanctions that we’ve ever seen between the transatlantic community, which are having a significant impact on the Russian economy. And we have consistently said that not only do we support Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence in words, but we’ve also been supporting it in deeds.
And at the Wales Summit, you saw all 28 NATO countries recommit themselves to the NATO-Ukraine partnership, and commit to assisting Ukraine in its security concerns. We have provided significant financial assistance to help Ukraine bridge this period of transition from the old ways of doing things to a new and more modern economy, and that includes a billion-dollar loan guarantee from the United States, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars that we’ve provided in assistance.
I’m pleased that during this meeting we reaffirmed that commitment to Ukraine, and we are providing additional assistance, both economic and security assistance to Ukraine to make sure that not only are they able to weather this storm economically, but they’re also going to be able to continue to build up an effective security force to defend themselves from aggression.
And we are going to continue to seek to mobilize the international community to say to Russia that Ukraine desires to have a good relationship with all of its neighbors, both east and west, and that there should be a way in which Ukraine is able to negotiate and trade, and continue the people-to-people links between Ukraine and Russia, but that Russia cannot dictate to them their ability to work effectively with other partners in order to better the situation for the Ukrainian people.
I want to commend President Poroshenko for having helped to not only broker a cease-fire, but also to push through some very difficult legislation that can improve the perception in eastern Ukraine that they are fully represented and that they are able to determine many of their local affairs in a way that gives them confidence.
And those were not easy laws that President Poroshenko passed, but I think they indicated his commitment to an inclusive Ukraine -- his commitment to a Ukraine that has decentralization and empowers local communities. But also I think President Poroshenko has been very clear that Ukraine needs to stay intact, and that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine is non-negotiable.
And so let me just say that in addition to the concrete expressions of support through security assistance and economic assistance, we are going to continue to help to mobilize the international community towards a diplomatic solution.
I have great confidence that President Poroshenko is balancing a lot of different variables here in a very difficult situation. But he’s the right man for the job. He’s been working very hard. He’s committed to upcoming elections that will further allow the people of Ukraine to set the direction for their country. And we are prepared to support Ukraine in negotiations with Russia in order to make sure that the Ukrainian people can enjoy the kind of freedom and prosperity that is their right.
And so, President Poroshenko, congratulations on the excellent work that you’ve done. You have a strong friend not only in me personally, but I think, as you saw in Congress today, you have strong bipartisan support here in the United States. And the people of America stand with the people of Ukraine. We wish you not only luck, but you know that you also have our strong commitment and friendship.
PRESIDENT POROSHENKO: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to start with words of thanks for President Obama for my invitation. And this is very symbolic for all Ukrainian people to be here today and to receive such enormous support that was demonstrated today under all the levels. I was impressed today by the level of support -- the bipartisan support, which was demonstrated in the Congress.
And I want to thank you to the President for his leadership in the world, for protecting Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. This is a true leadership defending democracy and freedom.
And we started this coordination in Warsaw when we together heard him during the 25th anniversary of the Solidarnist’. And from the very, very first moment, I feel how personally President Obama is deeply involved in the process of protecting freedom and democracy in Ukraine and the way in how the situation developed. And the question we discussed today is the whole sphere of whether we can have improved our cooperation.
Today, we discussed the security and defense sphere, and we undertake further responsible and necessary decisions. Today, we discussed the economic and financial sphere, and we think that the United States of America do very great job to support us in a very difficult time. We especially discussed the energy question, and I can announce that next week we will have an American team in Kyiv, where we can discuss all different energy questions from the energy-saving steps to be undertaken and avoid significant problem during this winter.
Looking that it is vitally important to renew the cooperation with Russia for the gas supply and to undertake a very important step for providing the energy security for all Europe. And I just want to confirm -- declare that we are ready for all these discussions.
I think that it would be extremely important for us the international coordination. We expect that the U.N. Security Council meeting will also pay some attention to the Ukrainian question.
And I just want to deliver the main messages. So the top priority for me as the Ukrainian President, for the Ukrainian people, for the American President, and for the American people is the peace. And the only way how we can deescalate the situation on the east of my country is the peace process and the peace plan, which included the cease-fire; inclusive dialogue inside of Ukraine; withdrawing Russian troops from my territory; closing the border for troops, for weapons and ammunition; releasing -- immediately releasing all the hostages. And that is what the whole world is waiting from us.
And progress is most probably delivered in the near future. We expect it will be a continuation of the Minsk dialogue in the very near days. And we really hope that the cease-fire, which already lasted for 12 days, will bring -- will transform to real peace, which can help us to save Donetsk and Luhansk from the very difficult situation the people of which appear now.
I thank very much to the President for the very fruitful, very open, very straightforward dialogue, and I thank you for the decision we reached today. I think that it’s the position of the friend of Ukraine -- friend in need is a friend indeed. You’re a real friend.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, everybody.
3:33 P.M. EDT