US State Dept Presser

State Dept Presser – Dec 14, 2023

21 Min
State Dept Presser – Dec 14, 2023

The US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller held a Press Briefing on Dec 14, 2023. The Q-A on B’desh is tweaked to appear up front.


QUESTION: I have two questions, one on Bangladesh and another one – yeah, Israel and Palestine. A wave of arson attacks on buses full of passengers and trucks, displacing rail tracks, petrol bombing train coaches during blockades, witnessed bus helpers burned alive with scored – injured to derail the election. Does U.S. consider such action undermine the prelude to free and fair election in Bangladesh?

MR MILLER:  You have heard me say consistently from this podium that we want to see free and fair elections held in Bangladesh, and one of the components of a free and fair election is that that election be conducted without violence.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. About Israel. Only one-line question that U.S. support two-state solution, do you have any timeline for that? Because it’s going longer and longer, about 70 years. Any timeline from U.S. from today?

MR MILLER: I think it would be incredibly foolish of me to try to give a timeline for that from here. I will say we are in the middle of a military campaign right now. The Secretary has laid out some principles that he thinks ought to be adhered to at the end of that conflict as it relates to a path forward. And one of the principles, he has said, is that we need to get back on a path to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

QUESTION:  I just want to go back to the President’s comments the other day about indiscriminate bombing and then reports that have been coming out since the weekend about U.S. assessments of what the Israelis are doing with U.S.-supplied munitions. The State Department clearly has a stake in this whole thing as part of the rest of the administration, and I am still finding it hard to understand how it is that you guys have not at least come to some kind of preliminary conclusion as to whether you think these weapons are being used in the correct way or if there are questions about that.

MR MILLER:  It remains the case that we just have not made that type of assessment. We are monitoring. We are collecting information, as we do in every conflict around the world. We are engaged in conversations with the Israeli Government about steps that they can take to minimize civilian harm, but that’s not an assessment that we have made.

QUESTION: Well, can I just ask why not?

MR MILLER: We’re not at that point. We are collecting information. We are monitoring —

QUESTION: I’m asking you do you think that it is possible that they haven’t violated any of the end user agreements or —

MR MILLER: There is no way I can sit here from this podium in the middle of a conflict in which they have taken a number of airstrikes, they have engaged on a ground invasion – and make an assessment about how every single action that they have taken was conducted. There’s just no way I can do it. I don’t have the facts to do that. We don’t have the legal determination to do it. These are always very fact-specific, legal determination. As I said, we’re collecting information and monitoring, as we do with any other – as we do with any conflict around the world, but we’re just not at the point where I can make an assessment.

QUESTION: Well, I get that you haven’t made a determination. But what I’m asking you right now is that because you haven’t made one, is still possible in the minds or the eyes of the administration that everything that Israel is doing is perfectly legit?

MR MILLER: Again, I just don’t want to – I don’t want to speculate about where we might land on every strike, every action that has been taken. We are at the place now where we’re collecting information and monitoring but not able to make an assessment.

QUESTION: There’s legislation that’s been – being – if it hasn’t already been, it’s being introduced on the Hill today that would require you to make such a determination. Is that something that you think is necessary, or is it something that you will make at some point whenever you find it appropriate, that you will make a determination either, yes, they are complying or, no, they’re not complying, or somewhere in the middle? Like —

MR MILLER: Yeah, I haven’t seen that legislation yet so I can’t comment on it.

QUESTION: All right, last one. I just want to ask about Kerem Shalom and the aid. Is it your understanding that it is still only open for inspections and it has not yet been opened as an actual route?

MR MILLER: That is my understanding: it’s open for inspection, not for a route. We continue to push for it to be open and hope that we will achieve that.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR MILLER: Humeyra.

QUESTION: Can I get into the details of this collecting information a little bit, Matt? What kind of information are you guys collecting exactly?

MR MILLER: I’m just not going to speak to that with any degree of specificity, other than to say that we are doing the same thing in this conflict that we do with respect to any conflict in the – around the world.

QUESTION: Okay. And —

MR MILLER: We monitor what’s happening and collect information, but I’m not going to get into any specifics.

QUESTION: And what would that process look like? Are you looking at sort of how Israel is carrying out the airstrikes, the ground offensive? Is it only the military conduct, or does it include things like, for example, these Gazan men who were stripped down to their underwear? Does that include those kinds of incidents as well?

