US Secretary of State John Kerry robustly defended the eight-year legacy of the Obama administration and the indispensable role of the United States in international affairs.
“The US has been more engaged in more issues and more crises simultaneously … than at any time in American history,” Kerry said.
Kerry made the comments at the 47th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, which is taking place on January 17-20 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland
To his friends in Europe, Kerry said that “Europe has got to believe in itself.”
The reason for Europe’s 70-year journey was not economic; it was to stop Europeans killing Europeans. “It’s worked, folks!,” said Secretary Kerry, adding: “On the face of the planet, no assembly of countries has grown as significantly and powerfully as Europe.” Blaming Europe or free trade for job losses is the “wrong analysis” – new technology is mainly to blame, he said.
Kerry singled out the Iran deal as a key part of his legacy. There are now just 5,000 centrifuges spinning compared to 19,000 before the deal. Iran no longer has enough nuclear material to build a bomb and it is enriching uranium at one-fifth of the previous rate. If the incoming US administration were to pull out of the deal, Kerry predicted that the remaining signatories, including China, Russia and the EU, would stick by the agreement, while the US would inflict a “great injury” on its reputation.
On Syria, Kerry pointed to his achievement of bringing Iran and Russia to the table to agree on a peace deal. The parties to the conflict are now nearing exhaustion and the crisis will be solved along the lines of the deal agreed in Vienna: a new constitution, a transitional political process and elections. Equally important is to stay focused on defeating ISIS, a task made possible by the 68-nation coalition that the US built for the purpose.
Kerry added: “We are going to defeat Daesh and we’re going to do it without losing our values.”
Affirming that he is a “passionate supporter of Israel”, Kerry nonetheless reserved some of his strongest criticism for the current Israeli leadership and its policy of ever-expanding settlements.
“What is happening today,” Kerry cautioned, “is a recipe for permanent insurgency.”
On climate change, Kerry noted that the success of the Paris agreement was in large part due to the Obama administration’s engagement with China. Within weeks of being sworn in, Kerry set up a working group with China to plan a simultaneous announcement one year later of their respective commitments to reducing emissions. These announcements provided impetus for other states to commit, as well as sending a powerful signal to the marketplace.
Kerry issued a call for the global community to come together with a modern Marshall Plan, leveraging the power of the private sector to tackle the ongoing burdens of disease, deprivation and lack of education facing one-quarter of the planet’s under-15-year olds.
“I’m an optimist,” Kerry said: “We will come out of this self-inflicted despair and kick ourselves into gear and get things done.”