QUESTION: Let’s take all of this to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He is accompanying the president overseas.
Good morning, Secretary Blinken. Great to see you. As Ian just mentioned, there was reportedly some tension over China in the G7 meetings with the President urging leaders to offer billions of dollars in loans to developing nations to counter China’s global infrastructure initiatives. What was the pushback there?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Martha, in fact, what we have is largely agreement on the need to offer a much more attractive alternative to the model that the China’s proposing for the world. And the communique coming out of this summit is going to reflect that. You know, back – the last time these leaders got together in 2018, China was not even mentioned. But here we have a commitment to work together on something called Build Back Better for the World to work on pooling investments, pooling funds, bringing the private sector in to make investments in health, in infrastructure, in technology for low and middle-income countries in a way that will produce new markets for our own products and also offer a much more attractive alternative to what China is trying to do in these countries.
But across the board, I’ve got to say what I saw in the last couple days – I’ve been at a number of these G7s over the years, almost 25 years. This is maybe the most consequential one I’ve ever taken part in. This is one that’s actually demonstrated that democracies coming together can deliver in concrete ways for their people and for people around the world. A million vaccine doses for countries around the world; a commitment to put in place a better system to prevent the next pandemic or to mitigate it; this commitment on building back better for the rest of the world; an agreement on getting a corporate minimum tax of 15 percent around the world so we can avoid a race to the bottom and countries can have a stronger tax base and resources to really help their people on health, on education, on infrastructure; a commitment to deal with coal-fired plants, to stop their financing – this is the largest contributor to global emissions. The G7 is coming together to do something about it.
So across the board, whether it’s China or anything else, we’re demonstrating that democracies can actually deliver, and President Biden I think has done a very effective job in bringing all of our countries together in common cause.
QUESTION: We are just days away from the summit with Putin, which comes after a string of serious cyber attacks in our country, the jailing of opposition leader Aleksey Navalny, the forced landing of a commercial airliner to arrest an opposition journalist in Belarus. Was there any thought of canceling this upcoming summit?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Martha, on the contrary. The President’s not seeing President Putin in spite of all of these things, it’s precisely because of them, to be able to talk to him directly, clearly about these profound differences, and also to see if we can have a more predictable, stable relationship, but equally to make clear that if Russia chooses to continue to act aggressively, to act recklessly, we’ll respond forcefully, as the President’s already done, including in response to election interference, to the attack on Mr. Navalny, to the SolarWinds cyber attack.
QUESTION: We’ve already sanctioned Russia for the SolarWinds hack last year, but Microsoft says it was the exact same group that was behind a cyber attack on government agencies this year. In 2014, President Obama authorized tough sanctions after Russia moved into Crimea. They’re still there. Can you give us an example of when sanctions have changed Vladimir Putin’s behavior?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, there are a few things. One is you never know the dogs that don’t bark. Sanctions on Ukraine – on Russia for Ukraine, for example, may well have prevented even further Russian aggression and trying to take more of the country over the years. We’ve worked to sustain those sanctions and we’re making sure that we’re showing our commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, its sovereignty, its independence. But here’s what’s also different, Martha: We’ll be coming – the President will be coming to this meeting with President Putin coming off of the G7 Summit —
QUESTION: But do you think – but do you – but I want to stop you there. Do you think —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — the NATO summit, the meeting with the EU.
QUESTION: — sanctions work?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think that sanctions are – can be, especially when they’re done in coordination with other countries – and this is what’s critical. When we do them alone, they tend to be less effective than when we do them in close collaboration with other countries. We’re now coming off of G7, we’ll be coming off of NATO, we’ll be coming off of an EU meeting. Collectively, when our countries are actually working together, rowing in the same direction militarily, economically, diplomatically, politically, it’s an incredibly powerful force. We represent together more than 50 percent of the world’s GDP. And one of the things you may have noticed this week is there was a poll done across most of the countries that we’ll be working with this week – 75 percent now have confidence in President Biden in an American leadership. That’s up from 17 percent a year ago. That means we’re in a much stronger position than we’ve been in recent years to have all of our countries working together in common cause, including dealing with the excesses of Russia.
QUESTION: Before the G7 meeting, some European leaders had expressed some concern about the America is back message after years of Donald Trump’s America First. Did you sense any of that mistrust – and his hold on the Republican Party – worries from them that he could be back or someone just like him?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think, Martha, that if we continue to actually demonstrate in concrete ways that democracies working together are making a difference for their people and for people around the world, that’s going to be something that sustains itself. There’s going to be support for that. We have to – we have to prove the point. And I think we made a very, very strong start this week just with the G7 alone, again, on a billion shots in arms. By the way, not twisting arms as some other countries are trying to do when they’re getting vaccines around the world, but actually getting shots in arms, no political favors involved. On the environment, on investments in economies, on equitable tax treatment —
QUESTION: Secretary Blinken, I think I’ve let you cover that.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — so that countries can build a strong tax base. All of this is —
QUESTION: I want to turn back to the cyber attacks and those ransomware attacks —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Go ahead, please, Martha.
QUESTION: — like the Colonial pipeline attack.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Sure.
QUESTION: I know you say the Russian Government isn’t to blame for that, that it was Russian bad actors. But you do think Russia should take some sort of action. What do you expect them to do?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I’m going to leave that for the President with President Putin in the next few days. But here’s what I can tell you: No responsible country should be in the business of harboring in any way criminal organizations engaged in cyber attacks, including ransomware. And the President’s going to make that very clear to President Putin. We are looking for Russian cooperation in dealing with these criminal organizations to the extent they’re operating from Russian territory.
QUESTION: The White House has said that President Biden will not hold a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin. Why not?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Martha, I think the best way for the President to share with a free press and to take as many questions as possible about the meeting, about the conversation with President Putin, as well as to wrap up an entire week’s worth of travel with the G7, with NATO, with the EU is to be able to talk to that free press and to spend as much time as we can answering their questions.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks very much for that last answer. Appreciate you seeing – joining us this morning, and good luck this week.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks, Martha. Good to be with you. Thank you.