MR MILLER: I just don’t want to get into our internal deliberative process, other than to say that we follow the same actions with respect to this conflict, as I said a moment ago, as we do with every conflict in the world. We engage in conversations with our Israeli Government – with our Israeli counterparts about things that we think they can do better. We’ve seen them make progress on a number of areas. And when we have concerns, you often seem them point – speak to those concerns publicly, as we did with respect to those images of detained Palestinian men.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. I wanted to ask about my colleagues reporting on the use of dumb bombs in this conflict. How does that square with the repeated statements we’ve heard from this building that Israel is taking steps to protect civilians, that they do have the intent to protect civilians?

MR MILLER: I’m just not going to comment on how they are using any specific weapons. Obviously, the circumstances of how any weapon are used would be required to draw any kind of definitive judgment. There are different ways you can use any number of munitions. It’s not something I can do from here. But I will say, I will reiterate, that we have these conversations with our Israeli counterparts at a range of different levels and talk with them about steps we think they can take to minimize civilian harm. We’ve seen them take some of those steps. There are always things that we think that they can do better, and we’ll continue to engage in conversations with them to that effect.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. assessment that it would be necessary for this to carry on for many more months?

MR MILLER: I am not going to make an assessment of how long it will take for them to accomplish their military objectives. That really is for them to speak to. But we do want to see, of course, the conflict or their military campaign executed in a way that minimizes – minimizes civilian harm and allows humanitarian assistance to get in, humanitarian assistance to reach those who need it. And that, of course, is what we’re discussing with them all the time.

QUESTION: And last one. Given the President’s comments the other day about the waning support for Israel given this indiscriminate bombing, is the U.S. position that it would be tenable to support Israel at the same pace that you are right now for several more months?

MR MILLER: So again, you’re asking me – it wasn’t the way the question was framed, but to answer that question I’ve got to speculate about how long the campaign would go, and that’s just not something I’m willing to do.

Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Just to follow up on Matt and Humeyra’s thing on the review that you are doing, don’t you need to do that in conjunction with the weapons transfer? I mean, you are transferring weapons right now. Shouldn’t you be doing this according to law as you send the weapons?

MR MILLER: So there are rules and conditions that attach to any weapons that we transfer to any government in the world – not just Israel. And one of those requirements and expectations is that they act in accordance with international humanitarian law.

QUESTION: Right. But you don’t have to wait until such time that you’ve accumulated all that information to say aha, we cannot send this weapon. You have to do it, as I understand it, and I may be wrong, exactly as you send these weapons. And you are in the process of sending lots of weapons.

MR MILLER: And we are constantly in conversations with them about ensuring that those weapons are used in accordance with international humanitarian law and the laws of war.

QUESTION: A couple more questions. Now, there were reports that apparently the Israeli soldiers were executing in an UNRWA school some people that they arrested or whatever last week. Are you aware of this report? Do you have any comment on that?

MR MILLER: I have seen the media report. I am obviously not able to make an independent assessment of that. I will reiterate what I have said, which is that it is important that Israel conduct this operation in a way that complies with international humanitarian law, that complies with the law of war. It’s essential that when there are allegations of wrongdoing that Israel look into those and investigate those. But I’m not able to confirm the reliability or veracity of that particular report.

QUESTION: You said that you understand Israel’s goal at the end to disallow Hamas from committing whatever. Do you believe that it is getting close to that goal?  

MR MILLER: Again, this is Israel’s military campaign. They are the ones conducting the campaign. It is up to them to make assessments about how long it will take and where they stand in accomplishing their goals.

QUESTION: A follow-up?

MR MILLER: Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Can I get your comments on some of the comments that Putin made today, particularly him talking about U.S. support for Ukraine, saying that gradually it’s, quote/unquote, “running out”? How concerned are you by the fact that delaying aid to Ukraine might have – appeared to have encouraged Putin and, even worse, have emboldened the actions in Ukraine, given the latest attacks?

MR MILLER: Let me say a few things about that. So number one, I think what President Putin confirmed today was that, despite his military suffering hundreds of thousands of causalities, despite the crippling of the Russian economy, despite isolating Russia internationally and making himself an international pariah as a result of this conflict, his war aims have not changed in any way. He still wishes to conquer Ukraine, he still wishes to subjugate Ukraine, and nothing that he set out to accomplish in this campaign has he given up on, despite the fact that his army has been rolled back from their initial objectives, despite the fact, as I said, they’ve suffered a multitude of battlefield defeats. They still – he still has all the same war aims that he had from the beginning.

