Sunday 14th of July 2024

meanwhile NATO is losing in ukraine and finland has become the first nuclear target for russia.....

MAYOR VARTIAINEN:  Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it is my great pleasure to warmly welcome you all to the beautiful capital of Finland, Helsinki, and the Helsinki City Hall.  Helsinki has a great honor to host this special event today.  We are humbled and in great appreciation to have the U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken here in Helsinki.

Helsinki is a city where the harmonious blend of history, innovation, freedom, and diplomacy converges.  Our capital is and has been an arena for numerous high-level meetings and political events, and we are proud to provide the platform for this historical moment, now for the first time as the proud capital of a new NATO Ally.

Now it is my great pleasure to introduce you the co-organizer of the event, Dr. Mika Aaltola, the director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MR AALTOLA:  Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, this is a truly historical day.  It is the first time that a United States secretary of state stands on the solid granite ground of NATO Finland.  Secretary Blinken’s visit represents a new era in the Finnish-U.S. relations that have long historical ties.  Never before have the relations between our two countries been this close.

In addition to now being NATO Allies, Finland and the United States are working together to enhance our bilateral defense cooperation.  Also, economic cooperation has increased significantly as the U.S. became Finland’s number one trade partner last year.

While physically separated by an ocean, our countries are bound by ties that surpass distance.  We face common security challenges, but even more importantly, we share a belief in democracy, in our common values and shared interests.

These values are being challenged by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.  With the level of economic and military support it has offered to Ukraine, the United States remains the indispensable force in Europe.  The U.S. was already awake when most of Europe was still sleeping, relatively undisturbed by Russia’s power political gaming.  U.S. leadership is as needed as ever. 

This leadership helps to keep doors open and enemies at bay, but there would be no leadership without a partnership.  This partnership is something that Finland has offered to the United States.  Finland is an able ally and a security provider.  We carry our responsibilities in our region and beyond, and we are committed to support Ukraine and to defend ourselves and the values we stand for.  This commitment is shared by the Finnish leadership but, even more importantly, by the Finnish people.

Finland has ranked as the least corrupt, most egalitarian, one of the most educated, and most democratic countries in the world.  It also is the most stable country in the world.  In these volatile times, this stability has a value of its own.  Surprisingly for many Finns, Finland is also the happiest country in the world.  We question this result every year, but it is pointed to us that it is the case.  It is a fact, so how miserable others must be if we are the happiest.  (Laughter.)

But now I’m truly happy to be able to welcome on the stage with United States Secretary of State Mr. Antony Blinken.  (Applause.)


SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  And yes, I feel a greater sense of happiness today than I’ve felt in a long time.  (Laughter.)

Mayor Vartiainen, thank you for hosting us here in Helsinki, and in this absolutely magnificent city hall.

And Mika, my thanks to you, and also to your entire team – all of the researchers at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, for deepening the scholarship about diplomacy, and also enriching the public debate.

I’m also gratified that my friend and my partner, Pekka Haavisto, is here with us today.  We have worked so closely together over this past truly historic year, and I’m grateful for your presence.

To all of the distinguished guests, two months ago, I stood with our Allies in Brussels as Finland’s flag was raised over NATO headquarters for the first time.  President Niinistö declared, and I quote, “The era of military nonalignment in Finland has come to an end.  A new era begins.”

It was a sea change that would have been unthinkable a little more than a year earlier.  Before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, one in four Finns supported the country joining NATO.  After the full-scale invasion, three in four Finns supported joining.

It wasn’t hard for Finns to imagine themselves in the Ukrainians’ shoes.  They’d walked in them in November 1939, when the Soviet Union invaded Finland.

Like President Putin’s so-called “special operation” against Ukraine, the USSR’s so-called “liberation operation” falsely accused Finland of provoking the invasion.

Like the Russians with Kyiv, the Soviets were confident that they’d sack Helsinki in weeks – so confident that they had Dmitri Shostakovich compose music for the victory parade, before the Winter War even started.

Like Putin in Ukraine, when Stalin failed to overcome the Finns’ fierce and determined resistance, he shifted to a strategy of terror, incinerating entire villages and bombing so many hospitals from the air that Finns started covering up the Red Cross insignia on the rooftops.

Like the millions of Ukrainian refugees today, hundreds of thousands of Finns were driven from their homes by the Soviet invasion.  They included two children, Pirkko and Henri, whose families evacuated their homes in Karelia – the mother and father of our host, the mayor of the city.

To many Finns, the parallels between 1939 and 2022 were striking.  They were visceral.  And they were not wrong.

Finns understood that if Russia violated the core principles of the UN Charter – sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence – if they did that in Ukraine, it will imperil their own peace and security as well.

We understood that, too.  That’s why, over the course of 2021, as Russia ratcheted up its threats against Kyiv and amassed more and more troops, tanks, and planes on Ukraine’s borders, we made every effort to get Moscow to de-escalate its manufactured crisis and resolve its issues through diplomacy.

President Biden told President Putin that we were prepared to discuss our mutual security concerns – a message that I reaffirmed repeatedly – including in person, with Foreign Minister Lavrov.  We offered written proposals to reduce tensions.  Together with our allies and partners, we used every forum to try to prevent war, from the NATO-Russia Council to the OSCE, from the UN to our direct channels.

Across these engagements, we set out two possible paths for Moscow: a path of diplomacy, which could lead to greater security for Ukraine, for Russia, for all of Europe; or a path of aggression, which would result in severe consequences for the Russian Government.

President Biden made clear that regardless of which path President Putin chose, we would be ready.  And if Russia chose war, we would do three things: support Ukraine, impose severe costs on Russia, and strengthen NATO while rallying our allies and partners around these goals.

