Antony J. Blinken

Post G7 Press Conference in New Delhi

delivered 2 March 2023, Lela Palace, New Delhi, India

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Good evening, everyone, and apologies for doing this so late. I hope I'm not disrupting people's dinner plans.

We just finished a marathon day at the G20. We came together to focus on solving some of the most consequential problems affecting people of our nations and the world. And let me begin by thanking our host, India, for setting out an ambitious agenda for this meeting, and for its presidency of the G20.

We met here in Delhi roughly one year after President Putin launched his war of aggression on Ukraine, and one week after 141 countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly for a resolution that expressed the support for a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace, in accordance with the United Nations charter and its principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity and deplores the human rights and humanitarian consequences of Russia's aggression. Not a single G20 member voted with Russia to oppose that resolution.

The chair's statement by India today reaffirmed the declaration issued by the G20 leaders last year in Bali, which -- and I quote -- "strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy," end quote. Russia and China were the only two countries that made clear that they would not sign on to that text. Eighteen members of the G20 also reaffirmed that it is -- and I quote -- "essential to uphold international law and the multilateral system. This includes defending all of the purposes and principles enshrined in the charter of the United Nations and adhering to international humanitarian law," end quote.

Every G20 member -- and virtually every country, period -- continues to bear the cost of Russia's war of aggression, a war that President Putin could end tomorrow, if he chose to do so. The United States didn't want this war. We worked hard to prevent it. Like most countries, we want to focus on the fundamental challenges affecting the daily lives of our people. So even as we stand with Ukraine while it defends itself, as any nation would do in that position, we're also determined to keep working with other countries to deliver solutions to these shared challenges.

And that is exactly what we did today at the G20. These challenges include the unprecedented food security crisis around the world. We've got to do two things at once -- get food to the hungry now, but also help countries build up their agricultural productivity and resilience so that they're less vulnerable to future shocks. The United States is leading on both fronts. In addition to funding more than half of the World Food Program's entire budget, we've contributed $13.5 billion to fight hunger over the last year alone, and we've committed more than $11 billion over the next five years to boost countries' resilience and nutrition.

African countries in particular have told us time and again that, more than aid, what they want is help building the sustainable capacity to feed their own people, and we're teaming up to do just that. Now the unprecedented levels of food insecurity have been driven primarily by climate, by COVID, and by conflicts, but the crisis has been worsened intentionally by President Putin, who's weaponized the hunger of people across the globe.

Thanks in large part to UN Secretary-General Guterres and Türkiye, the Black Sea Grain Initiative loosened Russia's stranglehold on Ukraine's ports, allowing more than 22 million metric tons of grain and other food -- that's the equivalent of eight billion loaves of bread -- to leave Ukraine's ports through global markets. And that's lowered the price of food for people everywhere.

Today, Russia is again slow walking the export of food from Ukraine. And with the Black Sea Initiative set to expire on March 18th, Russia has refused to commit to renewing it. The message that countries sent at today's meeting is clear -- extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative and strengthen it and do that without delay.

We also discussed ways to counter the proliferation and trafficking of illicit synthetic drugs, like fentanyl and methamphetamine. In the United States alone, fentanyl killed more than 70,000 people last year. It's the number-one killer of Americans aged 18 to 49. No country can tackle this problem alone. Disrupting supply chains of precursors, preventing the diversion of legal chemicals to illegal uses, dismantling the transnational criminal groups that foster corruption and profit off of others' suffering, these are challenges that demand a coordinated global effort.

That's why it's important that, for the first time, G20 ministers called for a strong, international cooperation to counter illicit synthetic drugs, and it's why I proposed to my fellow ministers today at the G20 that we create a focused line of effort to bring together governments, international and regional organizations, private sectors, and others to tackle this problem. This is a law enforcement and security issue, but it's fundamentally a public health issue and an increasingly global one.

Today, we also discussed other challenges, where people around the globe expect our countries to work together, like addressing the climate crisis, helping communities adapt to the inevitable changes it's causing, strengthening global health security, so that we're better prepared to prevent, detect, and respond to future health emergencies.

I also had the opportunity to speak on the margins of today's meetings with counterparts from Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, and, of course, India. And let me first commend the Indian presidency and Foreign Minister Jaishankar for securing G20 consensus on a broad set of agreements, reflected in the Chair Summary and Outcome Document. That's a first for G20 foreign ministers.

Now Minister Jaishankar and I speak so frequently that we just pick up right where we left off, working to elevate our Strategic Partnership in concrete ways, supporting India's very ambitious G20 agenda, advancing the U.S.-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology, which President Biden and Prime Minister Modi launched at the G20 Summit in Bali last May, engaging our shared commitment to human rights and democratic values.

Tomorrow the foreign minister and I will join our counterparts from Japan and Australia for a meeting of the Quad, where key areas of focus will include protecting the free and unrestricted movement of goods and people across our seas, and boosting cooperation against -- around humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the importance of which has been brought once again into sharp relief by the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria.