The second thing I’ll say is that you heard President Putin, I believe for the first time, confirm something that we have said. You have heard us say from the beginning of this campaign that Vladimir Putin’s bet was that he could outlast the West and that the West would weaken, the West would stop supporting Ukraine, and that Russia would still be there ready to fight, and he just had to outlast us. We have said that from the beginning, that his – that was his assessment. But I don’t believe that – and I don’t believe that until today he had actually ever come out and said it.

And so what I will say is, for the part of this administration, we have made clear that we believe that bet is wrong and we believe that he will not outlast the West and he will not outlast the United States of America. And now it’s up for the United States Congress to prove that that bet is wrong.

QUESTION: Yeah. President Putin has said too that he is ready to build relations with the U.S. and the European Union too, and added that the U.S. is an important and necessary country on the world stage, which is why Russia is prepared for talks when conditions are met. Are you prepared for talks with Russia?

MR MILLER: Let me say a few things. Number one, if he really wanted to repair relations with the United States or other countries in the West, I will say with respect to the United States, he could start by releasing the Americans that he has wrongfully detained. We’ve put significant proposals on the table, and he has refused to release those Americans which never should have been detained in the first place.

The second thing that he could do would be to withdraw his military from Ukraine and respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The final thing I will say is, with respect to ultimate negotiations, which I think maybe is what this question is getting at, to the future of Ukraine, as we have said before, that is a decision for Ukraine to make about if and when there are negotiations about how to end the war. But despite President Putin’s claim today about wanting to improve relations, he has shown no ability or no willingness to actually negotiate. And in fact, as I said a moment ago, just reaffirmed today that his aims for the results of this conflict have not changed in any way, shape, or form.

QUESTION: On Iran, may I get a reaction to reporting that Iran has accessed $10 billion that it has received under sanctions waiver? Are you in a position to confirm or deny those reports?

MR MILLER: I am not.

QUESTION: Just following up on the detainees, I wanted to ask about – Putin was asked today about Evan Gershkovich, my friend and colleague, and he seemed to express some optimism in the negotiations, saying it’s not easy, I will not go into details, but in general it seems we are speaking a language that we both understand; I hope that we will find a solution, ongoing dialogue, reaching an agreement, this kind of language. What does that mean to you, and does it reflect any further offer since the last time you mentioned a previous offer that the U.S. has made? Has there been other progress toward a deal? Are you more optimistic we can get Evan home?

MR MILLER: Let me say it this way. We very much want a deal. We very much want to bring Evan Gershkovich home. We very much want to bring Paul Whelan home. We have put multiple offers on the table. There is one significant offer that we made as recently as a few weeks ago. We have seen those offers rejected every time by the Russian Government. So, we would welcome them negotiating in good faith. We would welcome them engaging seriously with us to obtain the release of Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan. But so far, we have seen them refuse to take us up on our proposals, and we hope that they will – that they will change the way they’ve handled this going forward.

QUESTION: I mean, President Putin is the boss over there. This is a sign. Are you optimistic that it will improve, because he said these comments?

MR MILLER: I am going to be very careful about how I speak about this, just because this is obviously a sensitive process. I don’t want to say much more than I said already. But if Vladmir Putin is serious about this, all he has to do is look at the proposals that we have made to secure their release, which were significant proposals that were made in good faith and I think show the willingness and the determination of the United States to bring both Paul and Evan home and, as I said, come to the table and help us reach an agreement to actually bring them home.

We’ll go – Janne.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. On North Korea, recently, North Korean Kim Jong-un announced that he would declare the North Korea to the world as a nuclear state. What is the U.S. plan B regarding resolving North Korea’s nuclear programs?

MR MILLER: So we will continue to work with our partners in the region, our allies in the region. We will continue to make clear that our first option in this case is diplomacy and that we want to pursue diplomacy with North Korea. As I’ve said before, we have seen those offers rejected by the North Korean Government, but we will continue to make clear that diplomacy is our first option, but also that we stand strongly with our allies North Korea and Japan.

QUESTION: Do you think it is possible to lift the economic sanctions against North Korea if North Korea freezes its existing nuclear weapons rather than abandoning its nuclear development program?

MR MILLER: Again, I don’t want to comment about very hypothetical scenarios when they have shown no willingness to move in that direction at all. We are committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and we will continue to work to try to achieve that goal.

