QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said the U.S. has no better partner or better friend in the world than Germany. Do you really mean that, or is that a lot of wishing thinking on our part as well?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: No, I really mean it. If you – I think it starts with, of course, a shared foundation of values, basic interests, deep connections between our countries on a people-to-people basis, business to business, student to student, but it’s also reflected, I think, in the outlooks of our governments right now.
I think we both share a conviction that the challenges that we face and that our citizens face in their day-in, day-out lives can best be addressed by working together, by finding ways to cooperate, and that conversely no single country acting alone, whether it’s the United States or whether it’s Germany, can effectively deal with the pandemic, with climate change and its impacts, with destructive impact of new technologies. We have to find ways to collaborate, to cooperate, and this is the shared approach that Germany and the United States have.
And we’re putting that into action. I think you saw just in the last ten days – two weeks – President Biden and Chancellor Merkel at the G7, at the NATO summit, and then the work we went on to do at the U.S.-EU summit. We’re doing very practical things together – both directly, bilaterally, and in these multilateral institutions – to try to make a difference in the lives of our people and people around the world.
QUESTION: You keep stressing America is back. At the G7 President Biden kept saying that, but as you also know, it takes two to tango. Just by saying that alone, it doesn’t mean that allies trust that, because after especially the last four years a lot of trust has been shattered. Who’s to say that Trump was the exception but Biden might be, and in four years, you’ll have a populist – not regime but government again in the States. And I think that’s why there’s a lot of reluctance on the side of the Germans especially also to embrace that.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I have to tell you, I haven’t seen whatever reluctance there is translated into reality – quite the contrary. Because again, look at what we’ve actually been able to achieve in a very short period of time. At the G7 working together, the United States, Germany, our partners – a billion doses of the COVID vaccine that we pledged to send around the world with more to come on top of that; an agreement, a commitment, to stop financing coal-fired plants around the world so that we can really get at climate change as the single biggest source of emission; this commitment to work together on what we’re calling Building Back Better for the World, where we’re putting our resources together to make positive investments in infrastructure in less developed countries. These and so many other things are having a real impact.
And here’s my bet. I think if – and more important, President Biden thinks, and I think Chancellor Merkel shares this opinion – if we demonstrate together that democracies can deliver, deliver real results, make real improvements in people’s lives, address their concerns and their needs, then there’s going to be sustained support for this approach and these policies. So that’s our challenge and that’s what we’re trying to meet together.
QUESTION: I think there was an enormous agreement on the multilateralism conference aspect, but I do think that there are differences. Let’s take China for example. You do take a lot of – actually of Trump’s China stance even further, and you tried to rally the G7 behind you on a more tougher approach. And Germany acknowledges that there is a rising challenge from China, but we are a little more different in the approach, that we want to be less confrontational. So I do think there is a rift.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: What’s really important is to understand that we are not trying to hold China back. We’re not trying to contain China. What we are trying to do is uphold the free and open international system that Germany and the United States invested so much in together over so many years. And when that’s challenged by anyone, whether it’s China or anyone else, then we’ll stand up and defend it. And we’ll do it in a way that offers a positive, affirmative vision for the future and what we’re doing. So are there tactical differences among partners and allies? There always are.
But I think, again, what you saw in the last couple of weeks is actually a convergence of views. The G7 statement – the last time the G7 met in 2018, China wasn’t even in the final communique. When NATO last produced a strategic doctrine back in 2010, again, China wasn’t even mentioned. Now, I think there’s a growing recognition of the challenge. But the other thing is this: we recognize that a relationship with all of our countries with China is a complex one. You can’t define it in a bubble.
QUESTION: Ours is different than the American one.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, except that I think we all recognize the same thing, that there are adversarial aspects to the relationship, there are competitive ones, and there are cooperative ones. And whether it’s any of those three, we’re better off engaging China together. We’re going to be much more effective in any of those areas, whether it’s adversarial, whether it’s competitive, whether it’s cooperative. And I think increasingly you’re seeing that.
