ANTONY J. BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE
FEBRUARY 1, 2021
QUESTION: We see the Russian persons are out and protesting towards Vladimir Putin. There have been many arrests, 1000’s braving these sub-freezing temperatures. Alexei Navalny’s spouse was detained protesting towards his arrest and, in fact, beforehand his poisoning by Russian authorities.
You will have condemned this, and the Russians have responded saying that that is gross interference, suggesting that we’re behind it. Are you able to reply to that?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Nicely, first, Andrea, we’re deeply disturbed by this violent crackdown towards folks exercising their rights to protest peacefully towards their authorities, rights which can be assured to them within the Russian structure. The arrests, the violence utilized by police, is deeply disturbing. And naturally, the arrest of Mr. Navalny itself, which apparently triggered this, can be profoundly disturbing to us.
However I believe the Russian Authorities makes a giant mistake if it believes that that is about us. It’s not. It’s about them. It’s concerning the authorities. It’s concerning the frustration that the Russian folks have with corruption, with kleptocracy. And I believe they should look inward, not outward, and hopefully have in mind what they’re listening to from their very own folks. Mr. Navalny is giving expression to the voices of tens of millions and tens of millions of Russians, and that’s what that is about.
QUESTION: Ought to the U.S. sanction the backers of Vladimir Putin as punishment for what has already occurred to Navalny?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Andrea, we’re reviewing that. Truly, we’re reviewing a collection of Russian actions which can be deeply, deeply disturbing. The actions taken towards Mr. Navalny, together with the obvious use of a chemical weapon towards him, but additionally interference in our elections, the usage of cyber instruments within the so-called SolarWinds assault that Russia seems to be liable for entering into pc networks each private and non-private, and at last, now we have the reported bounties on American troops in Afghanistan. We’re trying into all of this stuff. All of them are beneath evaluation. And relying on the findings of these critiques, we’ll take steps to face up for our pursuits and stand towards Russian aggressive actions.
QUESTION: These are all issues that President Trump by no means raised with Vladimir Putin, and President Biden raised it in his very first —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: He did.
QUESTION: — very first phone name. So do the protestors in Russia and the remainder of the world and does Vladimir Putin, most significantly, know that there’s – that this isn’t simply rhetoric from you and from President Biden, that there will likely be actual motion relying on what the proof proves?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Andrea, the President couldn’t have been clearer in his dialog with President Putin. And now we have to have the ability to do two issues on the similar time: We now have to have the ability to advance our pursuits, as we did in agreeing with Russia to increase the New START arms management settlement, which profoundly serves our personal pursuits in retaining a cap on Russia’s core nuclear arsenal and in addition giving us a variety of inspection rights and visibility on what they’re doing; but additionally to face up clearly for our pursuits when they’re being threatened, attacked, or abused by Russia. So I believe President Biden was very clear in his dialog with President Putin.
QUESTION: You’ve mentioned that China is essentially the most important menace – you mentioned that in your affirmation listening to – towards American nationwide pursuits. Would you’re taking steps if there’s any motion by China towards Taiwan? Do you see a navy confrontation probably in our future with China?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: There’s little doubt that China poses essentially the most important problem to us of another nation, however it’s a sophisticated one. There are adversarial features to the connection, there’s definitely aggressive ones, and there’s nonetheless some cooperative ones, too. However whether or not we’re coping with any of these features of the connection, now we have to have the ability to method China from a place of energy, not weak spot.
And that energy, I believe, comes from having sturdy alliances, one thing China doesn’t have; really partaking on the planet and exhibiting up in these worldwide establishments, as a result of we when pull again, China fills in after which they’re those writing the principles and setting the norms of those establishments; standing up for our values when China is difficult them, together with in Xinjiang towards the Uyghurs or democracy in Hong Kong; ensuring that our navy is postured in order that it could deter Chinese language aggression; and investing in our personal folks in order that they’ll absolutely compete.
However the excellent news about every of those is that they’re absolutely inside our management. And in some ways, the problem posed by China is as a lot about a few of our personal self-inflicted weaknesses as it’s about China’s rising energy. However we will handle these weaknesses. We are able to really construct again higher on this space too with regards to stronger alliances, with regards to partaking on the planet, standing up for our values, investing in our folks, ensuring our navy is correctly postured.
