Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Tuesday defended the Obama administration’s foreign policy legacy, arguing that from nuclear weapons proliferation to climate change it has made the world more secure.
In a speech to the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, Kerry seemed to make a direct appeal to President-elect Donald Trump not to abandon international agreements or undermine alliances.
Kerry did not mention Trump by name, but said democracy is measured not by a particular vote, but by “whether we have the maturity to place the needs of the country above partisan concerns.”
Trump has vowed to dismantle or undercut much of what Kerry sees as the administration’s diplomatic achievements, including the Iran nuclear deal, the rapprochement with Cuba, the Paris agreement on climate changes, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
“It’s little wonder that some Americans want to turn inward and search for ways to fence off our own safety and prosperity from that of the international community,” Kerry said, in a reference to international trade deals. “No politician, no prime minister, no president can by edict or parliamentary decree shut off globalization. Because people want it. It is folly to think we can build a brighter future by hiding from the real world or by severing our connections to it.”
Kerry also took a swipe at Russia — a country Trump has said he wants to forge a friendlier relationship with. Kerry said economic sanctions put in place over the Kremlin’s intervention in Ukraine were a necessary punishment.
“We’ve heard a lot of self-congratulations coming out of Russia in recent times, but the ruble has declined, capital has fled and unemployment has climbed — all because of self-inflicted wounds,” he said.
He defended the Iran nuclear deal, saying it had blocked Tehran’s ability to obtain a nuclear weapon.
“Now, I know that some people have said that Iran is such a huge threat we shouldn’t even have attempted to do that — that we should have passed up the best chance we had for the international community to come together and block each and every one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon,” he said. “To me, that argument just doesn’t compute.”
He also made a case for continuing to support the climate change deal that more than 190 countries reached in Paris a year ago. Trump has said he would “cancel” it, though he has seemed to reconsider that position recently.
“Climate change is a dire threat to the future security and prosperity of our planet,” Kerry said. “Logic screams out to us that no country can plausibly claim to be a global leader if it fails to lead on climate change.”
Trump was meeting Tuesday with potential picks for secretary of state, including former governor Mitt Romney and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
In his most overt plea to the incoming administration not to reverse course, Kerry said that “success doesn’t require a change in direction, but instead bigger strides down the road that we’re already on.”
He concluded with an appeal to set aside the divisions the election generated.
“After the turmoil of the past few months, it is essential that we restore civility, honesty and reasonableness, common sense to the policy debates we have in this country,” Kerry said. “We cannot survive if we are a fact-free nation. It’s also essential that we not turn our back on the alliances, friendships and principles that have enabled the United States to lead in the world so productively and for so long. “
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