QUESTION: Don’t you think, though, that there’s still a lot of “America First” left? I mean you pull out of Afghanistan without really consulting your NATO partners. There are still tariffs on steel and aluminum. China’s a different example. So that’s again my initial question – a reluctance maybe to say, all right, we’ll go with you no matter what.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, look, on Afghanistan I can tell you this personally. I went to NATO weeks before the decision was made with the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and we sat and listened carefully to all of our allies and partners for three hours. That was just in that, that one session. And I spent three hours taking very detailed notes, which I then shared with President Biden that very night, and I had multiple conversations over many weeks with allies and partners. We shared our thinking. We said here’s what we’re considering. Here’s what we’re thinking about. What do you think? All of that was factored in.
Now, I recognize that, for some, the decision we took was not exactly where they would have gone, but I’ve got to say I believe that we did genuinely consult. I can tell you that the input that we got was very much in front of President Biden as he was thinking about this policy and making his decision. And I’d like to think that across the board, we are genuinely – consulting genuinely and engaging. I know that I am.
Here’s one thing I can tell you too. There was a major survey that was done across most of our partner countries, most of the other democracies in the G7 and NATO and others. Now, maybe this won’t last, but the finding was that on average confidence in American leadership was 75 percent. Not so long ago, it was about 17 percent. So I hope that that’s a reflection of the fact that partners and allies around the world and people in those countries see that we are genuinely re-engaged with our allies and partners, both directly and in these multilateral institutions or organizations.
QUESTION: The foreign policy that you present is driven by the sentiment that liberal democracies are in contest with authoritarian regimes, but isn’t the biggest threat to democracies less some foreign power, however illiberal their tendencies, but the hyperpolarization, the populism, the misinformation, the mistrust within society, especially the United States?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I agree with you, but the very point is that to the extent that there is – and we believe there is a competition between democracy and autocracy – the way to win that competition is to make sure that we start at home, that we make sure that our own democracies are strong, resilient, and actually delivering results for our citizens. That’s exactly where it starts. And that’s why – for example, making the kinds of investments that we’re trying to make in our people, in our infrastructure, in our technology is so important. Ultimately, this is less about getting others to run slower; it’s making sure we’re running faster. And that does start at home.
QUESTION: One final question to one point of contention between Germany and the U.S., Nord Stream 2.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The U.S. reached out and decided not to install more sanctions. What are you expecting in return from Germany?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’re having, I think, very important and detailed conversations with our German colleagues about this right now. And I think what’s very important is that we get to a place where together, as well as with others, we’re taking very concrete steps to make sure that Russia cannot use this pipeline as a coercive tool, as a weapon against Ukraine, against other countries in Eastern Europe, for that matter, against Europe itself by the very dependence that unfortunately is being increased on Russian oil and gas. So I think there are very concrete things that we’re looking at, and I hope that in the weeks ahead we’ll be able to reach agreement.
QUESTION: Will there be one by the visit of the Chancellor?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We – look, there’s no timeline on it. We’re working very, very closely together on this. And we want to see, together, very credible, concrete agreements to make sure that we’re protecting Europe, protecting Ukraine, against the downsides of this pipeline and overdependence on Russia.
QUESTION: President Obama once famously said progress isn’t linear; it zigs and zags. In brief, where are we standing right now? Are we zigging or are we zagging?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’re zigging and zagging, but President Obama was exactly right. Look, one of the things that I know from my own experience – and I’m certainly finding over the last few months that I’ve been in the job – is most of the things we do are not flipping a light switch. It doesn’t happen that quickly or that simply. There are exceptions, but most of the time it is the day-in, day-out work, with your sleeves rolled up trying to make progress.
And what I also know is this – and I’ll finish where we started – we’re so much more effective in making that progress when we’re working with our closest allies and closest partners, like Germany. That’s how we actually – to say something else that President Obama liked to quote a long time – that’s how we bend the long arc of history towards greater justice, towards greater progress. Our founding proposition in the United States is the effort to form a more perfect union, and that’s an acknowledgement from the very foundation of our country that we’re not perfect, that the whole quest of our national destiny of our story is to try every single day to get a little bit closer. And that’s the work that we’re doing at home, and it’s the work that we’re doing with Germany, with our partners.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for your time.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.