QUESTION: Nicely, with the financial system weighing so closely on many People, tens of millions of People, ought to we be lifting the tariffs that had been imposed by President Trump on China?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’re reviewing all of that. We now have to be sure that any time we act, the primary query we ask ourselves is: Is that this advancing the pursuits of our personal folks? Is it making them extra affluent? Is it advancing their safety? Is it extending their values? That’s the primary query now we have to ask. And so with regards to one thing like a tariff, is it doing extra hurt to us than it’s to the nation they’re being wielded towards? That’s the query we’re asking.
QUESTION: President Trump and Secretary Pompeo referred to the coronavirus because the China virus, the Wuhan virus. Do you suppose that China must be held accountable for not being open concerning the COVID-19 when it first hit?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: There is no such thing as a doubt that, particularly when COVID-19 first hit however even at present, China is falling far wanting the mark with regards to offering the knowledge essential to the worldwide group, ensuring that consultants have entry to China. The entire – that lack of transparency, that lack of being forthcoming, is a profound downside and it’s one which continues.
And in order we’re enthusiastic about each coping with this pandemic but additionally ensuring we’re able to stop the following one, China has to step up and be sure that it’s being clear, that it’s offering data and sharing data, that it’s giving entry to worldwide consultants and inspectors. Its failure to try this is an actual downside that now we have to deal with.
QUESTION: Ought to they pay some value for that?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I believe the main focus now we have to have is each getting full understanding and accountability for what occurred – and there’s an investigation that’s occurring proper now – however particularly ensuring we’re setting up measures to stop a recurrence.
QUESTION: Ought to the U.S. be part of Britain in opening its doorways to refugees fleeing the political repression in Hong Kong?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I consider we must always. We’ve seen China act egregiously to undermine the very commitments it made through the handover of Hong Kong to – from Britain. And we see people who find themselves, once more, in Hong Kong standing up for their very own rights, the rights that they felt had been assured to them. And if they’re being – in the event that they’re the victims of repression from Chinese language authorities, we must always do one thing to present them haven.
QUESTION: Our adversaries world wide are utilizing the assault towards the Capitol as a propaganda instrument towards us and towards what American democracy actually stands for. What message would you ship to the members of Congress who’re nonetheless denying the truth of President Biden’s election?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, I believe there is no such thing as a doubt that the assault on our personal democracy on January sixth creates a good better problem for us to be carrying the banner of democracy and freedom and human rights world wide as a result of, for positive, folks in different international locations are saying to us, “Nicely, why don’t you take a look at yourselves first?”
However I see this very a lot as a glass half full as a result of we’re, in fact, imperfect. And certainly, on the basis of our personal republic is the notion that we’d at all times be striving to kind a extra good union. We by no means attain that perfection. And the distinction, although, between us and so many different international locations is that once we are challenged, together with once we problem ourselves, we’re doing it in full daylight, with full transparency. We’re grappling with our issues in entrance of the whole world. And the actual fact of the matter is that sends a strong message to international locations which can be attempting to comb all the things beneath the rug. We don’t try this. We take these – tackle these issues head-on.
And with regards to Congress itself, what’s so highly effective is the members of Congress got here again. They got here again to these buildings after that horrible and mindless aggression towards them and towards our democracy. They got here again and confirmed the world that our democracy is resilient, and that may be a highly effective, constructive message for the USA to hold ahead.
And forward, extra of my unique interview with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, what he says a couple of path ahead with North Korea and the way he plans to stability being a dad to younger kids together with his new job. Stick with us. That is Andrea Mitchell Experiences solely on MSNBC.
QUESTION: And forward, extra of my unique interview with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, what he says a couple of path ahead with North Korea and the way he plans to stability being a dad to younger kids together with his new job. Stick with us. That is Andrea Mitchell Experiences solely on MSNBC.
