Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Brussels Media Hub
QUESTION: We begin this morning with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in Brussels. Good morning, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: John, good to see you.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the President wrote in The Washington Post that one of the purposes of this meeting would be to demonstrate that democracies can confront autocracies, but the Russian gas pipeline is going into Germany. China is heavily invested in many European countries. What appetite did the President find for confrontation among these democracies whose economies are so enmeshed with autocracies?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, John, first, let’s take a step back. The proposition that the President had is we need to demonstrate that democracies can deliver in all sorts of ways to better the lives of our people. And that’s exactly what he’s demonstrated just in the last couple of days alone at the G7. Look at what’s come out of this summit. By the way, I’ve been involved in these G7s for probably 25 years. This is the most consequential one I’ve been involved in. A billion shots in arms around the world with the COVID vaccine; dealing in a very meaningful way with climate change in terms of getting a prohibition on financing coal projects around the world, the largest single contributor to global warming; a commitment on the 15 percent minimum global corporate tax, a powerful way of increasing the tax base for countries around the world, avoiding a race to the bottom in terms of corporate taxation; making sure countries have the resources to invest in their people, in infrastructure, in health care, in technology and new markets for our products at the same time.
And finally, this Build Back Better World, which is taking to the world what we’re already doing at home, helping use this moment, this inflection point to pool the resources of all of the democracies to invest in and get the private sector to invest in low and middle-income countries to strengthen their health systems, their infrastructure, their technology. And that’s going to also benefit us.
So I say all this because it’s important that the President’s basic proposition – we have to show democracies coming together can deliver real results. That’s already what we’ve shown.
QUESTION: Right, those are —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: When it’s – when it comes to dealing with – go ahead, John.
QUESTION: Well, those are those are some results, but when it comes to confronting China, I mean, you’ve talked about the ongoing genocide in China. That’s very strong language. Other U.S. officials have said that China is assaulting basic human values. What appetite is there among those the President is meeting to use that kind of harsh language? And at the end of the day, what does that language do to change Chinese behavior in the first place?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, one of the things you’re seeing out of the G7 is in the communique that I think is about to be released, a focus on China. Go back to 2018, the last time the G7 came together in person, there wasn’t even a mention of China in the communique. I think that is evidence in and of itself that countries are concerned across the board in many of China’s actions. It’s a complicated relationship for virtually all of the G7 countries. It’s in some aspects adversarial, in other aspects competitive, and in other aspects cooperative. But the common denominator, and I think this is where these countries are coming together, is we need to be able to deal with China in all of those areas coming from a position of strength and coming from a united position.
QUESTION: Let me —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think what the President was able to do in these last couple of days was bring countries closer together in dealing with some of the challenges posed by China. And we can talk about Xinjiang or any of the others if you like.
QUESTION: I’d like to move on to Russia in a moment, but let me ask about the Chinese have said they’re not going to help the US investigate the potential of a lab leak in the start of COVID-19. Does the US have any sway in getting cooperation from the Chinese?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think the – not only the United States but the world is insisting on it. One of the things that’s coming out of the G7 is an insistence that the WHO be able to move forward with China cooperating on this so-called phase two report to build on the initial report, which had real problems with it, not the least of which was China’s failure to cooperate.
And here’s the thing, John: Coming out of this, we need a couple of things. We need to understand what happened. We need to get to the bottom of it. And we’re working on that through the WHO. We’re also working on that ourselves. The President ordered a 90-day sprint led by our Intelligence Community to try to get to the bottom of it. And the main purpose is to make sure that knowing what happened, why it happened, how it happened, we can put in place what’s necessary to prevent it from happening again or at least to mitigate the next outbreak. China has to cooperate with that. Transparency, access for international experts, information sharing – that has to happen. And again, I think you’re seeing countries coming together to insist on that.
