QUESTION: Well, Secretary Blinken, thank you so much for being our guest today on Global Conversation. Welcome to Brussels.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
QUESTION: Looking at you here at the NATO Headquarters, and of course, at the EU Quarter in Brussels this week, it looked a little bit like watching a honeymoon. (Laughter.) Do you feel that you’ve renewed your vows after a couple of strained years?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, look, we wanted to come here, to be here with one very central task in mind, and that was to simply reaffirm our commitment to NATO, to our alliances, our partnership as well with the European Union, with our core allies. That was the most important message to send. And this is part of two weeks, really, of travel. We started in Japan and Korea and then came here, and again, all for the purpose of demonstrating that America is back in terms of its commitment to its alliances, to its partnerships, and we got a very, very good reception.
QUESTION: America is back. Well, that was certainly the feeling, of course, this week that we had too. I guess China has been a big focus of your trip over the last couple of days, so you must have been rather pleased, really, when your plane landed in Brussels and you realized how China reacted or, some might say, overreacted to what were rather mild sanctions coming from the European Union, because that’s, of course, pushing Europe into the direction of the United States stance when it comes to how to deal with China, even though, of course, we’ve seen French President Emmanuel Macron say it’s not a good idea for the U.S. and Europe, of course, together to gang up on China.
But could this united stance be the new point of departure, perhaps, for the new transatlantic relationship?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, this is not about ganging up on China. It’s not about trying to hold China down or to contain it. It is about standing up together for the interests and values that we share. And one of those, something we’ve all invested in for so many years, is in something we call the rules-based international order. We found that the best way to make sure that countries can work together and manage their relations productively is to sign up to a common set of rules and commitments. And our challenge is to make sure that we uphold that order. And so when any country, whether it’s China or anyone else, takes actions that undermine it when they’re not playing by the rules, we have an obligation to stand up and say you need to. And we’re much more effective in doing that when we’re doing it together in solidarity.
If you think, for example, about trade and economic issues where some of China’s practices are problematic for all of us, when the United States engages China on those issues alone, well, maybe we’ll have some impact, but we’re about 25 percent of world GDP. When we’re working closely with our allies and partners, including in Europe, including in Asia, we might be 40, 50, 60 percent of world GDP – that’s a little bit harder for Beijing to ignore. But again, the purpose is not to gang up. The purpose is to stand up for the interests and values that bring us together.
QUESTION: And Secretary Blinken, of course, while you’ve been here in Brussels this week having a very busy time, the Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov was over in Beijing in what looked a little bit like a united stance against the EU and against the U.S. How concerned are you about Russian troops in the East, in the Baltic countries? What are you doing about this?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, look, this is a – this was a big subject of conversation at NATO this week. I think there is a deeply shared concern about some of Russia’s aggressive actions. And of course, in the United States, we’ve had the SolarWinds cyber attack, we’ve had interference in our elections, we have had the possible use of bounties on our forces in Afghanistan, and, of course, we’ve seen the poisoning and the attempted murder of Aleksey Navalny by using a chemical weapon, not to mention Russia’s ongoing aggression in eastern Ukraine.
All of these things, as well as new weapon systems that they’re developing, are of concern not just to us, but to our allies and partners. And I think that there’s —
QUESTION: So what’s the plan?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — a common assessment of the challenge posed by Russia and also a common commitment to stand together to deal with it. I think we’re all very clear-eyed, so we see the challenge. I think we also recognize that there may be areas where, out of mutual interest, we can still work together. For example, the United States extended with Russia the New START agreement for five years. There are other areas in this matter of strategic stability – arms control – where we may find ways to work together, but that is not going to stop us from standing up strongly in a united way with our allies and partners when Russia commits aggressive acts.
