Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the insurrection attempt on the Capitol by President Donald Trump’s followers has hurt the United States’ ability to speak up for democracy and human rights, though he remains optimistic about American institutions.
“There’s no doubt that our ability to speak with that, that, that strong voice for democracy and human rights, took a hit with what happened on January 6,” Blinken said on “The Situation Room.” “But I gotta tell you, I actually see the glass as half full on that because we had a peaceful transition of power pursuant to our Constitution.”
Blinken spoke to CNN a day before the Senate convenes for Trump’s impeachment trial. The House voted to impeach the former president on January 13 on one charge of inciting an insurrection. The historic vote came a week before Trump left office, making him the only president in American history to be impeached twice.
While Trump is gone from office, the impact on US standing in the world continues to reverberate. Russia and China have mocked the US for the events of January 6, which shocked allies. Blinken said the US response is one of the things that makes it unique.
“We’ve had incredibly challenging moments and sometimes we’ve taken our own steps backwards. But what’s made us different is our willingness our ability to confront these challenges with full transparency in front of the entire world,” the top US diplomat said.
“Sometimes it’s incredibly difficult, sometimes it’s ugly, but I think we have a very strong story to tell about the resilience of democracy, the resilience of our institutions and the determination of this country to always try to form a more perfect union,” he added.
Blinken reiterated President Joe Biden’s commitment to alliances and reaffirming US leadership after President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy often left the US isolated and at odds with allies.
“Part one is showing up, re-engage,” Blinken said. “None of the big problems we face … not a single on can be addressed by any single country acting alone,” Blinken said, pointing to climate change, weapons of mass destruction. That means “a premium on diplomacy.”
Russia and Iran
Blinken said the US is relying on its close alliances to determine how to approach Russia as well, and hinted that the administration will work with Congress to take action with regard to the poisoning of Alexey Navalny. The opposition leader returned to Russia after recovering in Germany, five months after his near-brush with death. Navalny’s arrest shortly after his return and his subsequent jailing has prompted widespread protests across Russia.
“It seems apparent that a chemical weapon was used to try to kill Mr. Navalny,” Blinken said. “That violates the Chemical Weapons Convention and other obligations that Russia has.”
Such a move would also violate US sanctions that Congress has imposed on Russia,” he added. “We’re reviewing that, we’re looking at that very carefully, and when we have the results, we’ll take action.”
Blinken also repeated the administration’s determination that Iran should make the first move in negotiations over the US return to the international nuclear agreement. “If Iran returns to compliance … we would do the same thing,” Blinken said, and use the pact as a starting point to form a “longer and stronger agreement” that includes other matters, including Iran’s missile program.
Blinken said Trump had the right idea to take a “a tougher approach to China,” but then added, “the way he went about it was wrong across the board.” Blinken said the US has to approach China from a position of strength. “That means having strong alliances.. not denigrating our alliances,” he said.