QUESTION: UNESCO’s director-general today asked for a full and transparent investigation to determine the circumstances behind the killing of Anadolu cameraman Montaser Al-Sawaf in Gaza. Does the U.S. support an independent investigation into the killing of journalists in Gaza?

MR MILLER:   I’m not going to speak about that specific report, because I don’t know the circumstances in which that journalist was killed. I have said from this podium before, when we have seen reports of deaths of journalists in this conflict, we have engaged with the Israeli Government. They have said that they would conduct an investigation, and we think that’s the appropriate step to take.

QUESTION: But what would you say about an independent investigation?

MR MILLER: I don’t know what independent investigation he’s proposing or who he’s proposing to conduct that investigation, so I wouldn’t want to speak to it from here. But I will say we always support getting to the truth if a journalist is killed, if a civilian is killed, and if appropriate, we support accountability.

QUESTION: And have you seen the video of Israel soldiers recording themselves reciting Jewish prayers inside the mosque in Jenin, and do you have any reactions to that?

MR MILLER: I did see that video. That’s obviously not appropriate. We were concerned when we saw the reports. But we have seen since that the IDF leadership has announced that the involved soldiers would be disciplined according to IDF codes of conduct, and we think that’s an appropriate step for them to take.

QUESTION: Can I also have just a quick one on Azerbaijan?  It’s a Türkiye-Azerbaijan-related question. Turkish Foreign Minister Fidan was in Baku today, where he encouraged peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia. He also said that peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia will have a positive effect on normalization between Türkiye and Armenia. How does the U.S. see Türkiye as a force for peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and was that discussed last week between Blinken and Fidan?

MR MILLER: I will say that in all the conversations between Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Fidan, that is a topic that comes up for conversation – as part of the conversation. So, I won’t give a specific readout, but that is something that they regularly discuss when they either get together in person or when they talk on the phone. We welcome Türkiye playing a productive role in resolving this conflict. We agree with what the foreign minister said, that peace is conflict and we – or is possible and we would support direct talks between the two parties to achieve that.

QUESTION: Today, the Iraqi Government announced their results of their investigation about those who were responsible for attacking the U.S. embassy. So what – he mentioned that in the investigation, they said that these people they arrested, there were some connections between the Iraqi Security Forces and those who were attacking the U.S. embassy. Are you satisfied with these results? And to what extent are you concerned about the links between these groups who are attacking you with the Iraqi Security Forces?

MR MILLER: So what I will say about that is we made clear to Prime Minister Sudani that we wanted to see the Iraqi Government take action to investigate the attacks on our embassy and to hold those responsible accountable, and we are pleased that he has taken those steps. If the Iraqi Government finds that there were others involved, of course, we would support additional steps to hold those responsible accountable.

QUESTION: Today, you and the UK jointly announced some sanctions on the Iranian Qods Force and also Hamas. Does that mean Iranian Revolutionary Guards are trying to get involved in the war between Hamas and Israel?

MR MILLER: So those specific sanctions were introduced by the Treasury Department, and I’ll defer to them to speak to them.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Regarding the future of Gaza, during the transition period, PA is not ready to manage the situation in Gaza. Why don’t elections be held and the Palestinian people decide by themselves who will represent them and who will control – rule them?

MR MILLER: So we of course support elections for the – we support elections for the Palestinian people to decide their leadership, as we do for people around the world. We are in the middle of a conflict right now. You obviously can’t have elections in the middle of a conflict when people have a difficulty even moving around to get access to food and water, let – and medicine, let alone exercise their right to vote. But of course, as part of a transition moving forward, we do support elections, as we do everywhere in the world.

QUESTION: Mark Stone from Sky News. Following on from what my colleague said just now about the two-state solution, the Israeli ambassador to the UK made quite clear yesterday to Sky News when we spoke to her that the answer is absolutely no to a two-state solution. She echoed remarks the day before by, I think, the Israeli communications minister who said we live here, this is our country, there will be no Palestinian state here, we will never allow another state to be established between the Jordan and the sea.

It seems pretty clear to me – and I’m keen for your view – that the ambassador’s remarks now put Israel in open defiance of American presidents’ policies going back 40 years. How do you square what you are – what you just said there at the podium with what the current Israeli Government is making quite clear, no two states?

MR MILLER: So we have seen a number of different statements from different officials inside the Israeli Government with respect to two states. We are going to be – continue to be clear about what our policy is and what we think is the appropriate policy going forward. And I say this as an appropriate policy not just in the interests of the Palestinian people, but in the interests of the Israeli people, and in the interests of the long-term stability and security of Israel.