As the storm clouds gathered, we surged military, economic, and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.  First in August 2021, and again in December, we sent military equipment to bolster Ukraine’s defenses, including Javelins and Stingers.  And we deployed a team from the U.S. Cyber Command to help Ukraine shore up its power grid and other critical infrastructure against cyber attacks.

We prepared an unprecedented set of sanctions, export controls, other economic costs to impose severe and immediate consequences on Russia in the event of a full-scale invasion.

We took steps to leave no doubt that we, and our Allies, would uphold our commitment to defend every inch of NATO territory.

And we worked relentlessly to rally allies and partners around helping Ukraine defend itself and denying Putin his strategic aims.

Since day one of his administration, President Biden has focused on rebuilding and revitalizing America’s alliances and partnerships, knowing that we’re stronger when we work alongside those who share our interests and our values.

In the run-up to Russia’s invasion, we demonstrated the power of those partnerships – coordinating our planning and strategy for a potential invasion with NATO, with the EU, with the G7, and other allies and partners from around the world.

Over those fateful weeks in January and February of 2022, it became clear that no amount of diplomatic effort was going to change President Putin’s mind.  He would choose war.

And so, on February 17, 2022, I went before the United Nations Security Council to warn the world that Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was imminent.

I set out the steps that Russia would take:  first manufacturing a pretext, and then using missiles, tanks, troops, cyber attacks to strike pre-identified targets, including Kyiv, with the aim of toppling Ukraine’s democratically elected government and erasing Ukraine from the map as an independent country.

We hoped – we hoped – to be proven wrong.

Unfortunately, we were right.  A week after my warning to the Security Council, President Putin invaded.  Ukrainians of all walks of life – soldiers and citizens, men and women, young and old – bravely defended their nation.

And the United States moved swiftly, decisively, and in unison with allies and partners to do exactly what we said we’d do: support Ukraine, impose costs on Russia, strengthen NATO – all of this with our allies and partners.

And with our collective support, Ukraine did what it said it would do: defended its territory, its independence, its democracy.

Today, what I want to do is set out this and the many other ways Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine has been a strategic failure, greatly diminishing Russia’s power, its interests, and its influence for years to come.  And I’ll also share our vision of the path to a just and lasting peace.

When you look at President Putin’s long-term strategic aims and objectives, there is no question:  Russia is significantly worse off today than it was before its full-scale invasion of Ukraine – militarily, economically, geopolitically.

Where Putin aimed to project strength, he’s revealed weakness.  Where he sought to divide, he’s united.  What he tried to prevent, he’s precipitated.  That outcome is no accident. It’s the direct result of the courage and solidarity of the Ukrainian people and the deliberate, decisive, swift action that we and our partners have taken to support Ukraine.

First, for years, President Putin sought to weaken and divide NATO, under the false claim that it posed a threat to Russia.  In fact, before Russia invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014, NATO’s posture reflected a shared conviction that conflict in Europe was unlikely.  The United States had significantly reduced its forces in Europe since the end of the Cold War, from 315,000 in 1989 to 61,000 at the end of 2013.  Many European countries’ spending on defense had been declining for years.  NATO’s strategic doctrine at the time labeled Russia a partner.

Following Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the Donbas in 2014, that tide began to turn.  Allies committed to spend two percent of GDP on defense and deployed new forces to NATO’s eastern flank in response to Russia’s aggression.   The Alliance has accelerated its transformation since Russia’s full-scale invasion – not to pose a threat or because NATO seeks conflict.  NATO always has been – and always will be – a defensive alliance.  But Russia’s aggression, threats, nuclear saber-rattling compelled us to reinforce our deterrence and defense.

Hours after the full-scale invasion, we activated NATO’s defensive Response Force. In the weeks that followed, several Allies – including the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, France – swiftly sent troops, aircraft, and ships to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank.  We doubled the number of ships patrolling the North and Baltic seas, and doubled the number of battle groups in the region.  The United States established its first permanent military presence in Poland.  And, of course, NATO added Finland as its 31st Ally, and we will soon add Sweden as the 32nd.

As we head into the NATO Summit in Vilnius, our shared message will be clear:  NATO Allies are committed to enhanced deterrence and defense, to greater and smarter defense spending, to deeper ties with Indo-Pacific partners.  NATO’s door remains open to new members, and it will stay open.

Russia’s invasion has also led the European Union to do more – and more together with the United States and with NATO – than ever before.  The EU and its member-states have provided over $75 billion in military, economic, humanitarian support to Ukraine.  That includes $18 billion in security assistance, from air defense systems to Leopard tanks to ammunition.  Coordinating closely with the U.S., the U.K., and other partners, the EU has launched its most ambitious sanctions ever, immobilizing over half of Russia’s sovereign assets.  And European nations have taken in more than 8 million Ukrainian refugees, most of whom have not only been granted access to public services, but also the right to work, to study.

Second, for decades, Moscow worked to deepen Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas.  Since President Putin’s full-scale invasion, Europe has made a swift and decisive turn away from Russian energy.  Berlin immediately canceled Nord Stream 2, which would have doubled the flow of Russian gas to Germany.

Before Putin’s invasion, European countries imported 37 percent of their natural gas from Russia.  Europe cut that by more than half in less than a year.  In 2022, EU countries generated a record one-fifth of their electricity through wind and solar – more electricity than the EU generated through coal, gas, or any other power source.  The United States for its part more than doubled our supply of gas to Europe, and our Asian allies – Japan, the Republic of Korea – also stepped up to boost Europe’s supply.

Meanwhile, the oil price cap that we and our G7 partners put in place has kept Russia’s energy in the global market, while dramatically cutting Russian revenues.  A year into its invasion, Russia’s oil revenues had fallen by 43 percent.  The Russian Government’s tax revenues from oil and gas have fallen by nearly two-thirds.  And Moscow will not get back the markets that it has lost in Europe.