QUESTION: Let me move on to Russia. I asked one of your predecessors, Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state, how to judge the meeting with Putin. She said ignore the theater review – the theater reviews of it, ignore the moment. But look several months down the road to see if the Russians have gotten the messages that have been delivered privately. So what should we look for in six months or so that will show that there have been fruits of this actual meeting?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, I think Secretary Rice is exactly right. This is not a light-switch moment. This is about the President wanting to do two things, and he’s been very clear about it: to tell President Putin directly that we seek a more predictable, stable relationship, and if we’re able to do that, there are areas where it’s in our mutual interest to cooperate; but if Russia continues to take reckless and aggressive actions, we’ll respond forcefully, as we’ve already done when it comes to election interference, when it comes to the SolarWinds cyber attack, when it comes to the attempt to poison and kill Mr. Navalny. And this is a beginning of testing that proposition. And Russia will have to decide by its actions which direction it wants to go in. And I think Secretary Rice is exactly right that we’ll see that play out in the months ahead.
QUESTION: Let me ask you: Russia has joined a new agreement against cyber hacking, but those kinds of agreements have existed before. And this is why people look to these kinds of international meetings with a heavy degree of skepticism. Why should the United States trust Russia in this new agreement when the United States believes that Russia has broken all the previous ones?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s not a matter of trust. I think someone once said trust but verify. I’d say don’t trust and verify. We’ll see by Russia’s actions whether it will make good on any commitments it makes. Here’s the thing: We’ve now been the victim of ransomware attacks, and many of these attacks come from criminal organizations, not necessarily from states, but countries have an obligation. No responsible country should be in the business of harboring criminal groups engaged in these attacks. And this is one of the things that President Biden’s going to be taking up with President Putin.
QUESTION: When – during the early days after 9/11, the US position was if you harbored a terrorist, you’re just like the terrorist. Is there an analogy there on cyber crime?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah, there is an analogy there, because we know the tremendous damage this can do. We know the vulnerabilities. One of the things the President is insisting on is a very aggressive effort, first of all, to shore up our defenses. And that means working very closely with the private sector, since a lot of this infrastructure is actually controlled by the private sector, not the government. It means putting in place all of the tools that we need to disrupt these ransomware networks and efforts. That requires a lot of coordination with other countries. That’s exactly what we’ve been engaged in, including here at the G7 and now at NATO. And again, making it very clear that any country that harbors these groups, that’s not a sustainable proposition and we’re going to need to take action to stop that.
QUESTION: As an illustration of the trickiness of the U.S. relationship with Russia, on the one hand, the US is working with Russia to revive the nuclear deal with Iran. On the other hand, The Washington Post is reporting Russia is preparing to supply Iran with advanced satellite systems, which threaten US interests. So are the Russians going to pay a penalty for offering those advanced satellite systems or do we need them in the nuclear talks so maybe we’ll move past that?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: First, when it comes to the nuclear talks, we’re not trading any other issues or interests for the sake of the nuclear talks. They will stand and fall – or fall on their own merit and on their own weight. So I want to be very clear about that. Second, I’m not going to get ahead of the President. I suspect he’ll be taking this up with President Putin in a couple of days.
But John, let me say one more thing on this. This meeting with President Putin is not happening in a vacuum. The President will be coming off of the G7, the NATO summit, the meeting with the European Union’s leaders. And collectively, when we bring the world’s democracies together, it’s an incredibly powerful force militarily, economically, politically, diplomatically. A major poll just came out that showed that across these countries confidence in American leadership, President Biden’s leadership, in these countries is at 75 percent. That’s up from 17 percent a year ago. So we are now in a position as a result of reinvigorated American leadership to work and to bring all of these countries together in common cause and common purpose, including dealing with challenges from Russia or China.
QUESTION: Final quick question, Mr. Secretary. Iran has made a lot of progress since the nuclear deal fell apart. A lot of that is in material. Other is knowledge. How do you put the knowledge back in a box that they’ve gained during the period that the —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s right.
QUESTION: — agreement fell apart?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: John, that’s a great question, and you’re exactly right that since we pulled out of the nuclear deal and then Iran began to ignore the constraints that the deal had imposed on it, it has been galloping forward and it’s enriching more material. It’s enriching at higher levels, degrees than were allowed under the agreement. And you’re right, it is gaining knowledge. And if this goes on a lot longer, if they continue to gallop ahead, then you’re right, they’re going to have knowledge that’s going to be very hard to reverse, which I think puts some urgency in seeing if we can put the nuclear problem back in the box that the agreement had put it in that, unfortunately, Iran is now out of as a result of us pulling out of the agreement.
QUESTION: All right, Secretary Blinken, we’re out of time. Thank you so much for being with us. And Face the Nation will be back in a minute. Stay with us.