Our engagement with the Quad and the G20 are just a few of the examples of how the United States is weaving together alliances and partnerships to enhance our capacity to deliver for our citizens. That's why I began this trip in Central Asia, where I joined my counterparts for the C5+1 ministerial. The more of these partnerships that we build, strengthen, and stitch together, the more we're able to effectively tackle transnational challenges that affect our people, broaden opportunities for Americans, bolster our security, and advance our interests.

And what we're seeing in Delhi, in Astana, in Tashkent, and beyond is that countries want to partner with the United States, because they see us showing up to solve shared problems, fostering inclusive economic growth, investing in our own competitiveness, and standing up for the international rules of the road that benefit all countries, including the right of every country to choose its own path, free from violence, coercion, and threats.

Lastly, I spoke briefly with Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov on the margins of our G20 meeting today. I urged Russia to reverse its irresponsible decision, and return to implementing the New START Treaty, which places verifiable limits on the nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Russian Federation. Mutual compliance is in the interest of both our countries. It's also what people around the world expect from us, as nuclear powers. I told the foreign minister that, no matter what else is happening in the world or in our relationship, the United States will always be ready to engage and act on strategic arms control, just as the United States and the Soviet Union did, even at the height of the Cold War.

I also raised the wrongful detention of Paul Whelan, as I have on many previous occasions. The United States has put forward a serious proposal. Moscow should accept it. We're determined to bring Paul and every other American citizen who is unjustly detained around the world home. We won't rest until we do.

Finally, I told the foreign minister what I and so many others said last week at the United Nations, and what so many G20 foreign ministers said today: end this war of aggression; engage in meaningful diplomacy that can produce a just and durable peace. President Zelenskyy has put forward a 10-point plan for a just and durable peace. The United States stand ready to support Ukraine through diplomacy to end the war on this basis. President Putin, however, has demonstrated zero interest in engaging, saying there's nothing to even talk about unless and until Ukraine accepts -- and I quote -- "the new territorial realities," while doubling down on his brutalization of Ukraine.

Independent of what Russia does, we showed here in Delhi what we will do: deliver results on the problems most affecting our peoples' lives. Our hosts are committed to doing this over the course of their G20 presidency. For that, and for their leadership and hospitality, I'd like to close by expressing my gratitude to India.

And with that, happy to take some questions.

Mr. Patel: We'll first go to Iain Marlow with Bloomberg.

Question: Thank you, Secretary. There's been rising concerns in recent years about democratic backsliding and human rights issues in India, including the rights of religious minorities, and recently with a move against the news organization the BBC. Did you raise U.S. concerns about these issues with your Indian counterpart today, and are you concerned at all that the situation might worsen heading into next year's federal election in India?

And secondly, Reuters has reported that the U.S. is speaking with allies about potential sanctions for China if it sends lethal aid to Russia for use in Ukraine, as you've warned about in the past. Can you comment at all on those discussions and more broadly about your conversations with counterparts today relating to China's relationship with Moscow? Thank you.

SecState Blinken: Thank you. First, on India, we're the world's two biggest democracies. We're committed to an enduring project, both of us -- in our case, as our founders put it, striving to form a more perfect union. That's part of our national ethos. It's a project for both of us, India and the United States, in different but also complementary ways.

So we have to work together to show that our democracies can actually deliver on our peoples' needs, and we have to continue to hold ourselves to our core values, including respect for universal human rights, like freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, which makes our democracy stronger. So we regularly engage with our Indian counterparts to encourage the Indian Government to uphold its own commitments to protect human rights, just as we look to ourselves to do the same thing. And in most conversations that I have with my counterpart, Foreign Minister Jaishankar, this is an issue that we discussed, again, as we did today.

With regard to China and its support for Russia's aggression in Ukraine, as we've said from the start -- and as President Biden made very clear to President Xi going back to the very beginning of the Russian aggression -- were China to engage in material, lethal support for Russia's aggression or were to engage in the systematic evasion of sanctions to help Russia, that would be a serious problem for our countries.

When I saw Senior Foreign Policy Official Wang Yi in the margins of the Munich meetings just a week or so ago, I raised with him our very real concern that based on information we have, China is considering supplying lethal military assistance to Russia. We've not seen it do that yet, but we've seen it considering that proposition. And what I shared with him again was that this would be a serious problem for us in our relationship with China, and I made clear that there would be consequences for engaging in those actions.

So I'm not going to detail what they would be, but of course we have sanctions authorities of various kinds that would certainly be one of the things that we and others would look at. And I say others because this concern that China is considering providing lethal military assistance to Russia, this is a shared concern. And many other partners have raised this, and not just raised this with us, but -- it's my understanding -- have raised it directly with China, including here today in Delhi.

Mr. Patel: Let's next go to Maha Siddiqui with NDTV.

Question: Secretary Blinken, even though there's been an outcome statement and the chair summary, in two successive ministerial meetings we've not seen consensus in the form of a joint communique. Do you see that as a set back in the run up to the summit in September, and were you perhaps able to communicate this to your Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov when you met him on the sidelines today?

SecState Blinken: So I think what we've seen here, as I mentioned, is actually a first, which is an outcomes document which reflects shared agreements on a number of issues by all of the foreign ministers represented here today. And in the particular case of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, you have virtually everyone in the G20 signing onto what had already been stated in Bali -- and the two holdouts of course were Russia and China. So I think we see broad consensus across the G20 to work together, to act together, and to make commitments together.