Third, President Putin spent two decades trying to build Russia’s military into a modern force, with cutting-edge weaponry, streamlined command, and well-trained, well-equipped soldiers.  The Kremlin often claimed it had the second-strongest military in the world, and many believed it.  Today, many see Russia’s military as the second-strongest in Ukraine.  Its equipment, technology, leadership, troops, strategy, tactics, and morale, a case study in failure – even as Moscow inflicts devastating, indiscriminate, and gratuitous damage on Ukraine and Ukrainians.

Russia is estimated to have suffered more than 100,000 casualties in the last six months alone, as Putin sends wave after wave of Russians into a meat grinder of his own making.

Meanwhile, sanctions and export controls imposed by the United States, the European Union, and other partners around the world have severely degraded Russia’s war machine and defense exports, setting them back for years to come.  Russia’s global defense partners and customers can no longer count on promised orders, let alone spare parts.  And as they witness Russia’s poor performance on the battlefield, they are increasingly taking their business elsewhere.

Fourth, President Putin wanted to build Russia up as a global, economic power.  His invasion cemented his long-running failure to diversify Russia’s economy, to strengthen its human capital, to fully integrate the country into the global economy.  Today, Russia’s economy is a shadow of what it was, and a fraction of what it could have become had Putin invested in technology and innovation rather than weapons and war.

Russia’s foreign reserves are down by more than half, as are profits from its state-owned enterprises.  More than 1,700 foreign companies have reduced, suspended, or ended operations in Russia since the onset of the invasion.  That’s tens of thousands of jobs gone, a massive flight of foreign expertise, and billions of dollars in lost revenue for the Kremlin.

A million people have fled Russia, including many of the country’s top IT specialists, entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors, professors, journalists, scientists.  Countless artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians have also left, seeing no future for themselves in a country where they can’t express themselves freely.

Fifth, President Putin invested considerable effort to show that Russia could be a valued partner to China.  On the eve of the invasion, Beijing and Moscow declared a “no limits” partnership.  Eighteen months into the invasion, that two-way partnership looks more and more one-sided.  Putin’s aggression and weaponization of strategic dependencies on Russia has served as a wake-up call to governments around the world to make efforts at de-risking.  And together, the United States and our partners are taking steps to reduce those vulnerabilities, from building more resilient critical supply chains to strengthening our shared tools to counter economic coercion.

So, Russia’s aggression hasn’t distracted us from meeting the challenges in the Indo-Pacific.  It’s actually sharpened our focus on them.  And our support for Ukraine hasn’t weakened our capabilities to meet potential threats from China or anywhere else – it’s strengthened them. And we believe that Beijing is taking notice that, far from being intimidated by a forceful violation of the UN Charter, the world has rallied to defend it.

Sixth, prior to the war, President Putin regularly used Russia’s influence in international organizations to try to weaken the United Nations Charter.  Today, Russia is more isolated on the world stage than ever.  At least 140 nations – two-thirds of UN member-states – have repeatedly voted in the UN General Assembly to affirm Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to reject Putin’s attempts to illegally annex Ukrainian territory, to condemn Russia’s aggression and atrocities, and to call for a peace consistent with the principles of the United Nations Charter.  Governments from the West and East, North and South have voted to suspend Russia from numerous institutions, from the UN Human Rights Council to the International Civil Aviation Organization.  Russian candidates have lost one election after another for key seats in international institutions, from the governing board of UNICEF to leadership of the UN agency responsible for information and communication technologies, the ITU.

Each rebuke and loss for Moscow is not only a vote against Russia’s aggression, it’s a vote for the core principles of the United Nations Charter.   And countries from every part of the world are supporting efforts to hold Russia accountable for its war crimes and crimes against humanity, from creating a special UN commission to document the crimes and human rights violations committed in Russia’s war to assisting investigations by prosecutors in Ukraine and at the International Criminal Court.

Seventh, President Putin, for years, sought to divide the West from the rest, claiming that Russia was advancing the best interests of the developing world.   Today, thanks to openly declaring his imperial ambitions and weaponizing food and fuel, President Putin has diminished Russian influence on every continent.  Putin’s efforts to reconstitute a centuries-old empire reminded every nation that had endured colonial rule and repression of their own pain.  Then, he exacerbated the economic hardship many nations were already experiencing due to COVID and climate change by cutting off Ukraine’s grain from the world markets, driving up the cost of food and fuel everywhere.

By contrast, on one global challenge after another, the United States and our partners have proven that our focus on Ukraine will not distract us from working to improve the lives of people around the world and address the cascading costs of Russia’s aggression.

Our unprecedented emergency food aid has prevented millions of people from starving to death. Just last year alone, the United States provided $13.5 billion in food assistance.  And the United States is currently funding over half of the UN World Food Programme’s budget.  Russia funds less than one percent.

We supported a deal negotiated by UN Secretary-General Guterres and Türkiye to break Russia’s stranglehold on Ukrainian grain, allowing 29 million tons of food and counting to get out of Ukraine and to people around the world.  That includes 8 million tons of wheat, which is the equivalent of roughly 16 billion loaves of bread.

Together with allies and partners, we’re mobilizing hundreds of billions of dollars in financing for high-quality infrastructure in the countries where it’s needed most and building it in a way that’s transparent, good for the environment; empowers local workers and communities.

We’re strengthening global health security, from training half a million health professionals in our own hemisphere, in the Americas, to helping the pharmaceutical company Moderna finalize plans with Kenya to build its first mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility in Africa.

Time and again, we are demonstrating who fuels global problems and who solves them.

Finally, President Putin’s core aim – indeed, his obsession – has been to erase the very idea of Ukraine – its identity, its people, its culture, its agency, its territory.  But here, too, Putin’s actions have precipitated the opposite effect.  No one has done more to strengthen Ukraine’s national identity than the man who sought to wipe it out.  No one has done more to deepen Ukrainians’ unity and solidarity.  No one has done more to intensify Ukrainians’ determination to write their own future on their own terms.

