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Special Representative Pritzker’s Remarks on Ukraine’s Economic Recovery

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today in my beloved hometown at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, along with Razom for and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America!

And thank you, Ivo, for your kind introduction and to Marta, for your moving story.

Ivo… you and your team have done so much to advance Chicago’s place as a gateway to the world.

And Marta…thank you for your leadership at the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America in Illinois, representing the more than 200 thousand Ukrainian-Americans in our great state and for providing a variety of services to the Ukrainian American community from a significant Federal Credit Union to Saturday Ukrainian language and history schools; countless choirs, dance schools and cultural centers. Such important work!

All of us here are committed to Ukraine achieving its goals of being a democratic, sovereign, prosperous state anchored in the EU, NATO and global markets. And we know that Ukraine’s future – its security, its economic resilience and recovery, its Euro-Atlantic path – is essential to our security, to the world’s stability, and to the future of democracy.

We come together on the eve of a grim milestone. 10 days from now marks the 2-year anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

We cannot forget the conventional wisdom at the time. Many in the world… and even many in Washington at that time…believed that Russia’s 40-mile-long tank convoy would roll into Kyiv in a matter of weeks, decapitate the country’s leadership, and relegate Ukraine to the status of a Kremlin colony.

But not everyone thought that way. Just prior to that dark day, on February 23, 2022, Madeline Albright – our steely former Secretary of State and a great believer in Ukraine and its potential – wrote in the New York Times, that Putin would be making a “historical mistake” for Russia if he invaded Ukraine. She predicted that the Ukrainians would fight the aggressor. And that the democratic world would have their backs.

She made the right call. That was her last op-ed. She passed away a month later.

I am wearing a gift from a dear friend who supports our work, a replica of Madeline Albright’s Ukraine pin. A symbol of her famous “broach diplomacy.” This pin reminds me that it has been well understood for over a decade that the future of… not only our “world order” … but our way of life… runs right through Ukraine and its success in beating Putin.

For two years, Putin’s forces have brutalized and murdered civilians, while deliberately, ruthlessly, and methodically attacking Ukraine’s economic infrastructure and energy grid in the dead of winter. Russia mined Ukraine’s grain fields; bombed its ports; and prevented crop exports desperately needed to feed the world. The aggressor has attacked schools, kidnapped tens of thousands of Ukrainian children and tried to strip them of their identity with Kremlin propaganda.

Even now, as Putin rains missiles and drone strikes on civilians in Ukraine’s cities and villages, he is making a bet. A bet against Ukraine. A bet against Europe. A bet against the United States. A bet against the durability of an international order, built on rule of law, sovereignty, territorial integrity.

So, what does he have to show for it two years on? Ukraine’s brave service members have reclaimed more than 50 percent of the territory Russia seized since the beginning of its full-scale invasion. At the same time, more than 315,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or injured in Putin’s war — about 87% of Russia’s pre-war army. Russia’s munitions, tanks and military equipment are more than two thirds wiped out. Putin is indiscriminately throwing Russia’s people into the meat grinder — untrained, ill-equipped and based on the wicked pretext of erasing a neighboring country from the map – because that’s how little he values human life, all to fulfill his personal vision of the Russian Empire.

Against that backdrop, Ukraine continues to doggedly beat the odds. Take their economy:

State revenue up $4.4 billion exceeding expectations for 2023.

But the story of this war and Ukraine’s economic recovery can’t only be about statistics.

It’s first and foremost about the brave, resilient, creative Ukrainian people backed by the United States, the American private sector, our allies and our partners; the Ukrainian people who are defending their country from the frontline to the assembly line.

Look at Cola-Cola. They have a 12 thousand square meter bottling plant in the village of Velyka Dymerka just 30 miles outside of Kyiv. The plant was shelled, then occupied by the Russians in March 2022. Many of the plant’s 1600 workers fought to liberate their home village and that Coca Cola plant. By summer, it was back up and running.

That plant – still the largest in Europe – produced 690 million bottles of coke and other products in 2023. And they did not lay off one single Ukrainian worker. I had the chance to visit that plant in October – hard hat and all – and was so moved to meet the factory workers. They’re willing to fight the war against Putin, but they desperately need US military equipment and US economic engagement to be successful.

Coca Cola is not a single example. 84% of American companies in Ukraine are back up and running.

· Amid Putin’s onslaught, McDonalds added 10% more stores in Ukraine and served over 100 million Ukrainians last year.

· U.S. agricultural companies like ADM and Cargill are supporting Ukraine’s farmers;

· Palantir is using AI to accelerate demining;

· Citi is investing its country profits back into the country;

· Bank of America looking to build technical capacity in capital markets and debt management;

For these American companies, they aren’t doing this because Ukraine is the world’s biggest market. They are doing this because they’re principled organizations that know it’s the right thing to do, that stability in Europe is at stake, that our democratic order depends on Ukraine winning this war.

