QUESTION: The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. We covered hot spots around the world, beginning with Putin’s latest moves in Ukraine.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think it’s another sign of Putin’s desperation. Just in the last few weeks, he’s tried to mobilize more forces. He’s gone through with this sham annexation of Ukrainian territory. Now, and saying that he’s declaring martial law in places that he claims have people who somehow want to be part of Russia. That speaks to his desperation.
QUESTION: But also in parts of Russia it seems like he’s preparing for all-out war.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: What we’ve seen already in the steps that Putin has taken, going increasingly after the civilian population in Ukraine, indiscriminately bombing, targeting even, power plants, bombs falling on schools, on hospitals – that’s pretty close.
QUESTION: How much worse will it get if he has to retreat from Kherson?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, it’s hard to predict where he’s going to go and what he’s going to do. Our purpose is simple: it’s to stand with the Ukrainians, to make sure that their country remains independent, and ultimately to have the strongest possible hand at the negotiating table if one emerges. Because President Zelenskyy has said himself at some point this is going to end through diplomacy.
QUESTION: But he also said he’s not going to negotiate with Vladimir Putin, only with the next Russian president.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, he’s been clear that diplomacy is going to have to bring this to an end at some point. But what we’ve seen thus far is no interest on the part of Putin in meaningful diplomacy.
QUESTION: Your read, and the read of so many military analysts right now, is that Vladimir Putin is losing this war. He’s desperate. If he responds with nuclear weapons, what happens?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’ve been very clear with President Putin directly and privately about the severe consequences that would follow from any – any use of a nuclear weapon. We’re watching this very, very carefully. We have not seen reason at this point to change our own nuclear posture.
QUESTION: So you think he’s still rational?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, it’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s mind. I think he’s rational, but the decisions he’s making – or maybe better put, his objectives – are not rational.
QUESTION: We’ve seen them using these Iranian drones.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s a sign that the sanctions that we imposed, including these export controls, have been denying Russia much of the technology it needs to replace what it’s using up or to build new things. So it’s having to look around the world wherever it can to find more weapons.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about China, President Xi about to embark on another term. You said just the other day that you’re now convinced that China is going to seek reunification with Taiwan on a much faster timeline. What does that mean?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: For many, many years, there was a basic understanding when it came to Taiwan. Whatever differences existed between Beijing and Taiwan would be resolved peacefully. What changed is this: a decision that was made in Beijing some years ago that that was no longer acceptable and that the government wanted to speed up the reunification, and to do it —
QUESTION: By any means necessary?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Potentially by any means, through coercion and pressure and potentially, if necessary, by force. Taiwan is the major manufacturer of semiconductors. Our smart phones, they all have chips in them. A lot of that is manufactured in Taiwan. If that’s disrupted, that would have a major impact on the global economy.
QUESTION: But China is so much larger than Taiwan. If they want to take Taiwan, at some point they’re just going to do it, aren’t they?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We are committed to doing everything we can to make sure that Taiwan has the ability to effectively defend itself against aggression. And we’ve also made very clear to China that our expectation is these differences will be resolved peacefully.
QUESTION: President Biden about to announce this afternoon release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at a time when Saudi Arabia is not cooperating on the energy front. And that’s led many of the President’s allies to question whether Saudi Arabia is actually an ally anymore.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: The step that Saudi Arabia and the OPEC+ organization took was one that was deeply unfortunate and also deeply misguided. To the extent that this causes oil prices to go up and Russia is exporting oil, it’s helping to line Putin’s pockets. Second, we’re all trying to restore economic growth. That’s exactly the wrong time to engage in production cuts.
And to the extent that they’re concerned about oil prices going down, if things are going in a direction that they really don’t like, they can make a decision then. But there was no reason to make the decision when they made it in recovery from —
QUESTION: So that’s not the actions of an ally, is it?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: In this instance, it’s not. But we have a multiplicity of interests with Saudi Arabia.
QUESTION: We spent the last 20 minutes going through all the challenges facing the United States right now. And when I talk to friends and family, and they wake up with the headlines every day, they say it seems to them that the world is more dangerous now than it’s ever been. What do you say to that?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I say, yes, it is – it is dangerous. It is complicated. It is full of challenge. And part of it is because we know what’s happening around the world in real time in ways that we never did before.
But at the same time, I’m also seeing incredible opportunities. One of the first instructions I got from President Biden taking this job was to re-energize our partnerships. Most of the problems that we actually have to solve that people are worried about, we have to be able to work with other countries. That’s what our diplomacy is all about. Later today here in Philadelphia, I’m going to get a chance to swear in some new American citizens, one of the thing – parts of my job that gives me the greatest satisfaction.
QUESTION: Your face just lit up.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: It’s the renewal of our country. My late stepfather, he was – he became a citizen of the United States. And he used to say to me, “You are an American citizen by a very happy accident of birth. I’m an American by choice.” That’s a very powerful thing. That’s what carries our country forward.
QUESTION: Those naturalization ceremonies are always so powerful, and at yesterday’s there were two dozen people sworn in from countries all over the world, including China, Russia, and Ukraine.