Ukraine will never be Russia.  Ukraine stands sovereign, independent, firmly in control of its own destiny.  In this – Putin’s primary goal – he has failed most spectacularly.

President Putin constantly claims that the United States, Europe, and countries that support Ukraine are bent on defeating or destroying Russia, on toppling its government, on holding back its people.  That is false. We do not seek the overthrow of the Russian Government and we never have.  Russia’s future is for Russians to decide.

We have no quarrel with the Russian people, who had no say in starting this tragic war.  We lament that Putin is sending tens of thousands of Russians to their deaths in a war he could end now, if he chose – and inflicting ruinous impact on Russia’s economy and its prospects.  Indeed, it must be asked:  How has Putin’s war improved the lives, the livelihoods, or the prospects of ordinary Russian citizens?

Everything that we and our allies and partners do in response to Putin’s invasion has the same purpose: to help Ukraine defend its sovereignty, its territorial integrity and independence, and to stand up for the international rules and principles that are threatened by Putin’s ongoing war.

Let me say this directly to the Russian people:  The United States is not your enemy.  At the peaceful end of the Cold War, we shared the hope that Russia would emerge to a brighter future, free and open, fully integrated with the world.  For more than 30 years, we worked to pursue stable and cooperative relations with Moscow, because we believed that a peaceful, secure, and prosperous Russia is in America’s interests – indeed, in the interests of the world.  We still believe that today.

We cannot choose your future for you, and we won’t try to do so.  But we also will not let President Putin impose his will on other nations.  Moscow must treat the independence, the sovereignty, the territorial integrity of its neighbors with the same respect that it demands for Russia.

Now, as I’ve made clear, by virtually every measure, President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been a strategic failure.  Yet while Putin has failed to achieve his aims, he hasn’t given up on them.  He’s convinced that he can simply outlast Ukraine and its supporters, sending more and more Russians to their deaths, inflicting more and more suffering on Ukraine’s civilians.  He thinks that even if he loses the short game, he can still win the long game.  Putin is wrong about this, too.

The United States – together with our allies and partners – is firmly committed to supporting Ukraine’s defense today, tomorrow, for as long as it takes.  And in America, this support is bipartisan.  And precisely because we have no illusions about Putin’s aspirations, we believe the prerequisite for meaningful diplomacy and real peace is a stronger Ukraine, capable of deterring and defending against any future aggression.

We’ve rallied a formidable team around this effort.  With Secretary of Defense Austin’s leadership, more than 50 countries are cooperating through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.  And we’re leading by the power of our example, providing tens of billions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine with robust and unwavering support from both sides of the aisle in our Congress.

Today, America and our allies and partners are helping meet Ukraine’s needs on the current battlefield while developing a force that can deter and defend against aggression for years to come.  That means helping build a Ukrainian military of the future, with long-term funding, a strong air force centered on modern combat aircraft, an integrated air and missile defense network, advanced tanks and armored vehicles, national capacity to produce ammunition, and the training and support to keep forces and equipment combat-ready.

That also means Ukraine’s membership in NATO will be a matter for Allies and Ukraine – not Russia – to decide.  The path to peace will be forged not only through Ukraine’s long-term military strength, but also the strength of its economy and its democracy. This is at the heart of our vision for the way forward:  Ukraine must not only survive, it must thrive.  To be strong enough to deter and defend against aggressors beyond its borders, Ukraine needs a vibrant, prosperous democracy within its borders.

That’s the path the Ukrainian people voted for when they won their independence in 1991.  It’s the choice they defended in the Maidan in 2004, and again in 2013: a free and open society, with respect for human rights and the rule of law, fully integrated with Europe, where all Ukrainians have dignity and the opportunity to realize their full potential – and where the government responds to the needs of its people, not those of vested interests and elites.

We are committed to working with allies and partners to help Ukrainians make their vision a reality.  We’ll not only help Ukraine rebuild its economy, but reimagine it, with new industries, trade routes, supply chains connected with Europe and with markets around the world.  We’ll continue to bolster Ukraine’s independent anti-corruption bodies, a free and vibrant press, civil society organizations.  We’ll help Ukraine overhaul its energy grid – more than half of which has been destroyed by Russia – and do it in a way that’s cleaner, more resilient, and more integrated with its neighbors, so that Ukraine can one day become an energy exporter.

Ukraine’s greater integration with Europe is vital to all of these efforts.  Kyiv took a giant step in that direction last June, when the union formally granted Ukraine EU candidate status.  And Kyiv is working to make progress toward the EU’s benchmarks even as it fights for its survival.

Investing in Ukraine’s strength is not at the expense of diplomacy.  It paves the way for diplomacy.  President Zelenskyy has said repeatedly that diplomacy is the only way to end this war, and we agree.  In December, he put forward a vision for a just and lasting peace.  Instead of engaging on that proposal or even offering one of his own, President Putin has said there is nothing to talk about until Ukraine accepts, and I quote, “new territorial realities” – in other words, accept Russia’s seizure of 20 percent of Ukraine’s territory.  Putin spent the winter trying to freeze Ukrainian civilians to death, and then the spring trying to bomb them to death.  Day after day, Russia rains down missiles and drones on Ukrainian apartment buildings, schools, hospitals.

