QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your time.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: How would U.S. intervention in the case of a Russian invasion of Ukraine differ to the case of, say, a Chinese incursion into Taiwan?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, it’s hard to compare very, very different situations, but what we’re committed to in the case of Ukraine is doing everything we can to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity, its sovereignty, its independence, which unfortunately is being challenged right now by Russia. We’ve made very clear to Russia that there are two paths going forward: there’s a diplomatic path, a path of diplomacy, dialogue to see if we can find answers to security concerns that Russia has expressed and that we’ve expressed about Russia’s conduct; but equally, if Russia chooses to renew its aggression against Ukraine, we’ve made clear – not just us but countries throughout Europe and even beyond – that there’ll be massive consequences.
So my hope is that Russia will be deterred by the actions that we’ve taken to build — to bring together many, many countries that stand against renewed aggression by Russia in Ukraine.
QUESTION: President Biden says that if an invasion occurs, the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany won’t go ahead. The German chancellor has been a bit more vague on that. How would America stop that pipeline given it’s not on U.S. territory?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, the President has been very clear that if there is renewed aggression by Russia in Ukraine, it’s very hard to see gas ever flowing through that pipeline. And right now the pipeline is actually a source of leverage for us, not for Russia, precisely because gas has not yet begun to flow through it. To the extent that President Putin wants to see that happen, the idea that that could happen if he commits aggression against Ukraine is very, very hard to see. So that may make him think twice about taking action in Ukraine.
QUESTION: Who does the Biden administration view as a bigger threat to global security, Russia or China?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: These are, again, very different challenges. Russia right now poses an immediate challenge not just to Ukraine through the possibility of renewed aggression, but to some very basic principles that are relevant to the security not just of people in Europe but throughout the world, including in Australia – principles like you can’t just change the borders of another country by force; you can’t decide for another country its choices, its policies, with whom it will associate; you can’t exert a sphere of influence that tries to subjugate your neighbors to your will. Those are the basic principles that are at stake when it comes to Ukraine and Russia’s aggression, and they’re relevant right here in this part of the world just as they are in Europe.
QUESTION: You’re here for the meeting. Is the Quad grouping about countering the influence of China in this region?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: The Quad fundamentally is about presenting an affirmative vision and affirmative action to deal with some of the main challenges of our time as well as to find opportunities and to make the most of them. So bringing these countries together to deal with something that’s afflicting everyone – COVID – that is again about dealing with something very concrete in people’s lives. How we think about emerging technology and the rules and norms and standards that shape it – the Quad is coming together on that. How we make our economies more resilient, not only recovering from COVID but producing greater resiliency over time through diversified supply chains, for example – that’s what the Quad is all about.
So it’s coming together, using the talents, the resources, the different skill sets that we – that these four countries have, as well as potentially working with other countries.
QUESTION: Australia’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton has warned that Australia and its allies will lose the next decade unless they stand up to China in the South China Sea. What’s your take on that?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: What we have to do and what we are doing is standing up for the norms, the rules, the standards, the values that unite it – that unite us. So this is not about standing against anyone in particular; it is about standing up for a rules-based order, making sure that we uphold those rules and principles if they’re being challenged. Because it’s exactly that that’s undergirded peace, security, and opportunity for people for decades. So when they’re being challenged, we have an obligation to stand up.
QUESTION: Against that backdrop, Russia and China’s leaders met on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics earlier this week and they declared that they have a no-limits partnership. That has to be of some concern given the context that you just painted there.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: China and Russia have been growing closer over many, many years, so this is not – this is not new. I have to say, if – and we of course were not in the room when the two leaders met, but I would imagine that, for example, China would have some issues with Russia’s threats to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. China talks a lot about upholding the principle of sovereignty. Well, maybe it has something to say about that. Russian aggression in Ukraine would not be good for anyone. It wouldn’t be good for China either. And so one would think that it would have shared some of its concerns with Russia.
Russia and China are talking. We’re engaged, the United States, with dozens of partners throughout Europe, around the world, NATO, the European Union, the G7, here through the Quad, AUKUS, you name it. We have a multiplicity of alliances, of partnerships, of coalitions to deal with issues of concern to our people. That’s actually been our greatest strength. And these partnerships, these alliances, not only are they voluntary, they’re based on a shared set of values and basic interests.
QUESTION: You mentioned AUKUS. The French Government was put out, to say the least, by its submarine contract with Australia being shelved due to the new security pact between Australia, the UK, and the U.S. The French said that they were blindsided by what happened. Were they, and who was responsible for that?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, I said at the time that we, speaking for ourselves, the United States could have done a better job communicating with our French allies and partners on this. But we are working incredibly closely together as partners. We’re doing the same thing through NATO, with the European Union, the G7. And so I think the strength of that relationship, of that partnership is as good as it’s ever been.
QUESTION: Which country first floated the idea of a security pact between Australia, the U.S., and the UK, including finding a way to have – for Australia to have nuclear submarines?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I’m not going to go back and revisit the entire history of this, but certainly this is something that was raised early on by Australia, by the United Kingdom. And of course part of what we’re doing around the world, as I said, is working to revitalize, to re-energize, and, as necessary, to reinvent these alliances and partnerships because for us, as we’re looking at the problems that afflict our people as well as the opportunities, whether it’s dealing with climate, whether it’s dealing with COVID, whether it’s dealing with emerging technologies, whether it’s dealing with security, not a single one of these problems can be effectively addressed by any one of our countries working alone. We are much stronger when we find ways to work together. And that’s why we’ve invested so much in not only our traditional alliances, but in creating new coalitions, new partnerships to focus on specific issues. That’s what AUKUS is about, it’s what the Quad is about, as well as the traditional alliances like NATO and other organizations.
QUESTION: Final question, Mr. Secretary. The U.S. under Donald Trump’s leadership was beset with internal turmoil and division that hasn’t resolved. The president ran an erratic foreign and domestic policy, to say the least. Why would a country like Australia continue to view the U.S. as a reliable ally given that some of those forces that delivered Donald Trump the presidency are still at play?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: No one can say with certainty what the future will bring. We have to be grounded in the present. What are the challenges that our people are facing? How can we best and most effectively deal with them? We’re convinced that it’s by doing it together, and you start with the countries that share your basic approach, that share your basic interests, that share your basic values. And nowhere is that more true than between the United States and Australia. And you go from there. And ultimately we’re going to be judged, like anyone else is, by what we do and what we achieve. And we’re living in the present and focused on the – on these challenges, focused on these opportunities, and we start with the conviction that they can best be addressed in partnership, and that’s exactly why we’ve spent a lot of time and effort to re-energize these alliances and these partnerships. It’s why I’m here.
QUESTION: Secretary Blinken, we really appreciate your time. Thank you for speaking with us again.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks so much. Good to be with you.