Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for your time and welcome to Copenhagen.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
QUESTION: How do you like it here?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s just wonderful to be here. It’s always wonderful to be among friends and to feel that in the work we’re doing with the government but also with the people we are joined by so many of the same – the same values, the same interests. And in a world that’s more and more complicated and more and more complex, I think the thing all of us want most and rely on most is friendship, partnership, collaboration, and the partnership between the United States and Denmark is remarkably strong.
QUESTION: But see, I’ve heard that song before and that diplomatic speech before. Let’s turn to the Arctic, because the former president wanted to buy Greenland, and apart from the rhetoric, what has actually changed in terms of the U.S. objective?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first I’m focused on looking forward, not backward, but here’s what I can say about how we’re thinking about things and how we’re acting on things. First, we – President Biden believes strongly in the importance of U.S. engagement because in our absence we found that what’s likely to happen is someone else may try to fill the vacuum, and maybe not in ways that are good for the interests and values of the United States or Denmark, or —
QUESTION: Russia? China?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: For example. Or maybe just as bad, no one does, and then you may have chaos. But the flip side of that coin is just as important.
In all of the time that I’ve been engaged in these issues on foreign policy, I don’t think there’s ever been a time when cooperation and coordination among countries was more important. And here’s why. If you think about the really big problems that are actually having an impact on the lives of our citizens, Danes and Americans alike – climate change, this pandemic, the destructive impact of new technologies – not a single one of those can be addressed by any one country acting alone, whether it’s the United States, whether it’s Denmark, or anyone else. So we know that we have to find new ways to cooperate, to coordinate, to collaborate, and that starts with our allies and partners.
QUESTION: But what is it actually the U.S. wants in Greenland? I mean, do you want more military presence? Do you want more NATO soldiers, for instance?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We have a remarkably strong partnership with the Kingdom of Denmark. And as part of that, I think we have a stronger relationship with Greenland. We’ve made some investments that I think will ultimately lead to very concrete projects that will help develop more trade and investment between the United States and Greenland, more tourism, work on sustainable development, green technology – there – education, science, technology. There are a host of very practical things that we hope to develop in partnership with Greenland.
QUESTION: Greenland is also the visual proof of the climate problem —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah.
QUESTION: — that this world is facing. President Biden has rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s right.
QUESTION: — but doesn’t it take the entire global community to adhere to the same rules in order to prevent climate change?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah, it does.
QUESTION: But how are you going to convince a country like China that they have to stop their emissions —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, this is exactly where the partnership, for example, between the United States and Denmark comes in, because Denmark is an extraordinary leader when it comes to climate change not just by the ambition of the targets but also the way you’re going about it, making sure that as economies have to transition away from old forms of energy to new ones that no one is left behind. That’s a powerful example for the world. And you’re right. Everyone has to be honest because, look, take the United States. We’re 15 percent of global emissions. Even if we get everything right at home, it doesn’t answer the problem. We need to bring along the other 85 percent. And again, this is where leadership together with the United States and Denmark and other likeminded countries will help move other countries along.
QUESTION: And the timeline is very short. I mean, in order to deliver on your promises, you need to act fast —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah.
QUESTION: — and you need to convince the other countries to do the same. What are you going to do?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, look at what we’ve already done. First, we have to lead by example. Part of that example is getting back into the Paris Climate Agreement, which we had gotten out of. You saw that. We convened – President Biden convened a leaders’ summit in Washington en route to Glasgow, the COP26 later this year. And Prime Minister Frederiksen made a terrific presentation at that summit talking about the remarkable work that’s going on in Denmark on clean technology transition. And that demonstrated, I think, our re-engagement on climate. And I think it’s had a galvanizing effect. Look at some of the countries in advance of that summit that raised their own ambitions, because you’re exactly right. This is the decisive decade. Whatever the goals we’ve set for 2050, if we don’t start to make material progress on them this decade, we’ll never get there.