Now, from a distance, it’s easy to become numb to these and other Russian atrocities, like the drone strike last week on a medical clinic in Dnipro, which killed four people, including doctors; or the 17 strikes on Kyiv in the month of May alone, many using hypersonic missiles; or the missile attack in April on the city of Uman – hundreds of miles from the front lines – in which 23 civilians were killed.  The rocket strike hit multiple apartment buildings in Uman before dawn.  In one of those buildings, a father, Dmytro, raced to the room where his children were sleeping – Kyrylo, age 17; Sophia, age 11.  But when he opened the door to their bedroom, there was no room, just fire and smoke.  His children were gone.  Two more innocent lives extinguished.  Two of the six children Russia killed in a single strike.  Two of the thousands of Ukrainian children killed by Russia’s war of aggression.  Thousands more have been wounded, and thousands beyond that have been abducted from their families by Russia and given to Russian families.  Millions have been displaced.  All are part of a generation of Ukrainian children terrorized, traumatized, scarred by Putin’s war of aggression, all of whom remind us why Ukrainians are so fiercely committed to defending their nation and why they deserve – deserve – a just and lasting peace.

Now, some have argued that if the United States truly wanted peace, we’d stop supporting Ukraine, and then if Ukraine truly wanted to end the war, it would just cut its losses and give up the fifth of its territory that Russia illegally occupies.  Let’s play this out for a minute.  What neighbors of Russia would feel confident in their own sovereignty and territorial integrity if Putin’s aggression were to be rewarded with a fifth of Ukraine’s territory?

And for that matter, how would any country that lives near a bully, with a history of threats and aggression, feel secure within its own borders?   What lesson will other would-be aggressors around the world learn if Putin is allowed to violate a core tenet of the UN Charter with impunity?   And how often in history have aggressors who seize all or part of a neighboring country been satisfied and stopped there?  When has that ever satisfied Vladimir Putin?

The United States has been working with Ukraine – and allies and partners around the world – to build consensus around the core elements of a just and lasting peace.  To be clear, the United States welcomes any initiative that helps bring President Putin to the table to engage in meaningful diplomacy.  We’ll support efforts – whether by Brazil, by China, or any other nation – if they help find a way to a just and lasting peace, consistent with the principles of the United Nations Charter.

Here’s what that means.

A just and lasting peace must uphold the UN Charter and affirm the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence.

A just and lasting peace requires Ukraine’s full participation and assent – nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.

A just and lasting peace must support Ukraine’s reconstruction and recovery, with Russia paying its share.

A just and lasting peace must address both accountability and reconciliation.

A just and lasting peace can open a pathway to sanctions relief connected to concrete actions, especially military withdrawal.  A just and lasting peace must end Russia’s war of aggression.

Now, over the coming weeks and months, some countries will call for a ceasefire.  And on the surface, that sounds sensible – attractive, even.  After all, who doesn’t want warring parties to lay down their arms?  Who doesn’t want the killing to stop?

But a ceasefire that simply freezes current lines in place and enables Putin to consolidate control over the territory he’s seized, and then rest, re-arm, and re-attack – that is not a just and lasting peace.  It’s a Potemkin peace.  It would legitimize Russia’s land grab.  It would reward the aggressor and punish the victim.

If and when Russia is ready to work for true peace, the United States will respond in concert with Ukraine and other allies and partners around the world.  And along with Ukraine and allies and partners, we would be prepared to have a broader discussion on European security that promotes stability and transparency and reduces the likelihood of future conflict.

In the weeks and months ahead, the United States will continue to work with Ukraine, with our allies and partners – and any and all parties dedicated to supporting a just and lasting peace based on these principles.

On April 4, 1949, 74 years to the day before Finland joined NATO, the original members of the Alliance gathered in Washington to sign its founding treaty.  President Truman warned the group, and I quote, “We cannot succeed if our people are haunted by the constant fear of aggression and burdened by the cost of preparing their nations individually against attack.  [W]e hope to create a shield against aggression and the fear of aggression – a bulwark which will permit us to get on with the real business of . . . achieving a fuller and happier life for all our citizens.”

The same is true today.  No nation – not Ukraine, not the United States, not Finland, Sweden, any other country can deliver for its people if it lives in constant fear of aggression.  That’s why we’ve all got a stake in ensuring that President Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine continues to be a strategic failure.

In his New Year’s address to the Finnish people, President Niinistö identified one of the fundamental flaws of President Putin’s plan to swiftly conquer Ukraine – a flaw that also doomed Stalin’s plan to swiftly conquer Finland.  As President Niinistö said, and I quote, “As leaders of a country under authoritarian rule, Stalin and Putin failed to recognize . . . that people living in a free country have their own will and convictions.  And that a nation that works together constitutes an immense force.”

Finns have a word for that fierce combination of will and determination: sisu.  And they recognize sisu in the struggle of Ukrainians today.  And when a free people like the Ukrainians have at their backs the support of free nations around the world – nations who recognize their fates and freedom – their rights and security are inextricably bound together, the force they possess is not merely immense.  It is unstoppable.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)


























laughing all the way to natofuckland.....
















camp siegfried ......

The corner of Mill Road and Main Street in Yaphank hasn't changed all that much over the past 85 years. If you happened to have been there in the summer of 1937, you might almost even recognize it today.

What might not be recognizable were the sights and sounds, haunting this former farming community for decades to come.

Far off to the south on Main, columns of goose-stepping marchers would come into view, dressed in the uniforms of American Nazi storm troopers, the so-called Ordnungsdienst, or "O.D." for short — black breeches, boots, gray shirts, black ties, military belt slung over their shoulders. The leaders carry two giant flags, billowing in the summer morning breeze. To the left, there'd be an American flag and to the right, a German one emblazoned with a giant black swastika.

A new Off-Broadway play, ''Camp Siegfried,'' refocuses attention on that dark side of Yaphank's history just before World War II. There are few physical reminders from that brief span in the hamlet, and what happened there less than 90 years ago may seem unfathomable to Long Islanders today.

"Some people say there's a bad vibe in here but I don't get that,'' said Wendy Gillette, a 20-year resident who lives on nearby Cedar Garden (formerly "Berliner") Boulevard, in German Gardens, right next door to Siegfried Park, which itself was once a subdivision attached to the camp. ''It's a nice community. People are friendly. We look out for each other."

