Remarks by Vice President Harris and Prime Minister Šimonytė of Lithuania Before Bilateral Meeting
By: White House: Office of the Vice President
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Madam Prime Minister, welcome to Washington. And I look forward to our discussion.
Before I do address the subject of our meeting today, I will comment on Russia’s continued brutality against Ukraine, including the latest barrage of missile strikes this week.
Since launching an unprovoked war, Russia’s actions have been barbaric and inhumane. They have attacked hospitals, kindergartens, playgrounds, and now they are deliberately targeting energy infrastructure in a way that will directly cause pain and hardship to innocent civilians.
And there is no doubt that Russia’s armed forces are committing war crimes. Part of the strength of the relationship between the United States and Lithuania is that we stand for common principles and values, and we stand together in defense of the people of Ukraine and the importance of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The United States will continue to support and provide Ukraine with the assistance as it needs to defend itself, including air defense. We will continue to surge assistance to repair Ukraine’s security in terms of its electrical grid, including the $53 million that we committed last week.
To the people of Ukraine, I say: You are brave, you are courageous, and you have exhibited real courage in the face of an unprovoked, inhumane attack. And the United States stands with you.
Madam Prime Minister, given Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine, our work together, as I said, is more important than ever. This year, the United States and Lithuania celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relations.
And I will reiterate what I said when I met with Baltic leaders in Munich in February and, Madam Prime Minister, when you and I spoke by telephone in March: The United States’ commitment to NATO’s Article 5 is ironclad. We will defend every inch of NATO territory. And an attack on any is an attack on all.
Lithuania is a critical ally of the United States and is on the frontline of Russian aggression, and we stand with you. Russia aspires to divide us. However, NATO is stronger and more united than we have been in decades. And as I have said to you and will say again: This unity, I believe, is our greatest source of strength.
In response to Russia’s aggression, we have increased our military presence on NATO’s eastern flank through the deployment or extension of more than 20,000 additional forces to Europe, bringing the total to approximately 100,000; through the enhancement of rotational deployments in the Baltics; and through President Joe Biden’s commitment at the NATO Summit in Madrid to maintain a persistent U.S. military presence in Lithuania and its Baltic neighbors.
And as we speak at this very moment, American forces stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Lithuanian forces. And together, we will continue to strengthen NATO’s deterrence and collective defense.
In terms of the support that we are lending to Ukraine — that we are giving to Ukraine, the United States and Lithuania will continue to work together as we support the people of Ukraine. Lithuania has provided defense, cyber, and humanitarian assistance, including critical equipment for Ukraine’s electrical and energy grid.
You host tens of thousands of refugees, and you have helped us hold Russia accountable, including a reduction of Lithuania’s use of Russian gas.
Together, the United States and Lithuania are making clear that we will stand in defense of an international rules-based order in Europe, in the Indo-Pacific, and around the world.
Your country and your leadership are models of courage, resilience, and democratic values.
And finally, Madam Prime Minister, congratulations on receiving the Madeleine Albright Award. I knew Madeleine Albright. I actually first knew her very early in my career when I was District Attorney of San Francisco, and I shared many conversations with Secretary Albright over the years. She was an extraordinary leader — and a world leader, I might say. And knowing her as I did, I know that she would be very proud — so very proud to know that you are the recipient of an award in her name. Welcome, again.
PRIME MINISTER ŠIMONYTĖ: Thank you, Madam Vice President, for very kind words. It was a great honor to receive the nomination and this award. But I take it as a reminder that this is our common responsibility to help people who suffer and who fight for freedom and democratic values, and for their countries to become free and democratic countries.
So this is a great honor, but we — it’s just a reminder that we have — as Madeleine Albright said, “Take a button and march.”
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Absolutely right.
PRIME MINISTER ŠIMONYTĖ: So thank you for this very warm welcome and the hospitality, and it is very symbolic that I happen to be here in the year where we celebrate the centenary of our diplomatic relations.
And within those hundred years, there were times where Lithuania was not able to execute its diplomatic relations with other countries because of Soviet occupation, but United States of America never recognized this occupation, and this was very important to our people. This is more important than somebody might imagine, because this was a sign of hope. A sign of hope that there are friends who will stand with you where the need may be.
So I’m sure that this new page of our diplomatic relations will serve the benefit of our nations —
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Yes.
PRIME MINISTER ŠIMONYTĖ: — even better, even more, as we — as you mentioned, rightly so — stand for the same values. And we stand for them not only in our words, but also in our deeds.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Indeed.
PRIME MINISTER ŠIMONYTĖ: And, of course, when we speak about it, it’s Ukraine who is first on our minds. And I want to thank you for the stance that this administration is taking in supporting Ukraine from the moment zero, from the day zero where this invasion started.
And I think it is important that the bipartisan support in Congress —
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Yes.
PRIME MINISTER ŠIMONYTĖ: — strengthens this belief that Ukraine will be supported as long as needed and as much as needed.
I was in Kyiv 10 days ago. It is sad to see a city which is darkened, silenced, that has no heating, where people have to go to tents to warm up and to charge their mobile devices.
But the sense of resolve, the sense of resilience that you feel everywhere, where you see Ukrainians on the streets, in the meetings, is invincible. That’s why I think we must make absolutely sure that we will not let Ukrainian people down.
We need to be patient because we’ll be tested by all sorts of tools Russia employs, from propaganda, to blackmail, and food security, or energy security, or migration, or other items from their playbook.
So I think we need to be patient, remain calm, and increase and strengthen our support for Ukraine.
Of course, this war in Ukraine also puts a new light on security and safety of the NATO countries themselves. And I want to thank you, first, for the presence of U.S. troops in Lithuania. And we’re proud to be a host nation to your people, your military man serving for the common benefit of peace and freedom.
And definitely after NATO Summit in Madrid this year, important decisions have been made. And I know that we will work shoulder-to-shoulder to implement that in practical terms and to make NATO a stronger, more resilient Alliance, able to respond whatever future challenges might occur.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you so much. Thank you.
Q Madam Vice President, do you have any (inaudible) to Georgia?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Once again?
Q The Georgia race.
And I was also wondering if both of you would weigh in on — with the new Congress, what’s going — how can you assure the Prime Minister and Ukraine and eastern Europe that you’re going to be able to keep up that bipartisan support, considering what Kevin McCarthy has said about “no blank checks”?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: On the second question, there is no question in my mind, and among reasonable people, that the matter of Ukraine and the atrocities by Russia as it relates to Ukraine raise fundamental values about who we are and what we stand for as the United States of America. We stand with our allies. We stand with our friends. We stand to defend and protect rules and norms such as the integrity and importance of sovereignty and territorial integrity. And we will not be distracted by any partisan suggestion that it is anything other than a representation of who we are as Americans, regardless of political party.
On your first point, I congratulate Senator Warnock. It’s — it is, I think, a very important statement, his win last night, about the people of the state of Georgia, about — you know, some people call it the “new South,” and about America.
He’s an extraordinary public servant, and I think his win also speaks volumes about the desire of the American people to expand a majority in the United States Senate that concerns itself with solutions and actually getting things done. He talked extensively during his campaign about examples of just that point, which relate to helping students with their loan debt, to building up America’s infrastructure around roads and bridges, to what we must do to invest in the climate crisis in a way that will also create jobs.
So I send him my heartiest congratulations. I did speak with him today, and I look forward to his continued leadership in the United States Senate.
Madam Prime Minister? Okay.
END 2:00 P.M. EST