Secretary of State Kerry discusses Brexit, terrorism in talk at Aspen Ideas
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hinted at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Tuesday that the Brexit decision could be reconsidered, but the U.S. won’t “meddle.”
Kerry, who was in Brussels and London as part of a four-country tour earlier this week, said opponents of Thursday’s vote for Great Britain to leave the European Union might force another election in the next year or so. He noted that Google searches in Great Britain for “What is the EU?” and “What is the Brexit?” spiked after the election.
“There’s a lot of talk in England today about another vote,” he said.
Kerry was a keynote speaker at the Aspen Institute’s annual Ideas Festival. Hundreds of people packed the Greenwald Pavilion to listen to his 40-minute presentation, followed by a Q&A with Institute President Walter Isaacson and the audience.
“Walk back” the decision?
Isaacson asked Kerry if Great Britain’s decision could be “walked back.” Kerry replied there are several possible avenues.
“As Secretary of State, I don’t want to throw them out today,” he said. I think that would be a mistake. There are a number of ways.”
He said the U.S. won’t play a role in the negotiations over Great Britain’s exit from the EU. “We don’t want to meddle,” he said.
Kerry said the U.S. would go on with business as usual if the split between Great Britain and EU advances. The U.S. would continue to collaborate with both, he said. Kerry stressed that the shared values among the countries are the same today as before the vote.
He has already talked to members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that the U.S. continues to support the defense pact among 28 countries.
“NATO’s going to be strong. I don’t have a doubt about it,” he said.
“The world as I see it”
In a fast-moving presentation, Kerry gave a glimpse of “the word as I see it as secretary of state.” He claimed we are living in a much more complicated world than at any other time in history. People are more connected via social media, but that connection also “underscores what you don’t have.”
“There are a whole lot of people who feel they’ve been left behind,” Kerry said.
The threats from “radical non-state actors,” both in the U.S. and overseas, will remain a challenge, he said. Kerry noted during his 3 p.m. presentation that information was still coming in on the attacks at the Istanbul airport.
He called on the U.S. to expand efforts to fight terrorists “wherever they raise their heads.” He also called for more spending to strike at the roots of violent extremism.
“Terrorist recruiters are on the prowl,” Kerry said. To offset their efforts, the U.S. must step up its efforts to spend more to fight corruption, invest in education, spur entrepreneurship and show the better alternatives to terrorism.
Without those moves, the U.S. will be playing “whack a terrorist” for thousands of years, he said.
Touts record on terrorism
When asked by Isaacson if President Barack Obama is taking enough action against ISIS in Syria, he said the president knows more must be done and he’s determining what steps are needed. Obama has increased the number of ground troop “enablers” that help advise fighters there, he said. The U.S. also continues to negotiate with Russia on a common approach.
“It’s a mixed bag and we’re trying to get clarity,” he said.
Kerry said he feels there will never be peace in Syria with Bashar Hafez al-Assad as president. However, the “layers of interest” in the country make solutions more complicated.
Regarding broader foreign policy efforts, Kerry touted the Obama administration’s fight against terrorism, defended an agreement on nuclear weapons with Iran and lobbied for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact that isn’t yet in force. He said he is optimistic about the opportunities in foreign relations rather than resigned to thinking there is global gridlock.
Key points by Kerry included:
There have been 13,000 airstrikes against ISIS. More than 100 top leaders have been killed and their forces reduced by one-third. Their revenue has been cut at least by half, in part by shutting off oil sales.
He said the deal with Iran removes the potential for the country to have nuclear weapons. He acknowledged Iranian relations are difficult and unpredictable. “We had people bitterly opposed in America to the deal with Iran,” he said.
The trade pact with Pacific Rim countries makes sense for the U.S. a world where 95 percent of consumers live in other countries, Kerry said. The proposed pact has labor and environmental standards. “It’s a game-changer,” he said.
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