That is why even amid the air raids, the bombings, the moments sheltering in bunkers, 77% of Ukrainians are “optimistic” about their future. Some might ask the Ukrainian people, “how can that be? Your nation is under siege.”

The answer is simple: Putin’s brutal war has hardened their unity, resolve and belief in their destiny as a democratic, European, free country anchored in the

West. For the Ukrainians, there is no turning back.

I have seen it for myself. When I was in Kyiv last month, I met with students at the Kyiv School of Economics. These young people… every one of them…. have friends and classmates who have fought and died in the war. Many of them have fought on the frontlines, in the cold, in the trenches – of Bakhmut, Adiivka and Mariupol.

But even with that grim reality, these young people were asking me about how the United States can support anti-corruption reforms, market access for Ukrainian crops, and the green transition to power Europe with sustainable wind, solar energy.

These young people are planning for their country’s future because they have more than hope; they are willing to “do the hard work” to ensure that Ukraine emerge as a democratic, independent, digital, open country integrated into the EU, NATO and the democratic community. Remarkable, just remarkable!

The United States and its allies have worked in concert with the Ukrainian government to address the foundational issues required to attract private sector investment. There are five core elements to this effort that I want to note:

o Security is first and foremost. Some of the best loved supporters of Ukraine are American defense companies. Why? Because it is defense systems made right here in America – Patriot systems in Arkansas, artillery shells in Pennsylvania, Abrams tanks in Ohio – that are helping to keep the skies over Kyiv and Odesa safe, protecting the lives of thousands of Ukrainian sons and daughters in the battlefield. Our Ukraine security aid helps Ukraine defend itself while simultaneously helping us to modernize our defense industrial base here at home. As my friend Richard Haas says, we are getting more than we are giving in this deal.

o Second – Ukraine, with our support, is fighting back the rot of corruption that kills innovation and threatens its European future. The European Union’s decision to open formal negotiations for Ukraine’s EU accession is a testament to Ukraine’s hard work including, most recently, the “Big Bang” of 4 key reforms in December. Kyiv must keep this momentum going. Ukraine’s victory, its legacy in history, will be determined not by how it wins the war but by how it wins the peace. Ukraine’s people crave a clean economic western oriented economy. Its soldiers are fighting and dying for it. Ukraine’s place in

the West requires the final turn away from the era of post-Soviet corruption.

o Third – we are supporting the development of key infrastructure necessary to expand market access and increase exports as well as the development of risk management and war risk insurance tools. With this help, Ukraine is succeeding. Steel factories in Ukraine’s industrial heartland — Dnipro, Zaporezhia and Kryvyy Rih – have almost doubled production in just the past 4 months. The Black Sea corridor is back in operation with hundreds of cargo ships bringing more than 8.7 million tons of Ukrainian grain to global markets in January alone, putting it within striking distance of pre-war export levels. And insurers like Marsh-McLennan are providing new forms of risk insurance for Black Sea Grain Shipping with more products on the way.

o Fourth – for Ukraine’s economic success and social cohesion, it must have the capability to reintegrate two critical communities: its refugees and its veterans. These populations will be determinant in Ukraine’s efforts to break from a past tied to a Soviet legacy of corruption and to move toward an economic future embedded in the democratic West, the EU and global markets. We cannot let them down.

o Finally – Russia must pay for the damage it has done to Ukraine. That includes looking at how we can best put the $300 billion in Russian sovereign assets to use for the Ukrainians.

Addressing these foundational elements are essential to attract Private Sector investment into Ukraine. Yet, that work is not sufficient.

In addition, together we must focus on increasing awareness of the opportunities in Ukraine’s critical economic sectors: Agriculture; Critical Minerals, Mining and steel; energy; transportation and logistics; defense production; and technology.

Let me highlight Ukraine’s tech sector. It has grown 7% since 2022. Ukraine’s 5,000 tech companies have been able to retain 95% of their national and global contracts, which have powered 12% of the country’s exports. These 5,000 Ukrainian tech companies employ nearly 300,000 developers – from start-ups to a growing number of unicorns like Grammarly or Gitlab.

The tech innovation in Ukraine extends to its government with Diia, the all-in-one government app that at the national level connects nearly 20 million Ukrainians with over a 100 government services.

Ukraine’s cyber warriors, hacktivists and citizen programmers are turning their patriotism into digital innovation. The inside joke is that every “Ukrainian has a drone factory in their garage.” Those individual patriotic efforts are helping nurture the next “Steve Jobs” of UAV technology, robotics, sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) right now — forged from the fire of Putin’s air assaults.

