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Blinken to Rubio: “Senator, I share your basic analysis”

Mar 22, 2023 | Press Releases

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) discussed the emerging geopolitical conflict with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a Senate Appropriations Hearing.

 approps hearing

Click here for video and read a transcript below.

RUBIO: I think history is always instructive. One of the things that’s most interesting about history is, if you look back at these pivot moments in human history, the people that lived through them didn’t realize that’s what was happening. When you’re living a hinge moment in history, you’re busy with everyday life and everything else that’s going on, and sometimes you don’t entirely perceive it. 
So I’m pleased as I read the beginning of your statement here…. You wrote, “We meet at an inflection point. The post-Cold War world is over and there’s an intense competition underway to determine what comes next.” It’s an acknowledgment that this is not what it was like 10 years ago, five years ago. And that’s important. 
I would argue that we’re beyond simply…strategic competition. I don’t say this with any joy in my heart, but simply because it’s par for the course in human history—I think we’re entering, perhaps, the beginning of a period of conflict. Which doesn’t necessarily mean military conflict, but conflict nonetheless. 
We have an all-out war in Europe that’s most clearly a conflict, and a globalized one. People call it a proxy war, but it’s been globalized. We saw that very clearly yesterday with Xi’s visit to Moscow. But beyond that, we have seen the rise of, by necessity, militarization in Germany, Japan. Nothing that we’re against, frankly, given the necessities of the world. But this post-Cold War, post-World War II order, in which both countries decided that they were going to be less martial—necessity has changed it for both of them. A positive development for our alliance, but nonetheless a reality. 
We have these nine Eastern European countries that are even more hawkish than the rest of Europe. Geography puts them right at the edge of Russia’s aggression, and they can see very clearly what’s happening. We have very clear outlines of this emerging conflict [between] the US, the West, the democracies, and the China-Russia alliance. They don’t want to call it that, but that’s what it is. In conjunction with others like Iran potentially participating as well. And then these dozens and dozens of developing, so-called non-aligned nations all trying to cut deals for themselves. We saw that with Saudi Arabia. You see it throughout Africa. 
And then on top of that, in this emerging bloc of [China and Russia], it’s not simply these military alliances. We’re seeing the rise of alternatives to the SWIFT banking system, to the U.S. dollar, ways to the [facilitate the] growth of countries that now have a vested interest in figuring out how to evade sanctions. You see supply chain diversity. Europe is diversifying where it gets its energy, and the rest of the world is diversifying. I think…the market is responding to the fact that we’re entering a period of conflict. 
It is in that vein that I’m really concerned about whether we can continue to afford to do some of the things that we’re doing. I don’t mean from a dollar standpoint, but from a geopolitical standpoint. For example, last summer, the State Department released a report attacking the Solomon Islands for their stance on same-sex marriage. It alienated their partners there. The next week, they signed a mutual security agreement with Beijing in the Pacific, and the prime minister declined to participate in the commemoration of the memorial marking the Battle of Guadalcanal. 
That’s just one example. I could take 10 or 15 minutes to go through each of these and point to different places where we’ve aligned ourselves in that way…. We have to understand we are entering a period of geopolitical competition bordering on conflict—diplomatic conflict, economic conflict, and, God forbid, potentially military conflict. As a result, [we] need to govern ourselves accordingly. Not that these values or whatever our values may be don’t matter, but our approach has to look very different than it did five, 10, 15 years ago, when the U.S. was the world’s sole superpower, and we had, in many cases, the luxury to be able to go through and do some of these things.
It’s not that these issues don’t matter, it’s that none of these issues are going to matter if 15, 10 or five years from now, we live in a world in which the dominant economic, military, and technological power in the world is in the hands of authoritarian regimes who resemble what the vast majority of human history looks like—led by despots, where there are no individual rights and all these things that have made not just our prosperity and freedom possible, but the world a better place. Isn’t it time for us to view the world through the lens of the beginnings, the early stages of a geopolitical conflict?
BLINKEN: Senator, I share your basic analysis. And I think that in a sense, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We have worked from day one to do two things, foundational things. 
One is to support important investments in ourselves, which I talked about a little earlier, to make sure that we’re as strong and competitive as we can be. And I think thanks to Congress, we’ve made those historic investments. And the Chips and Science Act is maybe the best example. But second, we have worked from day one both to reengage, rejuvenate, and strengthen our existing alliances and partnerships, but also build new ones, new coalitions of countries, and even beyond countries, that are fit for purpose in dealing with different parts of the challenge that I think you described very, very well. 
Just to give you one quick example, when we’re dealing with the challenge posed to supply chains around the world, to make sure that we have and benefit from diversified and resilient supply chains, we brought together countries in a coalition to do that, to nearshore and friendshore, to have early warning systems in place if [chains are] being disrupted, and also, through something called the Mineral Securities Partnership, to make sure that the United States and like-minded countries are focused on ensuring that we’re able to invest in…the critical minerals that are so important to so much of what we’re doing. 
When it comes to our engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, the Indo-Pacific, we have put that on full throttle. We’ve reopened an embassy, as you know, in the Solomon Islands. We’re looking at other places in the Pacific Islands where we can make sure that we’re present in ways that we haven’t been in recent years, precisely because we are engaged in a competition. And I could go down the list of different collections of fit for purpose partnerships that we built to deal with exactly the world that you’re describing. 
I do think…that the values that unite us are also usually important to the strength and solidarity of these alliances and partnerships. Now, not every country that we need to be working with is in the same place that we are. I think we recognize that, and we need to make sure that we’re adjusting and flexible enough for that. 
The last thing is this. There are a number of countries that are looking, as you know, very carefully at what’s happening, making their own decisions in some sense, making their own bets about which direction they’re going to go in. And from my perspective, this is less about saying to them, you have to choose, and more [about] offering them a choice. If we’re able to do that, for example, in being able to catalyze real infrastructure investment, that’s a race to the top, not a race to the bottom. They’re going to choose us. 
We also have to have some strategic patience. There are countries that have had…, for decades, relationships, for example, with Russia, where moving away from that, as they want to do, is not like flipping a light switch. It is moving an aircraft carrier. We have to work with them to do that. 
But I share the basic picture that you’ve painted and really welcome working with you to figure out the most effective ways to deal with it. Thank you.