I spoke to this a little bit yesterday. The October 7th attacks should have been a wake-up call to everyone that the status quo that has existed for a number of years is just not in the interests of Israel, that there needs to be a solution moving forward that addresses the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people while providing security to the Israeli people. We think the best way to achieve that is the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. We have made that quite clear. We make that clear privately, we make that clear publicly, and it’s something we’ll continue to engage with the Israeli Government about.

QUESTION: If I may follow up briefly.


QUESTION: The logical conclusion to what we’re seeing unfold at the moment seems to be that you are backing Israel militarily – with weapons, with funding – despite two starkly different end points.

MR MILLER: So I don’t think you can draw that conclusion at this point. We are supporting Israel in its campaign to ensure that the October 7th attacks cannot be repeated. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have disagreements with them along the way. We’re a sovereign country; they’re a sovereign country. We don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. There are very few countries – maybe no countries in the world – where we are in complete agreement with everything.

One of the things that you have heard the President say is that we have a longstanding relationship with Israel where we are close friends. And as close friends, we can have very frank and candid and sometimes quite difficult conversations. And we will continue to do so about this subject, and I’m sure a great many others.

Yeah, Leon, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. I have a question on Hong Kong. The Hong Kong authorities or police have issued bounties – up to a million pounds, I think – against five activists, including one which I think has asylum here in the United States. What is your reaction to that?

MR MILLER: So we strongly condemn the egregious actions taken by Hong Kong authorities in announcing national security law changes and a new bounty list targeting democracy advocates overseas. That shows blatant disregard for international norms, for democracy and human rights.  We deplore any attempt to apply the Beijing-imposed national security law extraterritorially and reiterate that Hong Kong authorities have no jurisdiction within United States borders, where the advocates for democracy and freedom will continue to enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and rights.

And we deplore any attempt to apply the national security law extraterritorially and will remain committed to defending the rights and freedoms of our citizens and call on the PRC to act in accordance with its international commitments and legal obligations.

QUESTION: Can you just explain to us  how you see these bounties, quote/unquote “bounties,” as being different than the Rewards for Justice program that you guys administer?

MR MILLER: I will say that the Reward for Justice program is not used to target democracy advocates and people that are advocating for democracy and exercising constitutionally protected rights. That is the ultimate difference.

QUESTION: Well, but in addition to wanted terrorists, it is used for people who you guys think have violated U.S. law for alleged crimes that fall short of murder, like cyber hacking and things like that.

MR MILLER: Correct.

QUESTION: So it’s okay for the U.S. to apply its laws extra-terrestrially or territorially – not —

MR MILLER: Now who’s misspeaking? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Exactly. It’s okay for you guys to apply your law extraterritorially to put out bounties, rewards for information leading to the arrest of these people, but it’s not okay for other governments to do so?

MR MILLER: So I will say that we use our full range of criminal justice programs, including rewards, for the apprehension of individual who have violated our law in keeping with what are longstanding recognized crimes, not for what we believe are fundamental human rights – freedom of speech, freedom of expression, supporting democracy.

QUESTION: How’s the situation with Sweden, Matt? Because there are reports that the foreign minister of Türkiye told Secretary Blinken last Friday that Türkiye is not ready to approve the membership of Sweden to NATO. Do you have anything you’re interested to tell us?

MR MILLER: I will say that we continue to make clear to the Turkish Government that we think Sweden’s NATO accession should be approved as soon as possible. It’s long overdue. Sweden is ready to take its place in NATO, and we will continue to engage in conversations with the Turkish Government to push them to approve that accession as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Are you talking to the Lebanese and the Israeli governments regarding the situation on the border? And what’s your assessment of the situation there?

MR MILLER: So we do continue to make clear to – not just to those two governments but of course everyone in the region that one of our top priorities moving forward is to keep this conflict from expanding, including from expanding to the north of Israel. That is one of our top priorities. You’ve heard the Secretary talk about this in the past. I don’t want to make any assessment other than that you have of course seen strikes back and forth – cross-border strikes between Israel and Hizballah – and we do want to see this eventually resolved without further escalation.

QUESTION:  Going back to Azerbaijan, I wanted to get your reaction to ongoing media crackdown which led to the arrest of leading journalist Hafiz Babali and concerns about potential spillover as they’re going after opposition leader as well.

