Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Brussels Media Hub
QUESTION: Joining me now is the U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Thank you so much for joining me. Let me first ask about one of President Biden’s key goals in this summit – uniting the Western democracies around countering China’s influence, especially around the goal of building infrastructure around the world.
So the White House has not said yet that the U.S. allies are onboard for financial support, so do you have a deal on that? Is there money behind it? And if so, how much?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, Dana, just to take a step back, the President came into this meeting of the G7 determined to show that democracies can deliver, deliver for their people, deliver for people around the world. And that’s exactly what we’ve done over the last couple of days, and I’ll come to the specific point in a second.
But a commitment to a billion vaccines to put shots in arms around the world, that’s a powerful demonstration of democracies delivering; a commitment to deal with and to stop financing coal-fired plants and projects around the world, the single largest contributor to emissions and to global warming; a 15 percent minimum global corporate tax, making sure that countries around the world have a strong tax base to provide for their citizens, provide better – new markets for us as well, and avoid a race to the bottom. And yes, this project to pool our resources, our – to invest in low and middle-income countries, to get to the private sector to do the same so that we can help them build up their infrastructure, their health care systems, education, and do it in a more positive way than China is doing it with its Belt and Road Initiative.
So they’ve launched this project. Our experts are going to come together over the coming months and we’ll look at the resources necessary to do that. But individually, our countries can only do so much. When we put all of these resources together and when we leverage the private sector, it’s a very powerful force, and we’ve got an agreement to move forward on that.
QUESTION: Let’s look ahead to President Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that’s going to be on Wednesday in Geneva. I know the President plans to confront him on human rights, on Ukraine, on recent cyber attacks. How do you define success out of this meeting?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Dana, this is not going to be a flip-the-light-switch moment. What the President is going to make clear to President Putin is that we seek a more stable, predictable relationship with Russia, and if so, there are areas where our interests overlap, and we may be able to find ways to work together. But if Russia chooses to continue reckless and aggressive actions, we will respond forcefully, as the President has already demonstrated that he would when it comes to election interference or the SolarWinds cyber attack or the attempt to murder Mr. Navalny with a chemical weapon.
So this is a beginning of testing the proposition, the question of whether Russia is interested in a more stable and predictable relationship and finding areas to work together. We’re not going to get the answer out of one meeting. We’ll have to see what comes from that meeting.
But let me say one other thing that I think is really important. This meeting is not happening in a vacuum. We’re coming off the G7. We’re coming off a NATO summit. We’ll be coming off of an EU summit as well. And our leadership and our engagement is a very powerful force. There was a major poll that was just done that found across these countries, across these democracies, 75 percent of the people on average have confidence in American leadership. That’s up from 17 percent a year ago. That means we’re in a much stronger position to work together with these countries militarily, diplomatically, politically, economically, including when it comes to dealing with challenges posed by Russia or China.
QUESTION: So the White House says that President Biden is not going to have a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin after the summit. Is that because President Biden and Vladimir Putin are – or at least President Biden is worried that there is concern that this meeting simply will not go well?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: No, I think, Dana, the – for the President, the most effective way to be able to share with the free press what he and President Putin talked about is to do it in this way. It’s also an opportunity, by the way, to sum up the entire week, the entire trip, the G7, the NATO summit, the EU summit. But this is the best opportunity I have to make sure that the free press of the world gets in their questions, and the President can share what was discussed.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. So are you saying that you’re not having a joint press conference because you’re worried about the Russian press being there?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’re – we think that having the press conference – by the way, the President, maybe even as we speak, is doing a solo press conference after the G7. This is not exactly a rare occurrence. But we think it’s the most effective way to be able to share with the free press what they talked about and what we’re focused on, and to make sure that you all get a chance to ask as many questions as possible.
QUESTION: Before I let you go, the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan is proceeding rapidly. There are growing calls from Congress and other forces to evacuate Afghans who helped the U.S. during this very long war. So yes or no: Is the administration planning an evacuation of those people?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Evacuation is the wrong word. We’re determined to make good on our obligation to those who helped us, who put their lives on the line, put their families’ lives on the line working with our military, working with our diplomats. And there’s a special program for so-called Special Immigrant Visas that give them a dedicated channel to apply to come to the United States.
We have put in significant resources into making sure that that program can work fast and work effectively so that we can process any requests that we get for these so-called Special Immigrant Visas. We’ve added about 50 people here in Washington in the State Department to help do that. We want to make sure that anyone who has helped us we are making good on our obligation to help them.
QUESTION: U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, thank you so much for joining me. Appreciate it.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks very much. Good to be with you.