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Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Darius Rochebin of LCI/TF1 – United States Department of State

ASK: Good evening, Mr. Foreign Minister. Antony Blinken, you are the head of US foreign policy. First, Ukraine’s cry for help. Is the US able to promise that the Ukrainian state, i.e. Kiev, will never fall into Russian hands?

SECRETARY BLINKING: I am convinced that we have already done that. In other words, it’s not happening, it’s never going to happen. At the start of Russian aggression in 2022, we thought there was a chance that Kiev would fall. But thanks to the incredible resistance of the Ukrainian people, and also thanks to the support that the United States, France and other countries have given Ukraine, Putin’s desire to conquer the entire country, to wipe it off the map, to make it part of it, has been possible make, be realized a greater Russia has not come about and will not come into being.

ASK: Mr Zelensky said: “We are not 100% sure that Putin will not use nuclear weapons.” And he added: “That makes President Biden cautious.” Do you actually have to take this risk into account?

SECRETARY BLINKING: From the very beginning, from day one, President Biden was convinced of two things: that we had to do everything we could to support Ukraine, because the aggression against Ukraine was not just aggression against the Ukrainian people and against the country, but against all basic principles of the international system. But he was also convinced that we had to avoid war with Russia.

ASK: A nuclear escalation?

SECRETARY BLINKING: An escalation, whether conventional or nuclear. And so since then he has been moving with great clarity in the direction of supporting Ukraine but avoiding war with Russia.

ASK: It’s not just theoretical. Don’t we remember the warning about the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine? Would the United States respond if that happened?

SECRETARY BLINKING: Look, I’m not going to get into hypotheses. There was actually a moment when I was scared. I think that –

ASK: (Inaudible) There were concrete messages to that effect.

SECRETARY BLINKING: All I can say is that there was a fear that it was possible. But I think the Russians have heard not only from the United States, not only from France, but also from many other countries, including China, that a nuclear weapon should under no circumstances be used.

ASK: But in principle, Mr Foreign Minister, compared to the use of conventional weapons, would the slightest use of nuclear weapons, even tactical weapons, be a complete change?

SECRETARY BLINKING: It would be a complete change for us, yes.

ASK: With consequences for Russia?

SECRETARY BLINKING: With consequences. But of course we are doing everything we can to avoid this possibility and to prevent a war, a bigger war. But at the same time, we absolutely must support Ukraine, because Russian aggression continues to this day, it continues to cause terrible damage in Ukraine and continues to pose a threat not only to Ukraine but also to Europe.

ASK: The Balts express their fear of a more conventional war. It would be a Russian invasion of the Baltic regions and, like Crimea in 2014, a fait accompli. Would the US prevent it militarily this time?

SECRETARY BLINKING: You know, we have an extraordinary asset, namely NATO. And the basic idea of ​​NATO is that an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.

ASK: Article 5.

SECRETARY BLINKING: Article 5. And I do not believe that it is in Mr. Putin’s interest to expand the conflict, especially with or against a NATO member.

ASK: Mr. Blinken, do you understand that this is the crucial question – especially for the Balts? Can you be sure that even one foot of a Russian soldier on Baltic territory would result in a military response from the United States of America?

SECRETARY BLINKING: A millimeter or a centimeter. For us, Article 5 is essential.

ASK: With a military response?

SECRETARY BLINKING: Again, I don’t want to go into specific hypotheses, but I think that any adversary who acts aggressively against a NATO member knows that they will receive a response from NATO, including the United States.

ASK: That’s you. If it’s Mr. Trump, does that change?

SECRETARY BLINKING: You know, all I can do today is get along with all my colleagues and do the best I can. The future –

ASK: But do you understand, excuse me, Mr. Foreign Minister, the fear of the Europeans who ask themselves: “If Mr. Trump is there, could there be a withdrawal from NATO?”