QUESTION: I need to ask you about Iran. Clearly, you had been very concerned within the Iran nuclear deal. Now, the President’s mentioned we’ll re-enter it, however Iran is demanding that we raise the sanctions first, that we take some motion first, make the primary transfer. However now they’re – by your personal testimony, they might be a month away from having the ability to construct a nuclear weapon, in contrast to what they had been once they had been constrained. Do now we have time for the negotiations? You mentioned that they’ll take time. But when they’re that near constructing a bomb?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Nicely, there are two issues, Andrea. Certainly, the time that it will take Iran – based mostly on public reviews, the time that it will take Iran to supply sufficient fissile materials for a nuclear weapon is right down to, we expect, a couple of months. And I’ve not seen the precise intelligence but, however what’s been publicly reported says it’s down to some months. The settlement, the notorious JCPOA, pushed that to past a yr. In order that’s an actual downside, and it’s an issue that would get extra acute, as a result of if Iran continues to raise a few of these restraints imposed by the settlement, that would get right down to a matter of weeks.
Now, the fissile materials is one factor. Having a weapon that they’ll really detonate and use is one other. And so there has – there’s a timeline that’s in all probability totally different for that. However the backside line is they’re getting nearer to the purpose the place they’d be both a threshold nuclear energy, or really a nuclear energy. And that’s profoundly towards our pursuits.
President Biden has been very clear on this. He’s mentioned that if Iran returns to compliance with its obligations beneath the settlement, we’d do the identical factor. However then we’d use that with our allies and companions. We’d as soon as once more be on the identical aspect with our allies and companions, who had been very distressed at us pulling out of the settlement. We’d work with them to get one thing that’s longer and stronger, and in addition take care of among the different challenges that Iran poses, whether or not it’s its missile program, whether or not it’s its destabilizing actions within the area.
QUESTION: Missiles, destabilizing actions should be a part of any new settlement?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We now have to – now we have to take care of these. We now have to – now we have to be sure that whether or not it’s a part of a brand new settlement, whether or not it’s in parallel with a brand new settlement, that we’re contending with that problem that Iran poses. And that’s a menace to worldwide peace and safety, it’s a menace to our allies and companions as a lot as it’s to us.
QUESTION: What concerning the People who’re nonetheless imprisoned in Iran? Ought to they be launched as a part of any deal?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Regardless of any deal, these People must be launched, interval. And I’m decided, whether or not it’s in Iran or wherever else, that any American unjustly detained is ready to come house. And we will likely be engaged on that problem wherever it could come up, each single day.
QUESTION: However ought to that be a situation for the U.S. to enter into a brand new deal?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’re going to concentrate on ensuring that they arrive house a technique or one other, and we’re additionally going to focus on the similar time, relying on what Iran does, in engaged on the nuclear matter. However in fact, we’re a methods from that. Iran is nicely out of compliance with its obligations. If it decides to return again into the settlement, which will take a while, after which it’s going to take us a while to evaluate whether or not they in actual fact have made good on their obligations. So let’s see what they do.
QUESTION: President Trump was the primary sitting American president to step into North Korea however his historic summits with Kim Jong-un didn’t sluggish the regime’s buildup of its nuclear arsenal. Now, the brand new president and his new secretary of state should take care of the fallout. Right here’s extra of my unique interview with Tony Blinken on North Korea and his plans to revive State Division morale.
And now, is it time to acknowledge North Korea as a nuclear energy? Is denuclearizing North Korea past any aspiration at this stage, particularly as a result of they’ve made so many advances within the final 4 years? They now have what they’re exhibiting off to be a submarine-launched missile.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Andrea, it is a downside, a nasty downside that has gotten worse over time. And I might be the primary to acknowledge that it’s an issue that’s gotten worse throughout administrations. So the very first thing the President had requested – has requested us to do is to evaluation the coverage to be sure that we’re utilizing the best instruments to advance the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to take care of the issue, the rising downside, posed by North Korea’s arsenal.
QUESTION: What does Kim Jong-un should do to get a gathering with President Biden?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Nicely, the very first thing we’re going to do is to evaluation the coverage throughout the board to take a look at what instruments now we have, together with further sanctions, together with particularly further coordination and cooperation with allies and companions, but additionally to take a look at diplomatic incentives. So as soon as we try this, we’ll be capable of inform you how we plan to maneuver ahead.