Carol Klimek, who also lives in German Gardens but grew up in Patchogue, said: "A lot of people who moved here in recent years don't know the history, especially the younger generation. From what I've read, I do know about a Bund camp, but as far as the really [deep] history, I wouldn't know anything either."

How the camp came to Yaphank and the resistance to it is a convoluted tale. It's also one that some community members say few residents know about, and the few who do are reluctant to discuss. Others consider the mysterious neighborhood in their midst — site of the old camp itself, long called Siegfried Park, now Lakeview Village — unknown territory.

Meanwhile, in this extended moment of reckoning with some darker chapters in the nation's past, historians wonder how Yaphank should reckon with its own. 

Camp Siegfried began in 1935, when the German-American Bund — a domestic pro-Nazi group, then named "Friends of New Germany" — bought the old Coombs farm on the west side of Upper Lake. Then called Swezey's Pond, the lake is still there just north of the Long Island Expressway off Exit 67, along with the dam that created the pond in the 1700s.

The camp ended when the U.S. government's Alien Property Custodian seized both the camp and the adjoining development called Linden Park (now German Gardens) in 1941.

There are no plaques or markers indicating what was once here in this hamlet of about 6,000 people. The only sign outside the original Camp Siegfried now reads "private" and the main street through the old camp, later owned by the German-American Settlement League, is called Private Road. 

One doesn't discover Camp Siegfried as much as stumble upon it. That's what happened to a Brooklyn playwright during the pandemic in 2020.

The grainy pictures of Camp Siegfried have proliferated on the internet where Wohl first encountered them. The eye invariably drifts to the swastikas. They adorn flags, banners, armbands, caps, uniforms, knife handles, the porticos above camp cottages, and even a giant topiary made of boxwoods and salvia.

The Tony-nominated Wohl got to work and began conceiving a play about the human urge to belong and how that can so easily be twisted by a venomous ideology. After a successful run in London, her 90-minute play, "Camp Siegfried," opened at the Second Stage's Tony Kiser Theater in Manhattan on Nov. 15 and runs through Dec. 4. To quote the playbill, this two-hander about a pair of young campgoers who fall in love, offers a reminder of "how easily darkness can sneak up on us." 

The original camp, which still can be seen just beyond the curtain of trees along the shoreline of Upper Lake, ran up its west side, occupying about 44 acres. During its run, Bund members and storm troopers built dozens of cottages along that lakeshore and around the other side.

Trim and sturdy, most remain to this day. 

In the middle of the development still lies the centerpiece of Camp Siegfried. It was then called "Hindenburg Platz" for former German president Paul von Hindenburg, who appointed Adolf Hitler as chancellor in 1933. Slightly larger than a football field, this is where the "O.D." — those storm troopers modeled on the Nazi's SA — marched in formation and the Jungenschaft, or "Young Siegfrieders," gathered to play baseball, soccer and football. This is also where an undercover reporter, John Metcalfe, who wrote a 1937 expose on the camp, concluded that Siegfried was all about " … Hitler, hatred and heils." 

On the north end of the field, the construction of a bandstand was ordered by the German-American Bund's "Bundesführer" (leader) Fritz Julius Kuhn, who was also the putative head of Camp Siegfried. 

That's long gone, but John Roy Carlson, author of another expose (" Under Cover: My Four Years in the Nazi Underworld of America," 1943, Dutton), recounts what happened on this field during the first German "Volk" Day celebration in 1936: 

"The O.D.'s then appeared with flags, banners, and pennants, massed them at the head of the troops and at the word 'marsch' led the procession down Hindenburg Field. Grim and defiant, father, son and daughter obeyed all military commands. Massed American flags fluttered between dozens of Bund banners and Bund emblems. Some of the American flags were on flagstaffs surmounted by swastikas." 

The speakers on stage were greeted with "considerably more heiling," and then, concluding the festivities, Carlson paraphrased an exultant Kuhn: "'A little piece of German soil — a Sudetenland in America! — [is] planted on this side of the ocean.'" 

To the west of the old camp lies German Gardens Now also a quiet bedroom community, when the Bund bought the land here in 1936, this was envisioned as an "Aryan" community — a more robust, year-round counterpart to the summer camp next door. 

To the west of the old camp lies German Gardens Now also a quiet bedroom community, when the Bund bought the land here in 1936, this was envisioned as an "Aryan" community — a more robust, year-round counterpart to the summer camp next door. 

The plans filed with the Brookhaven planning and zoning commission revealed both the scope and spirit of the enterprise. A couple of hundred lots were carved from the 40-plus acres, bisected with streets named after Nazi leaders Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Göring. "Adolf Hitler Strasse" ran up the east side of German Gardens. 

The Brookhaven planning and zoning board approved the plans on Oct. 22, 1936. 

Today, the names are long gone, replaced with inoffensive ones like Oak Street (formerly Göring) and Park Boulevard (Hitler). 

Except they are not quite forgotten. According to Melanie Cardone-Leathers, history librarian and archivist at Longwood Library in Middle Island and an authority on the history of Camp Siegfried, new residents on Park will still occasionally "get bills from utilities with the name 'Hitler Street' on them." 

Such letters are invariably an unwelcome surprise, she said. For years, the names of the old streets appeared on property deed maps that new homeowners received. Gillette, the longtime resident, said she's heard stories about those letters to "Hitler Street" too and even knows of one neighbor who found old Bundist uniforms and guns when they moved in.

In the mid-90s, former Suffolk County lawmaker Herbert Davis, who died in 2010, tried to permanently expunge the old Nazi names but was rebuffed by the legislature, which concluded it should not white-out local history, however repugnant.

