February 24, 2024

Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Efi Koutsokosta of Euronews

Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Efi Koutsokosta of Euronews

QUESTION:  So Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for joining us here in Brussels on Global Conversation.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Good to be with you.  Thank you.

QUESTION:  So finally Finland joined the Alliance, but at the same time Sweden has been left behind.  Is there a chance that it also joins the Alliance anytime soon, or is it a lost case?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Oh, no, I’m convinced that it will happen; it will happen soon.  I fully anticipate that by the Vilnius Summit, the leaders’ summit of NATO that’ll take place in July, that Sweden will join Finland as the two newest members of NATO.

QUESTION:  Does this depend on Turkish elections, you think?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  There’s a process, and of course virtually every NATO country has already ratified Sweden’s membership.  Türkiye and Hungary have not yet, but based on everything I heard, including every – virtually every Ally, in the meetings that we had just today and yesterday, calling for Sweden to join Finland as soon as possible.  And I think with the leaders’ summit coming up in Vilnius, again, I would anticipate that that process will be complete by Vilnius.

QUESTION:  Are you annoyed by Türkiye’s position to delay or even block the NATO’s expansion?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Türkiye has legitimate interests, and it’s worked directly and well with both Finland and Sweden to try to address some of those interests and concerns.  I think you’ve seen the success of that process manifests itself with Finland’s accession to NATO.  And again, I fully anticipate it will be the same thing for Sweden in the weeks and months ahead, and in any event, I would anticipate by the Vilnius Summit.

QUESTION:  But do you have the feeling that especially Türkiye’s using this in order to get something from the United States, probably the fighter jets, the F-16?  This is something that we hear all the time.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  For us that’s a totally separate question.  We support Türkiye getting an upgraded F-16 program to include new F-16s, to include modernizing existing F-16s.  That is for us, for the Biden administration, independent of the accession process to NATO or, for that matter, any other question.

QUESTION:  So let’s move on to China.  Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow and Vladimir Putin with a peace plan in hand, and having said that, China so far says that it wants to stay neutral when it comes to this war.  Do you see this changing?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, there are few things here.  First, the peace ideas that China’s put on the table, some of them are positive – indeed, they reflect things that China has said for a long time and that many of us have said for a long time.  But the very first element of what it put on the table – sovereignty – that should be the focus.  And China’s focus should be on convincing Russia to actually respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and to give back the territory that it seized by force in violation of the United Nations Charter, in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

I think China is also trying to have it both ways.  It wants to be seen as trying to advance peace, and at the same time it continues to support Russia in different ways – rhetorically, making its case in international institutions, advancing Russian propaganda about the aggression; and, as we’ve said some weeks ago, even considering providing Russia with lethal assistance.

QUESTION:  Have you worried about that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well —

QUESTION:  We have signals that this is something about that.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  This was a concern that that we had, which we said publicly some weeks ago, but not just us – many other countries, each of each of which has expressed that to China directly, including many European partners.  And my hope and expectation is that China will not take that step.  But no one wants peace more than the Ukrainian people.  They’re the ones who are on the receiving end of Russia’s aggression every single day.  But as we’ve said and as virtually every NATO Ally and many other countries have said – indeed, 141 countries at the United Nations said this just a few weeks ago – it has to be a just and durable peace.

And what does that mean?  A just peace is one that respects the basic principles of the United Nations Charter, including territorial integrity.  It can’t be a peace that endorses Russia’s seizure by force of so much of Ukraine’s territory.  And it needs to be durable in the sense that we can’t just have something that allows Russia to rest, to refit its troops, and then to re-attack when it’s more convenient.

QUESTION:  But as we speak, the French President Emmanuel Macron and the President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen are in Beijing, and they have the aim to engage somehow China in order to put more pressure on Russia.  What – do you expect them to succeed given the fact that they didn’t succeed to convince, let’s say, Vladimir Putin to not invade Ukraine or to stop the war?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  China has a relationship with Russia that gives it some leverage.  I don’t want to exaggerate it but gives it some leverage with Russia.  Russia is increasingly dependent on China.  It’s the junior partner in this relationship, but it’s increasingly dependent on China.  So we would hope that China would use that voice that it has with Russia, the – to the extent it has leverage, the leverage that it has – to move to a just and durable peace.

QUESTION:  Is it realistic?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  China —

QUESTION:  You think that they can convince Xi Jinping?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  China has – is it realistic for China to convince Russia?  Well, we’ll see.  But I think the first thing is to try.  The first thing is to make clear that this Russian aggression is unacceptable, that Russia can’t simply seize another country’s territory by force and get away with that, and that if China adheres to the basic principles at the heart of the United Nations Charter that bind all of us together, then it should stand up for those principles and make sure that Russia understands that what it’s done simply can’t be accepted.

QUESTION:  So what is your view about the new approach of the European Union towards China and the message that Ursula von der Leyen sent about not decoupling but de-risking from China?  Are the facts – are these messages let’s say consistent with what you see in the EU?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Oh, I think, first of all, President von der Leyen’s speech was very strong and totally consistent with our approach to China and the approach of many partners and allies.  And she’s exactly right.  This is not about decoupling; it is about de-risking.  It is, for example, in the case of the economic relationship – yes, sustaining that, because it’s important to all of us, but making sure that in critical sectors, where our security could be at risk, strategic industries, other places of concern, that people be – and countries be – very, very careful about that.

We all have complicated and very consequential relations and relationships with China.  And I think the – what you’ve seen in the last couple of years is a growing convergence between the United States and Europe, as well as key partners in Asia, a growing convergence in how we approach the relationship with China, understanding that we’re in a competition, understanding that there are places where it would be important for us to cooperate because there are big, transnational issues that require that cooperation, would benefit all of our people, and places where clearly our interests are being challenged, our values are being challenged, and we’re going to stand up together to defend them.

QUESTION:  To wrap up, as we see also some escalation in Taiwan in this area, how close are we to a superpower conflict?  And I speak about China and U.S. relations here.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We have been very clear that we do not want, we do not seek conflict.  We’re not trying to contain China.  We, on the contrary, want to preserve peace, stability, create opportunity.  When it comes to Taiwan, our policy has been consistent for decades.  Any differences between mainland China and Taiwan need to be resolved peacefully.  Neither side should do anything to disrupt the status quo, not take any unilateral actions that would do that, and —

QUESTION:  Has anything changed now?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — that is up to Beijing.  From our perspective, and I think the perspective – and I heard this in conversations with many of our NATO Allies, as well as partners in Asia – there is concern that were there to be a crisis as a result of China’s actions over Taiwan that would have repercussions for quite literally every country on earth.  Fifty percent of commercial traffic – 50 percent of global commercial traffic – goes through the Taiwan Strait every day.  Seventy percent of the semiconductors that we need for our smartphones, for our dishwashers, for our cars – they’re made on Taiwan.  If there was some kind of crisis as a result of something that China did, that would have terribly disruptive effects on the global economy, which is why countries around the world look to everyone to behave and act responsibly.

We’re determined, in the case of the United States, to make sure that we are managing our relationship with China responsibly.  That’s what other countries expect and that’s what we seek to do.  And again, no one is looking for a conflict.  Quite the contrary, we want to make sure that we avoid that.  And yes, we’re in competition – nothing wrong with competition, as long as it’s fair.  But we want to make sure that that competition does not veer into conflict.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for being with us, for your time.  It is a very interesting interview.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks very much.  Great to be with you.  Thank you.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-with-efi-koutsokosta-of-euronews-2/