SECRETARY BLINKING: I hear fears from my colleagues, from my fellow citizens, but you know, there are often fears when there are changes in democracies, be it in the United States, be it in France, be it in a democratic country where there is… a change of government Every four years, every six years or whatever, there is always something, because of course you get used to what you have. You don’t know what’s next, but I can tell you that this year will celebrate 75 years of NATO and 75 years of American governments, Republicans and Democrats, supporting NATO. I am convinced that it will continue like this no matter what happens.

ASK: They helped Ukraine powerfully. You exclude – it’s clear – American troops in Ukraine, right?

SECRETARY BLINKING: Yes.

ASK: But what happens if the French – Mr Macron said: “That’s out of the question” – the Finns and the Poles try it. It is your decision. Will it require a NATO consensus?

SECRETARY BLINKING: Here, too, I refrain from making hypotheses for the future. Our policy is clear. President Biden’s policies are clear. There will be no American troops on Ukrainian soil.

ASK: Why not?

SECRETARY BLINKING: Because for us it is something that is more likely to lead to a direct conflict with Russia, which we want to avoid. It is not in our interest and it is not in the interest of the Allies. But at the same time –

ASK: Forgiveness.

SECRETARY BLINKING: Continue.

ASK: Since, say, the Cold War, when there has been no direct confrontation between the two nuclear powers, would it be like a breach of the pact to deploy ground troops?

SECRETARY BLINKING: For us it is a matter of national interest. It is not in our interest to have a direct conflict with Russia. I don’t think it’s in the interest of any of the NATO members. But at the same time there is determination and conviction that we must do our utmost to support Ukraine, not only this year but also in the years to come.

Because the real danger – there is an immediate danger on the ground – but the biggest danger is the idea that may be in Putin’s head that he can outlive us, that we will disappear in the end, whether it is us, Europe or the other Partner. I think it is important to convince Putin that this will not be the case.

ASK: But, Antony Blinken, again: If the French, the Finns, the Poles, etc. also leave, is that a danger to us, or do you think it affects NATO?

SECRETARY BLINKING: Everyone has to make decisions at the national level and also at the alliance level.

ASK: Does the alliance have to come to an agreement?

SECRETARY BLINKING: Again, I don’t want to go into hypotheses, but I know very well that in the relationships we have within the Alliance, the relationships we have directly with France, everything we do, we do together. We talk about it, we discuss it and we decide together.

ASK: In Brazil, President Macron expressed the possibility of Vladimir Putin attending the next G20 meeting, provided that it makes sense and there is a consensus among all G20 members. Do you see this as a possibility under these conditions?

SECRETARY BLINKING: If there is a consensus among all members and it is useful, yes. In the current situation, it is difficult to imagine how it could be useful and how there could be a consensus among all members –

ASK: Would a handshake between Putin and Biden be conceivable to you, provided of course that it is useful?

SECRETARY BLINKING: The idea was never to exclude Russia or Mr. Putin. It is the actions, the policies of Russia and Mr. Putin that trigger what is happening in terms of Russia’s relations with the G20 or the G7, with the world. So if the guidelines change, we won’t rule anything out. The problem is that we currently have no evidence that policy is changing.

ASK: But if policy changes, can we speak very directly to Mr. Putin again, even at a summit?

SECRETARY BLINKING: I hope that there will be a day, and I hope that that day will come sooner rather than later, when relations between our countries and Russia will be very different than before. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and it is not due to Mr. Putin’s policies.

ASK: To be clear: he isn’t a pariah forever? Not necessarily?

SECRETARY BLINKING: Russia is not a pariah, and for us it is not so much the individuals and personalities that count, but rather the policies that a country pursues.

ASK: Mr. Secretary of State, there is clearly another major crisis in the Middle East, and you have made no secret of your differences with Benjamin Netanyahu. We won’t go into it in more detail, but how dangerous do you think the violent policy he pursues is?

SECRETARY BLINKING: There is an extraordinary challenge for Israel. It’s about what to do after the attack on October 7th, the day after. How do you live with Hamas and the danger it represents, a constant danger? It was not only normal, but almost an obligation, to react in such a way that October 7th could never happen again. And don’t forget that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

There were Hamas attacks on Israel in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2021 and 2023. At the same time, we have said from the beginning that we support Israel’s right to protect itself to ensure that October 7 is not repeated. But the way Israel carries out this mission is also important.

