Interview With Derek McGinty of Gannett, WUSA9 News

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 18, 2014

QUESTION: (In progress) … a good time or a bad time to argue with Congress about the 1 percent of our budget we put to foreign policy?

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, I think it’s a terrific time to do it because I think people are seeing underscored the importance of America being active and engaged and leading and helping to protect the homeland, and that’s key.

QUESTION: Can we talk about Crimea for a minute? Russia has officially absorbed it despite the sanctions, despite the talk with Europe and the United States. It looks like, from the outside looking in – I’m no diplomat, but round one appears to be over and our side lost.

SECRETARY KERRY: I disagree completely. I think that this isolates Russia very significantly. We just had a vote in the UN. The vote was 13 in favor of our position condemning what had happened, and one abstention and only one no. The one no was Russia. That tells you the whole story. Russia is isolated. The entire European community, America and other parts of the world are outraged by what has happened. And you don’t win by being a bully and going in and living outside of the law. I think you wind up putting yourself on a course that’s very, very damaging and dangerous.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about that because critics argue that Putin is sort of a classic strongman, that he took our measure in Syria, Iran, other places and figured out that the West didn’t have the will to stop him from doing what he was doing.

SECRETARY KERRY: Again, I think that’s a complete mischaracterization. I don’t know anybody in America who has suggested to go to war over Crimea. You want to go to war over Crimea? I don’t know anybody who says, “You ought to go to war over Crimea.” So therefore, your options are economic and diplomatic and isolation.

Now, in the long run, Putin and Russia have a lot of challenges. They’ve got – they’re mostly a country that is taking gasoline and selling it. It’s a big gasoline station. They don’t make a lot of things.


SECRETARY KERRY: There are serious challenges in terms of their long-term economy, their demographics and so forth. The truth is that I think if you look at this isolation and what’s going to happen, they have their own challenges politically, even.


SECRETARY KERRY: You can’t run around knocking around Georgia and taking over Abkhazia and South Ossetia and then – and threatening Moldova and Transnistria and other places and win friends. That’s an important part of existing on this planet, and I think they’re going to have some problems.

QUESTION: So what are we prepared to do about it? What is Europe prepared to do about it? What’s the United States --

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we’ve already put some sanctions in place and --

QUESTION: Which he ignored.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, they say that. What do you expect? That’s what bullies do. But the fact is when they go home and their cronies and friends lose their apartments and their rich properties and they can’t move their money and they can’t travel to places, this bites. And over time, there’s a lot more that will come in that will make a difference.

QUESTION: Ukraine is talking about mobilizing its military just in case there’s more expansionistic activity, but their military is underfunded, they don’t have the arms. Is the United States looking at helping them militarily, as Senator John McCain has suggested?

SECRETARY KERRY: We are evaluating all the options, and the Senate passed a bill in the Foreign Relations Committee that includes some kind of assistance. They’ll be back next week. We are evaluating that. And we have a number of other options, but we’re looking at everything.

QUESTION: Diplomatically, where do we stand with Russia now? Is this the beginning of some sort of new East-West global confrontation?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we hope it’s not. I mean, we don’t want that, obviously, but we’re not going to back down. We’re prepared to completely defend the international legal system by which countries have behaved ever since World War II – we think that’s vital – and throughout the Cold War. And I’m sorry that President Putin is living out and lamenting his loss of the Soviet Union and his desire to sort of reconstitute the empire, but I don’t think that’s the way the world is moving.

QUESTION: Putin says --

STAFF: Last question.

QUESTION: Okay, then I’ll skip to the last question. Can you make the case to regular Americans who are trying to figure out how to pay their bills why they should care about Crimea and what happens in Eastern Europe?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, they should care about the upholding of the international structure by which countries have operated so they don’t invade each other, so they don’t go to war, so that there are standards which govern the behavior of nations between each other. We do that in trade, we do that with respect to conflict, we have the United Nations, we have NATO, we have various – the International Court of Justice, different things by which we try to regulate behavior. And when people just say, “The hell with it,” and do whatever they want, that takes us back to the 19th century, the 18th century. That’s not where the world or we in the United States or most countries want to go.

QUESTION: Just to follow up. So you’re saying that the world becomes a lot less stable and a lot more unsafe if they (inaudible)?

SECRETARY KERRY: Absolutely. More unsafe, more volatile, the marketplace becomes more unsafe, people don’t have stability and certainty about the movement of capital, you have conflict, you have – economies are held back. I mean, there are all kinds of restraints. You lose trade opportunities, you lose exchange opportunities, students, different – it just tears apart the process. And it’s only happening because one country and one leader decided that they just wanted something and they were going to do something without regard to the rest of the system.

QUESTION: All right. Secretary John Kerry, thank you so much.