How Camp Siegfried found its way to Yaphank is not entirely clear. The authoritative history of Camp Siegfried by Marvin D. Miller, "Wunderlich's Salute," (Malamud-Rose Publishers, Smithtown, 1983) noted that "one of every seven inhabitants in Suffolk County '' belonged to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1930s, and was especially well represented in Yaphank. The Bund also had footholds in other communities with sizable German populations — Yaphank had a large Polish one, too — and had organized marches in Lindenhurst. (Lindenhurst was once named Breslau, from where the original settlers came.) 

Later congressional and courtroom testimony also indicated that Siegfried and a dozen other Bund camps across the country may have been "Fifth Column" outposts, or sleeper cells, ready to rise up and assist invading German troops on "Der Tag," a phrase dating from World War I that signaled the beginning of hostilities. 

According to such testimony, that's why some of them were so close to military outposts. (The World War I training facility Camp Upton — now Brookhaven National Laboratory — is about 4 miles from the Siegfried site.) 

Yaphank may have also been a match of opportunity with necessity. As Marge Niesen, who grew up there in the late '30s and '40s, said, "We were just a little farm town and a perfect place to begin a rebellion that nobody would suspect." 

After taking power in 1933, the National Socialist Party in Germany gave sympathizers in the United States permission to create their own organization — an extended hand of friendship, but really just an American-based propaganda arm. After a series of internal power struggles, leadership of the German-American Bund (" League") passed to Kuhn. 

His scheme to win American hearts and minds — or at least those of the more than 500,000 German immigrants who had left the fatherland after the cataclysm of World War I — was through propaganda. 

And the best way to reach them was through their children.

Kuhn's uber-camp had to convey an all-American spirit, or his half-formed idea of whatever that was. This had to appear to be a wholesome place where young people could get close to nature and learn various outdoor skills. Singing patriotic German songs and marching would be nice too. 

Nevertheless, Arnie Bernstein, author of "Swastika Nation" (St. Martin's, 2013), a history of the Bund who also advised Wohl on her play, said that the children at the camp — more than anyone else — would ultimately be Camp Siegfried's primary victims: "They were abused emotionally, intellectually, sexually and physically," he said.

Mostly, this camp needed to be near New York City (the Bund was based in Yorkville) and rail lines. Yaphank would do, perfectly. The Yaphank train station remains less than 2 miles to the south.

In the midst of the Depression, many residents were happy to have this free-spending newcomer in their midst. "Economically it was important for the community because farmers could sell produce to them," said Cardone-Leathers. "It brought money to a community that was changing because the mills had left or were going away. They needed something else, and at first it was a boon." 

Opening its doors in 1935, the new camp began modestly, if ominously. Named for the hero of German legend who had bathed himself in the blood of the dragon Fafnir, which made him impervious to weapons, Camp Siegfried also adopted the Hitler Youth's "sig rune" symbol, which means "victory." 

By opening day 1936, Siegfried was booming. Thousands came by car, others by Long Island Rail Road. Kuhn organized "Siegfried Specials" out of Penn Station that brought thousands more out to the camp on weekends. Postcards sold at the camp read "it will remind you of those beautiful summer resorts in the old Homeland." At first privately, then publicly, Kuhn also promised an "Aryan paradise." 

Another attraction was the beer. Camp visitors consumed an enormous quantity on weekends — nearly 10,000 gallons of Schaefer and Lowenbrau on particularly busy ones.

About this time, Kuhn also appears to have also realized that he had a growing public relations problem. Success began to draw unwelcome attention from the media, and then the government. The Bund needed cover and it would get that when he handed ownership of the camp over to the German-American Settlement League, which historian Bradley W. Hart has called a "puppet" of the Bund. Kuhn immediately installed himself on the GASL board, then continued to pull the strings.

By opening day 1937, Camp Siegfried had become known even in Germany, and a growing cause for concern here. Kuhn also began to reveal his true intentions. Storm troopers by the hundreds came each weekend, ostensibly as security. Marchers choked off the streets then paraded in endless formations on Hindenburg Platz, singing the "Horst Wessel Lied," the Nazi anthem. Loudspeakers spewed antisemitic speeches, while books by Julius Streicher, publisher of the virulently antisemitic newspaper Der Stürmer, were distributed to the crowd and pictures of Hitler sold at concession stands. 

Hart, a Siegfried historian based in California and author of "Hitler's American Friends" (Thomas Dunne/St.Martin's, 2018), said in an interview that about this time "there was another interesting aspect of this, in that [GASL] used the camp as a showpiece for visitors from the Third Reich. We don't know how many diplomats came, or what the actual role of the German government was in the camp, but I've seen photos of people coming in wearing real Nazi uniforms and hanging out. We simply don't know what was going on there." 

Some Yaphankers suspected that munitions were stored at the camp, or that secret shortwave radio transmissions to Germany were originating from the newly built houses, according to a Yaphank Historical Society timeline. 

One Yaphanker decided to take action. 

His name was Gustave Neuss (pronounced "noose"), a second-generation German-American and Yaphank's justice of the peace. In the summer of 1937, he told the local paper, the Mid-Island Call, that "when [Camp Siegfried] was first mentioned to me several years ago, I visualized a group of Germans of my father's type. But they've turned out to be just a bunch of Hitlerites."

Neuss conscripted members of a local boys club to copy down the plate numbers of cars parked in the overflow lot on an adjacent farmer's field, then sent those on to the U.S. marshal in Patchogue who, in turn, handed them over to the FBI. Agency Director J. Edgar Hoover professed "concern" over the camp, but didn't do much otherwise. One witness had told FBI investigators that he “had seen nothing there that appeared at all impressive to him. They did appear to consume great quantities of beer and do a lot of marching and wearing uniforms.”

Events were about to overtake Hoover and the FBI. In 1938, U.S. Rep. Samuel Dickstein (D-NY), helped organize the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to go after Siegfried. That same year, a New York-based lawyer and World War I veteran named Roy P. Monahan, who had been offended by Siegfried's antisemitic propaganda storm, told the Suffolk County District Attorney's office that GASL had ignored a law requiring it to file its membership rolls with the state. 