QUESTION: For those who needed to guess, would you be touchdown in a aircraft in Iran or North Korea first within the subsequent 4 years?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I believe I’d first be touchdown in a aircraft in all probability in Europe and in Asia with our closest allies and companions, and I hope that day comes quickly.
QUESTION: Let me do a lightning spherical. Mohammed bin Salman has been judged by our intelligence companies as having ordered the brutal homicide of Khashoggi. Can relations with Saudi Arabia be predicated on some accountability? How necessary is Khashoggi’s dying to be a part of it?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: The homicide of Mr. Khashoggi was an outrageous act towards a journalist, towards somebody resident in the USA. It was abhorrent, and I believe it shocked the conscience of the world.
Relating to Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia has been an necessary accomplice for us in counterterrorism, in attempting to advance regional stability and take care of regional aggression. However we additionally should be sure that that partnership is being carried out in a means that’s in line with our pursuits and in addition with our values. And so the President has requested that we evaluation the connection to ensure it’s doing simply that, and that’s precisely what’s taking place now.
QUESTION: Will you revoke the phobia designation on Cuba?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So there have been a collection of actions that the outgoing administration took, together with that one, that had been – that it took it within the final days of the administration, steps it might have taken presumably over 4 years that it took within the final principally 4 weeks. We’re all of them.
One of many ones we’re that’s associated to Saudi Arabia is the designation of the Houthis in Yemen as a overseas terrorist group. I’ve deep considerations about that as a result of one of many issues now we have to concentrate on on this horrible struggle is – the President’s been – has mentioned that we are going to cease our assist for the Saudi-led navy marketing campaign in Yemen, however we additionally should step up our capability to get humanitarian help to folks in Yemen who’re struggling terribly. Eighty % of them reside beneath Houthi management. We need to be sure that something we do doesn’t make it tougher to get humanitarian help to the folks of Yemen.
QUESTION: I do know we’re operating out of time, however lastly, you’re the first Secretary of State in many years, if not ever, to have younger kids. You will have household that’s rooted on this division. Your spouse labored right here. What’s your imaginative and prescient for what you’re hoping to perform, and the way do you try this and be a father and a household man?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Nicely, having two very younger kids is definitely an unimaginable supply of inspiration as a result of it actually grounds what I’m attempting to do, and particularly what I’m attempting to assist the President do, within the actuality that we’re all right here to attempt to be sure that life is healthier each single day for our fellow residents and particularly that what we’re doing is attempting to go away a world that’s just a bit bit safer, slightly bit extra affluent, slightly more healthy to our youngsters and grandkids. So seeing that on daily basis, and in addition having in-laws at house to assist with them, makes a giant distinction.
However look, now we have a pair issues that now we have to do right here. The President has mentioned that we’re going to lead our overseas coverage with diplomacy, and which means we actually have to speculate on this establishment, within the State Division, in its women and men, with the instruments, with the coaching, with the assist to place them first. They’re a rare group. I’ve had the privilege of working with them in a technique or one other for the higher a part of virtually 30 years now since I’ve been in Washington. However now we have to do proper by them, so we’re going to be sure that we’re investing in them.
We’re additionally going to be sure that now we have a division that really appears to be like just like the nation it represents. Our best energy at house, but additionally overseas, is our variety. We’re dealing, Andrea, with an extremely numerous world. We’d be doing that with two arms tied behind our again if our diplomats didn’t really appear to be the nation they signify. And so I believe you’re going to see over the following few years as nicely an actual concentrate on ensuring that now we have a various workforce. We’re going to recruit, we’re going to retain, and we’re going to be held accountable for that.
QUESTION: With out political interference from the White Home and with extra profession International Service diplomats than political appointees?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Completely. Completely. I’m decided to place our profession people in positions of accountability and management, and I’m completely decided that politics should not going to return into this constructing. I’ve labored with, as I mentioned, the women and men of the International Service, the Civil Service for greater than couple of many years. I couldn’t start to inform you who’s a Republican, who’s a Democrat, who’s an impartial. They’re right here each single day working for the American folks pursuant to the Structure to advance our pursuits. That’s the form of division we would like.