QUESTION: Let’s turn to the current situation in the Middle East, the deadly violence between Israel and the Palestinians. In the past few days we’ve seen multiple civilian casualties on both sides, but mostly in Gaza. You’re Jewish yourself. Do you think that the Israeli response, their defense, is justified and proportional?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, we believe strongly that Israel has a right to defend itself. And this false equivalence between a terrorist group – Hamas – that is indiscriminately launching rockets at civilians and Israel, which is responding to those attacks, I think we have to be very, very wary of. That’s – it’s a false equivalence. And again, I’ll give you another concrete example. Israel has, I think by last count, launched about 2,000 attacks on terrorist targets in Gaza. There were more than 3,000 rockets launched by Hamas from Gaza into Israel.
Having said that, I think Israel has an extra burden as a democracy to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, especially to look out for children, and of course to make sure that journalists, medical personnel, are not harmed. And so that’s vital.
And we also want to see this de-escalate. We want to see the violence stop. And we want to see the possibility of focusing on improving lives and improving Palestinian lives in a material way. People have to have hope for a better future, and we all need to work on that.
QUESTION: And you’re also going to help the Palestinians getting a better life?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes, absolutely. This is – I think this is critical. It is very, very difficult if you see no positive prospects. And I think we all have an obligation, a responsibility to do that.
So the first thing is to stop the violence, return to calm, but then to work from there on making a material difference in people’s lives.
QUESTION: A quick question about Afghanistan. President Biden has just decided to withdraw all U.S. troops by September. Denmark has lost more soldiers per capita than any other country. How do you convince those who have lost a loved one that almost 20 years in Afghanistan have not been in vain?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, they haven’t been in vain at all. And first of all, I’m incredibly moved by the sacrifice of so many allies and partners, starting with Denmark, in this joint endeavor. We will never forget that when we were attacked on 9/11, it was our allies and partners that came to our defense. Article 5 of NATO was invoked for the very first time in the Alliance’s history in defense of the United States. That’s something we’ll never lose sight of.
But let’s also not lose sight of why we went to Afghanistan in the first place. The reason is we needed to deal with those who attacked us on 9/11, and to try to make sure that it would not happen again from Afghanistan. And those who made the remarkable sacrifice – they succeeded. We have basically eliminated the threat posed by al-Qaida from Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden was brought to justice 10 years ago, and we’ve been there 20 years.
So I would say that this was not in vain. On the contrary, we succeeded in doing what we set out to do 20 years ago.
QUESTION: But there’s still a huge risk that the Taliban will re-emerge and take over.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: There is a real risk here, right? We are doing everything we can to, first of all, get negotiations toward a political settlement that would prevent that from happening. Beyond that, we’re making sure that we have the resources in place so that if there were a re-emergence of terrorism directed at us, or you, or anyone else, we would be able to see it and we would be able to do something about.
But also – and this is important – even as we’re withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan, we are not withdrawing from Afghanistan. Our embassy remains. The programs that we have in place to support Afghanistan with humanitarian, economic, development, security assistance, including assistance focused on women and girls – all of that will remain. And we’re working with other countries and other partners so that they sustain that support, too.
QUESTION: Finally, I have to ask you the question that most Danes ask me, being based in the U.S.: When can they come and visit the U.S. again? When are you going to lift the travel ban?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, look, I hope, obviously, that it’s as soon as possible. We follow the science. We follow the directions from the Centers for Disease Control, our health experts. They tell us when it’s safe to move, safe to change. But I am increasingly hopeful that we’re getting – really getting to the light at the end of the tunnel. In just a few hours, President Biden’s going to announce a major initiative on the United States and its leadership in making sure that more people around the world have access to vaccines. That’s going to be very important. It’s speeding up the ability of the world to get vaccinated, and to get to the end of this tunnel.
QUESTION: So that they can come and visit you?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Absolutely. We will – we welcome that; we look forward to that.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary, and safe travels.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Great to be with you.