Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Ukrainian Cultural Center
SENATOR DURBIN: We live in a dangerous world, and there is probably no more dangerous place than Ukraine at this moment. The people of Ukraine are fighting for their lives. With this unjust, ruthless invasion by Vladimir Putin and the Russian troops, they have faced 11 months of devastation, death, and destruction, and yet they have shown uncommon courage. They are standing up for values that really define them and now define America as well, and that is why this administration and our country have made a major commitment to help the Ukrainian people and to engage the NATO Alliance at a level that hasn’t been seen ever in history. I think it is a successful effort and it is one that is inspired by the people of Ukraine.
One of the leaders in that effort for the United States is our Secretary of State Tony Blinken. I am honored to have him visit Chicago today, and he has come to ground zero when it comes to Ukrainian support in America: Ukrainian Village in the city of Chicago. We just had a very productive and positive meeting to discuss what is happening in Ukraine and what we can do to give more strength to our relationship and support in the future.
It is my honor to introduce the Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Senator, Dick, thank you so much. It’s really wonderful for me to be in Chicago today, to be here in Ukrainian Village. As the Senator said, we have been dealing with the – for the last almost year now with this Russian aggression against Ukraine, but not only against Ukraine and its people and the country, but an aggression against the very principles that are so important into making sure that we can actually uphold peace and security around the world. And if we did not stand up against this Russian aggression, as we’ve been doing, we would be opening a pandora’s box around the world for would-be aggressors everywhere to think that they can simply go into another country, seize its territory, kill its people, and get away with that with impunity. Well, we’re determined that that not happen.
And thanks to extraordinary leadership that we’ve seen from Senator Durbin and other colleagues in Congress, the Biden administration along with Congress has provided historic support to Ukraine to make sure that Ukrainians have what they need to defend themselves, to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe that is being unleased on them by Russian aggression, to support their economy, as well as to put pressure on Russia to end the aggression – and in doing so, at the same time, bringing dozens of countries together around the world, all in support of the same objectives.
But at the heart of so much of what we’re doing is work that’s been done – being done by communities across our country also in support of Ukraine, and no more so than right here in Chicago, Ukrainian Village, which, as the Senator said, is really the beating heart of the Ukrainian American community.
We had an opportunity this morning to do two things. We were across the street at the museum of modern art, where we saw an extraordinary exhibition of artworks from Ukrainian children – the children of war – that’s on display here. And you’re seeing the war, the brutality, the inhumanity through the eyes of children, as expressed by their extraordinary, extraordinary art. And I think it’s a powerful reminder to each and every one of us that this war, this aggression is not an abstraction. It’s having an impact on real people’s lives; it’s affecting, tearing apart the lives of children. And if you go to that exhibit and look at these extraordinary drawings and paintings, I think the first thing you think about is: What if this were my kids? This could be my kids. And that’s a reminder of why it is so important that we sustain our support for Ukraine until the aggression ends.
Second, as Senator Durbin said, we just had an opportunity to meet with an extraordinary group of Ukrainian Americans, the diaspora community that in so many ways are doing what’s vital to supporting Ukraine, both in terms of mobilizing support going to Ukraine but also supporting Ukrainians who have had to flee their country in the wake of this aggression and come to the United States, supporting their efforts to come here, integrate here, be able to find jobs, send their kids to school, and so forth.
This community-led effort is, maybe more than anything else, the profound expression of what our country’s all about: supporting each other, but also supporting others in times of need. It’s an incredibly powerful thing, and we were grateful to be able to get some of the feedback, the input from the community to hear about what they’re doing and to hear what else we can do to support their efforts.
So I can’t really, Dick, thank you enough for having us here today, connecting us to this community. It’s an ongoing – ongoing dialogue, an ongoing effort, and I think there’s a great determination to see it through to success.