QUESTION: And other uncomfortable conversations I’m sure you’ve had this week with your allies from Turkey – Turkey, of course, a very important member of NATO, buying up defense weapons from Russia. I mean, this is obviously destabilizing a little bit as well the Alliance, no?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, it’s no secret that we have a real difference with Turkey on that, something that I expressed directly to my Turkish counterpart when I saw him, and other allies have done the same. It’s also true that Turkey is a longstanding and very valuable ally that works together with us on very important objectives, including counterterrorism, including dealing with Syria and in other areas. So I think we have an interest in continuing to work closely with Turkey without, at the same time, ignoring our differences. So we engage them directly. We have very frank and clear and open conversations, and I hope Turkey will take some action to deal with the problems that, for example, the S-400s pose for the Alliance.
QUESTION: You think they’re listening? I mean, there’s also the issue of the Eastern Mediterranean, the instability there.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, that’s a huge concern. I don’t think you really want to have to figure that out yourself. You want the Europeans to deal with it. But what would be your message?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think we’ve seen some de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean. I think NATO’s playing a very good role in trying to deconflict and make sure that the areas where there are disputes, no one is taking provocative actions, starting with Turkey, keeping their ships out of waters or areas that are claimed by others. And we need to simply see the peaceful resolution of these differences according to international law.
And by the way, to the extent that there is – that there are challenges over resources, over natural resources, this should actually be a way of bringing countries together. The joint use of these resources, the joint investments, exploitation of them, that can actually be something that brings countries together. Our hope is that that’s exactly what will happen.
QUESTION: And Secretary Blinken, on the Nord Stream 2, I have to ask you about that, because obviously you’ve ruffled a lot of feathers in Germany with your comments saying that it will undermine Ukraine and you want the Europeans to stop us. But the pipeline is virtually done, 95 percent. Will you be willing to reach a compromise? What’s your take on that?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, look, what’s important first and foremost is that Germany is one of our closest allies and partners anywhere in the world, and we are working together every single day on so many issues that have a profound impact on the lives of our citizens and working as the closest of partners. And the fact that we have a disagreement over Nord Stream 2 – and it’s a real one – is not affecting and will not affect the overall partnership and relationship.
But we’ve been very clear, President Biden’s been very clear, that he thinks that Nord Stream 2 is a bad idea and a bad deal for Europe, for us, for the Alliance. It undermines basic EU principles in terms of energy security and energy independence. It, I think, poses a challenge to Ukraine, to Poland, to other countries that we care about. So I thought it was just very important for me to be able to say that directly and clearly to my friend Heiko Mass so that there’s no ambiguity. And the fact is we have laws in the United States that require us to sanction companies that are materially helping to build the pipeline, so I just wanted to make sure that our partners understood our position on this and what we would need to do going forward, and so that’s what we did.
QUESTION: Yeah, uncomfortable conversations just, of course, as the relationship is kicking off into its next chapter. And speaking of which, EU leaders, of course, were meeting this week in Brussels, and they invited special guest President Joe Biden to join them via video link.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s right. That’s right.
QUESTION: Europe’s in serious crisis mode right now. It’s dealing with a lack of supply of vaccines, it’s dealing with almost a year now of lockdowns which has devastated the economy —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah.
QUESTION: — in all the 27 EU member-states. So we’ll have Joe Biden Zooming into that meeting offering any sort of a hope that he might turn around perhaps some of the protectionist measures that were brought in by the previous administration of Trump?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, this has been obviously a huge historic challenge for all of us. In the United States, we’ve lost more than 500,000 people to this pandemic. I know the devastation and difficulty that it’s brought to Europe and the profound effect that it’s having on people’s lives. Look, we’re committed to being a very strong international partner and international leader in dealing with this.
We, of course, re-engaged the World Health Organization immediately. We’ve contributed significantly $2 billion to COVAX, with another $2 billion over the next two years to increase access to vaccines. Just about 10 days ago, in partnership with the so-called Quad countries – with Australia, Japan, and India – we have an initiative that’s going to dramatically increase over time access to vaccines. We’ve made some vaccines available to our close neighbors Mexico and Canada. And I anticipate that in the weeks ahead, you’ll see more of that.
QUESTION: Okay. And hopefully, we will be seeing more of you as well. You’ll be coming back to Brussels to visit us —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Absolutely.
QUESTION: — on many occasions, and we look forward to speaking to you again here on Euronews. But for now, thank you so much and take care.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks. Great to be with you. Thank you.