The tech sector will be key to driving Ukraine’s economic recovery. Ukrainian technologists have every opportunity to become not simply Europe’s digital backbone – but Europe’s digital frontier.

It was so impressive!! So inspiring!

For those Ukrainian dreams to become a reality, U.S. support for Ukraine’s military and its economy are essential.

For me, for you and for the over one million Ukrainian-Americans across the United States, support for Ukraine is personal. Whether we are from Chicago’s own Ukrainian Village, the neighborhoods of New York’s Brighton Beach, Cleveland’s Broadway-Slavic Village or South Bound Brook in New Jersey, we have heard the stories of terror from from our parents and grandparents–– of the political oppression, of the pogroms, of the Holodomor, of the Holocaust, of Soviet tyranny.

I certainly have from my great-grandfather, Nicholas Pritzker’s history and memoir. He fled Kyiv 140 years ago to the United States to escape the Jewish persecution at the time. He came to the United States, grew up, became a pharmacist and then a lawyer, and raised a family… My family found opportunity in the United States in our beloved hometown of Chicago.

Just over seven years ago – when I had the privilege to serve as Commerce Secretary – I led the U.S. delegation to a commemoration of the Babyn Yar Massacre in Kyiv…a place where more than 33,000 Jewish people were brutally murdered by the Nazis 82 years ago. I was struck to see up close the ravine that became a mass graveyard. And it was clear to me, had my family not fled when they did, there is a good chance they would have been murdered there as well.

We all know that standing up today isn’t just about Ukraine. Putin’s war is about reconstituting a dictatorial, corrupt empire that seeks to undermine NATO, destabilize peace in Europe and upend the international order. Putin has said that

“Russia’s border doesn’t end anywhere”. I believe that he is serious about that. If we do not stop Putin in Ukraine, we will be inviting more violence and chaos across Europe.

Let’s also be clear, Putin is not alone. He is backed by authoritarian allies like Iran and North Korea, supplying him with drones, ammunition and rockets. Plus, China is watching closely to see how the United States and our allies and partners respond to this moment.

I ask you to remember that as the Ukrainians are on the frontlines, sacrificing and dying to preserve our way of life, we have a job to do at home.

Now is the time for our Congress to act. To meet the moment. The Ukrainian government reports that their defense stock depletion is leading directly to an uptick in loss of life. They desperately need the ammunition, artillery, and crucially, air defense that only we in the United States can provide.

The Senate has passed monumental legislation that will arm Ukraine with the military, economic and humanitarian support it needs to stave off the aggressor. Now more than ever – we need Congress to hear our voices.

In 2022, one Congressman stated the case and I quote, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s sovereign territory threatens the greatest destabilization of the world order since WWII and constituted a national security threat for the entire West.” I could not agree more with that Congressman – who happens to now be House Speaker Mike Johnson.

The Speaker and the House need to hear from us, they need to listen to their bipartisan majority, and they must pass the Supplemental funding bill for Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific Security.

Let me close with this thought.

Even as we commemorate the horrible day of February 24, 2022, we can’t forget that Ukraine’s fight to turn away from its corrupt history and turn west to join a prosperous, free, democratic EU began more than a decade ago when hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians peacefully protested in the heart of Kyiv. They braved snipers’ bullets, frigid temperatures and a Putin-aligned, corrupt government.

It was a moment, like now, that inspired the world.

I walked the Maidan as Commerce Secretary in 2014, seeing the bullet holes and burned out buildings up close, along with makeshift memorials to those lost in this struggle.

Just a few miles from here… at the St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Bloomingdale…. The town’s citizens have created the first monument outside Europe dedicated to the “Heavenly Hundred” – the brave Ukrainian activists killed in cold blood on Kyiv’s Maidan square during the February 2014 “Revolution of Dignity.”

Ten years later, we have seen and recently heard that Putin will not be satisfied until his dreams of reuniting the Russian Empire are satisfied.

Ukraine and its people have not given up their aspirations. They are committed to their democratic, European future. They are dying for it.

One of those heroes was Myhailo Yavorskyi, a Chicagoan and an Army veteran with dual American-Ukrainian citizenship. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Myhailo left his family in Chicago to fight with the Ukrainian Army.

A father and husband, he was killed in action last May after he bravely saved several of his fellow soldiers. His sister said this about him: “He took the first flight out. When everybody else was fleeing from Kyiv, he was heading there. He was defending Ukraine from the very beginning of the war.”

His mother said that he should be remembered for his service and sacrifice to both countries. We are honored to have his family with us here today. That is what this fight is all about. Service and sacrifice. As such, we must do all we can to honor that service and sacrifice of so many individuals and families in support of Ukraine until their freedom, sovereignty and human dignity become a reality.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/special-representative-pritzkers-remarks-on-ukraines-economic-recovery/

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