Prime Minister Modi said today that we should not allow issues that we cannot resolve together to come in the way of those that we can. And I think what we saw today is a very good reflection of what the prime minister said -- that is work and agreement on a whole series of lines of effort that the G20 will take to address the issues of greatest concern to people around the world. And that's been the focus of the United States.

We want to make sure that, even as we and dozens of countries around the world are standing up for the basic principles at the heart of the UN Charter that are being trampled on by Russia and its aggression against Ukraine, we're at the same time also working every single day to address the concerns of people around the world on the issues that are really affecting their lives -- whether it is food insecurity, whether it's climate change, whether it's creating economic opportunity, building global health resilience, et cetera. All of those things we've advanced on yet again here at the G20, and my full expectation is that, when the leaders get together, you'll see further very concrete outcomes that reflect that consensus.

Mr. Patel: Simon Lewis, Reuters.

Question: Thank you. Just to follow up a little bit on what you just discussed on the G20 today, Prime Minister Modi also mentioned in his comments today that multilateralism is in crisis and talked about the architecture of global governance having failed. I wonder if you agreed with that assessment. And since the G20 failed once again to reach a consensus, putting a slightly finer point on it, can this forum still function with Russia as a member? And just to add on your conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov, I wondered why was it that you felt that this was the moment to raise those issues with the foreign minister.

SecState Blinken: Thanks, [Simon]. First, I'd say that of course Prime Minister Modi is right that there are real challenges to the multilateral system, and those challenges in many ways are coming directly from Russia, which has been violating the very principles that lie at the heart of that system and that the system was designed to uphold. And so that is a challenge. And we see that playing out as well, for example, with the United Nations Security Council, where we have two countries in particular that tend to block the attempted actions of the council to address some of the most urgent global concerns.

On the other hand, what we've seen, I think, speaking very powerfully and eloquently, is the multilateral system in a variety of ways. Three quarters of it coming together at the UN General Assembly to condemn Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine and to insist on a just and durable peace -- that's the multilateral system. And we see it here today at the G20 thanks to India's leadership. As I said just a moment ago, even as we're focused on making sure that Russia can't succeed in its aggression against Ukraine, we're equally focused on engaging and solving problems that affect people around the world and that they expect us to be focused on, and we're doing that through the G20. We're doing that through other multilateral organizations, everything from the G7 and numerous other organizations, including other organizations that are within the UN system. And we're working together on food security, on energy security, on climate, on global health. And I think we're delivering results.

So all of this is to say that, yes, of course, there are real challenges. The prime minister's right. But I think we've demonstrated, including here today in Delhi, that we can find workarounds. And those workarounds, when we have an outlier, can be found in the outcomes document that hopefully has been distributed to everyone. And again, it demonstrates real consensus and real commitment to work together to tackle issues that are affecting people in their daily lives. And as I said a moment ago, I'm also convinced that when the leaders get together to finalize some of these commitments, you'll see very strong results. And again, from the perspective of the United States, this is exactly what our people expect of us and what the world expects of us.

Mr. Patel: Suhasini Haidar, The Hindu.

Question: Secretary Blinken, I want you to just follow up on two of your answers already. You just said that you expect strong results when the leader summit happens at the G20. Just how do you see that happening? How do you see the road ahead for the G20 process given that now the document actually names Russia and China as holding up the consensus as well as not agreeing to the previous G20 statement that they had signed on to? They say, of course, that they have their reasons for doing that, but do you really think a joint statement can be forged in the next few months? Do you think the G20 process itself is in peril?

And if I could do a follow-up on Iain's question about the restrictions on a number of agencies, including NGOs, I wanted to ask specifically about restrictions on American agencies, apart from climate change NGOs as well as human rights NGOs -- specifically about funding restrictions placed on American agencies earlier like the Ford Foundation but now like the National Endowment for Democracy, the Center for Disease Control, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and others. Is that something that you raised with your Indian counterparts?

SecState Blinken: So two things. First, you're -- just to make sure that I understand, you're referring to restrictions that India would place -- would have placed on these organizations. We've taken up these questions in the past and we have discussed the importance of NGOs and civil society being able to function effectively and freely wherever they are in our own country and here in India. So to the extent that issues have come up related to NGOs, we've discussed them directly with our Indian counterparts.

As to projecting to the leaders' summit, first of all, I don't want to spoil the show. We'll let the leaders do their work and show the results. But whether that's reflected in a joint statement, whether it's reflected in a chair statement that shows that the overwhelming majority of the G20 countries agreed to work together on a course of action, honestly I don't think that makes a big difference. If there are going to be an outlier country or two, when you have 18 of the 20 agreed on what needs to be done and committed to working together to do it, again, that is effective multilateralism in action -- effective in actually addressing the world's concerns. I think that's what you saw today, and I am absolutely convinced that you'll see that when the leaders get together one way or another....

Mr. Patel: Thank you, everybody.

SecState Blinken: Thank you.

Mr. Patel: Thank you.

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