ASK: Is it too brutal?

SECRETARY BLINKING: What we have seen in the loss of life, of children, women and men who are in the midst of this confrontation, the damage is terrible. At the same time, the fact that humanitarian aid is not enough for the people of Gaza is a danger and an immediate necessity.

ASK: Antony Blinken, we understand the need for security for Israel. But we must also give the Palestinians hope. Some say they would unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state from the start. Today the Spanish Prime Minister says he may do so. Emmanuel Macron said this is a tool that can be used in due course. Do you share this opinion?

SECRETARY BLINKING: Our wish, our goal, is the establishment of a Palestinian state because we are convinced –

ASK: But it seems far away.

SECRETARY BLINKING: Especially today it seems far away. Even before October 7th it seemed very far away.

ASK: But that means we say, “Okay, we already recognize it.” Now we make this political act: we have to protect Israel, of course, but at the same time we recognize a Palestinian state. Is this possible?

SECRETARY BLINKING: What is important is that there should be a real agreement between Palestinians and Israelis, not an agreement that is applied unilaterally by other countries, but a real agreement between the two. But achieving this goal also requires leadership from the world’s major countries. Let me give you an example.

Israel wants to have a normal relationship with Saudi Arabia. That would be something historic and extraordinary. We are working on it, but to make it a reality – and I believe it is possible – we need two things: calm in Gaza and an agreement on the establishment of a Palestinian state.

So we can see a possible path, if you will.

ASK: In many cases compromises are necessary, compromises in the Middle East or compromises, and I’ll come back to this, in Ukraine. Will a territorial compromise ever be necessary? Some people think of Donbass and Crimea. Or do you think that this is a question of international law and we shouldn’t bother with it?

SECRETARY BLINKING: What counts for us is the desire, the will of the Ukrainian people. It’s up to them to decide. Whatever you decide, we will support you. But I am also convinced of one thing: Despite the current challenges, we first have a defeat, a strategic debacle for Russia in Ukraine. Russia is weaker militarily, economically and diplomatically. The Ukrainian people are in solidarity against Russia, which was not the case before 2014, the first aggression against Ukraine.

Europe has ended its energy dependence on Russia, and NATO is now stronger, larger and has two new members. This was something we hadn’t even thought about before 2022. So we already know that. And we also know that Ukraine has the ability to be a strong state militarily, economically and democratically.

The path is there, it is taking shape, but we need the support of the United States, France and Europe.

ASK: A final word, Antony Blinken. We are here at the US residence. Thank you for your French. (Inaudible) from Jefferson, the founding father, he’s here. He used this striking phrase: “The United States, Empire of Liberty.” Even today you are still an imperial power. The war of aggression in Iraq, the NSA’s wiretapping, but at the same time you say: No. A little bit? A lot?

SECRETARY BLINKING: Imperial, no. We have no desire to conquer territory or keep territory. We’ve had interventions where, in hindsight, we would have done something different over time.

ASK: Do you feel sorry for her?

SECRETARY BLINKING: But all I can say is:

ASK: You didn’t answer my question. Do you feel sorry for her?

SECRETARY BLINKING: Yes, I absolutely regret Iraq, like many others.

ASK: But excuse me, I wanted to say, you are also a defender of the freedom of Western Europe, we need you. Are you still the world’s police officer?

SECRETARY BLINKING: I am convinced of two things. First, we must cooperate and coordinate with other countries on almost any issue that affects the lives of the American people or the French, be it the United States or France. We are not able to deal with all these problems alone. But I am also convinced of another thing: without US commitment, it will be more difficult to achieve a common goal. So for us it’s all about creating partnerships and achieving better coordination. And that starts with long-standing allies like France. But any country that is willing to play by the rules of the international game is a partner, and we are ready to do so.

ASK: Mr Foreign Minister, thank you very much.

SECRETARY BLINKING: Thank you very much.

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