The convictions were later overturned, but Kuhn's Bundesführer-ship was coming to an end. After the Bund held a rally at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 20, 1939, New York District Attorney Thomas Dewey went after Kuhn on a tax evasion charge, which stuck. Dewey also found that Kuhn had been skimming money from the Bund and Siegfried. Deported after the war, Kuhn died in Germany in 1951 "unheralded and unsung," according to the Associated Press obit. 

Nevertheless, it was Neuss who may have finally struck the fatal blow. In November 1939, he got Brookhaven's Alcoholic Beverage Board to pull Camp Siegfried's liquor license. The camp never recovered.

After the war, the government handed Camp Siegfried back to the German-American Settlement League, and those 44 acres settled into quiet, postwar suburban obscurity. GASL became a homeowners' association, where members could buy homes but not the land beneath. German-American Settlement League remained the official name, but most people just referred to their quiet enclave as Siegfried Park. They congregated at the old clubhouse, also built during the Siegfried years. The Lakeview Inn had burned down in 1941.

Children played on the old Hindenburg Platz. The original Siegfried cottages were updated, then expanded. Families came and went. The past receded, and the sinister history that unfolded over a six-year period was largely forgotten.

But the past was not quite done with Siegfried Park. In 2015, a pair of homeowners, Philip Kneer and Patricia-Flynn Kneer, along with the Long Island Housing Service, filed a lawsuit against GASL, alleging they had been discriminated against because long-standing racial covenants had prevented them from selling their home on the open market. 

In the words of the complaint, GASL "ensures that Siegfried Park remains a white and German residential community by enforcing a number of rules that restrict homeownership to individuals who are required 'primarily' to be individuals 'of German extraction.'" 

The Kneers and LIHS cited other restrictions (they couldn't advertise their house, for example). They also pointed to problematic symbols from the old days, notably that the GASL flag and stationery still incorporated the ''sig rune'' of the Hitler Youth — an old German symbol that long predates Nazism. 

While thousands of private communities across the country are still believed to have similarly illegal racial covenants, the Camp Siegfried link made this particular dispute stand out. TV news crews and the international media descended on Siegfried Park. GASL settled with the Kneers a year later and revised its bylaws. It settled with the state attorney general in 2017.

In one sense, Siegfried Park and GASL have moved on. In 2020, the League — without fanfare or news release — quietly changed its name. In a filing with the New York secretary of state's office, "the German-American League Settlement" was dropped forever, and "Lakeview Village" was adopted as the new name.

Barbara Russell, Brookhaven's longtime historian, said Camp Siegfried had not been forgotten. "We don't erase history here. We certainly have many published pieces on Camp Siegfried. It's fairly well known and that's about all I could say about it."

Hart, the historian and author of "Hitler's American Friends" said: ''How should Yaphank reckon with this past? It's one question I wrestle with as well."

Bernstein, who wrote the history of the Bund, said there are no easy answers for Yaphank. An exhibit at the local libraries would be "wonderful," but "plaques would not be," he added.

Still, he said, the past "needs to be recognized." 

How great a threat to national security was Camp Siegfried on the eve of World War II? Hoover never seemed to have taken the camp seriously, but Hart, the historian, said "dangerous" activity did take place there, which HUAC testimony had confirmed.

During an Oct. 1, 1940, hearing, a 36-year-old member of the Ordnungsdienst, or storm troopers, Richard Werner, told HUAC that the troopers marched obsessively at Camp Siegfried "in preparation for 'that Day," when the troopers would "overthrow this government and establish one like they have in Germany."

Was "that day" the day "when blood would flow in the streets of New York?" he was asked.

"Yes," said Werner, "when we marched and hung up all the Jews on a streetlight, and then went down to Wall Street and, I guess, raided all the banks."

The HUAC testimony of one of the camp's youth leaders made national headlines. Brooklyn native Helen Vooros, 19 at the time, told committee members that after she had joined the Bund, she was sent to Camp Siegfried where she and other members of the Jungenschaft were sent on night hikes through the woods and forced "to keep in line formation. The marches were to build up resistance [and] the more scratches we have, the better. You are supposed to be without feeling or pity. You are not supposed to show any sympathy."

Daily camp life was filled with propaganda, she testified. "We were taught that we are pure Aryans and not to mingle with other races."



















western exceptionalism.....


BY Andrei Dergalin


The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has, among other things, highlighted what appears to be the United States’ unwillingness to compromise when negotiating with other countries.

Over the past several months, the United States and its allies have exhibited their willingness to prolong the Ukrainian conflict for as long as possible, eagerly supplying vast quantities of ammo and a wide range of weaponry to Kiev.

At the same time, US and European government officials do not seem as eager to try and bring the conflict to a negotiated solution, despite styling themselves as the so-called champions of peace.

Speaking on Sputnik’s “Fault Lines” podcast, international relations and security analyst Mark Sleboda argued that, following the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, the West simply became “extremely accustomed” to its global hegemony and unwilling to make compromises “with another great power.”

Noting how the United States has been deploying its military around the world and targeting other countries with sanctions for decades, Sleboda also postulated that a “broader European exceptionalism” has emerged in the West to complement the American exceptionalism that Washington often used to justify its actions.


You can call it Western exceptionalism, that they really believe that they are morally and systemically superior to the rest of the world, that the rest of the world would be better off under their rule, and that they simply have a duty to enforce that, not just a moral right, but a duty,” he warned.


The analyst suggested that this state of affairs is essentially a "lingering leftover from the geopolitical catastrophe that was the decades of US unipolar moment."

For more sharp analysis, check out the latest episode of Sputnik’s podcast Fault Lines.