MR MILLER: So the recent trend of detaining journalists is deeply troubling, and we continue to urge the Azerbaijani Government to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of everyone, including those exercising freedom of expression.

QUESTION: Matt, follow-up. Question on Cuba. At the end of the Trump administration, they designated Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terror. Last week in a briefing with Congress, the State Department told members of Congress that they have not even begun a review of whether Cuba should be removed from the State Sponsor of Terror list. As you know, there’s been 450,000 migrants that have flown out of Cuba over the last two years. The economy has been decimated as a result of this designation. Why hasn’t the review begun?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to speak to either an internal deliberative process here inside the State Department or our conversations with members of Congress.   As we have said previously, should there be any rescission of the State Sponsor of Terrorism status, it would need to be consistent with a specific statutory criterion for rescinding that determination. Any review of Cuba’s status on the list, should one ever happen, would be based on the law and the criteria established by Congress, but the President and Secretary Blinken remain committed to the policies that we have advanced that will advance the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people.

QUESTION: In a congressional hearing yesterday, multiple victims shared about violence they experienced during the APEC summit in San Francisco, believed to be orchestrated by agents of the CCP. One person had bruises and cuts around his eyes and lips. How concerned is the U.S. about such possibly state-sanctioned violence? And what measures do you think can be used to protect Chinese dissident groups? And then I have another question.

MR MILLER: So we are always concerned about acts of violence. We support freedom of speech in the United States. When we see acts of violence, we make quite clear to other governments that they’re inappropriate, and beyond that I would refer for these – for – with respect to these specific reports to local law enforcement.

QUESTION: And on the issue of transnational repression, would the State Department support a measure to cancel student visas of those who spy on their fellow Chinese students critical of the CCP, which was brought up in yesterday’s hearing?

MR MILLER: Again, we’d have to see the specific details of it and examine it. I  am not in a position to do so here.

QUESTION:  Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto recently said that during their meetings in Brussels, NATO foreign ministers admitted that Ukraine’s counter-offensive had failed. Do you share this view?

MR MILLER: No, we do not, and I was at those meetings of the foreign ministers in Brussels, and what I heard – and you heard some of them say this publicly when they came out and talked – was an assessment that Ukraine has continued to achieve successes in the battlefield. Those successes include wiping out a great deal of Russia’s Black Sea fleet and reopening a channel for grain to be exported from Ukraine, something that the Russian Government had tried very hard to block. So no, I do not share that assessment.

QUESTION: You just said that Russian economy is crippling because of the sanctions and so on and so on, and at the same time, Bloomberg recently reported that Russia will end this year with a surplus of 75 billion while the United States economy will add 2 trillion in deficit. Do you really believe that Russian economy is crippling, Matt?

MR MILLER: So that is not the only way to judge the relative health of the economy, and I think if you look at the relative health of our economy and Russia’s, I will – my colleagues at the Treasury Department should really speak to that, but I think it’s not a comparison the Russian Government would like. And yes, we have seen the Russian Government or the Russian economy crippled across a number of different sectors as a result of the sanctions and the export controls that we have imposed. Does that mean that we don’t – does that mean that it’s time to step back and abandon Ukraine because they’re ready to move forward on their own? No, it means we need to stay the course and continue supporting them because, despite the effect that our sanctions and export controls have had on the Russian economy, President Putin has chosen that he will continue to use everything at his disposal to fund the Russian war machine, will continue to send Russian soldiers to their deaths – their tragic deaths – in Ukraine. And so it means from our perspective that we need to stay committed, and we hope the United States Congress will be there.

QUESTION: The European Union Council president announced that the EU has agreed to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova. Can you give us your reaction to that?

MR MILLER: I’m not going to comment specifically because that is a decision for the EU and its member-states to make, but we do broadly support Ukraine and other countries’ European aspirations.

QUESTION: I have one more, and this is far afield, on Cambodia. Yesterday, a bunch of senators and members – and House members sent a letter to the Secretary about political prisoners in Cambodia, and in particular raised the case of Theary Seng, who I’ve asked about in here before. Has there been any progress made on whether she will be declared wrongfully detained?

MR MILLER: There has not. Still a case that’s under review. But we do continue to urge her release.

QUESTION: And then in the meantime, do you have any specific reaction to this letter that was sent about – which included not just her but others?

MR MILLER: No. I’ve seen the reports, but I haven’t reviewed it in detail or discussed it with anyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:18 p.m.)

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