Euronews recently met up with John Kerry at the annual meeting of the Yalta European Strategy (YES) in Kiev.
The former US Secretary of State opened up to us on a range of issues from the North Korea crisis to global warming.
Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: “Mr Kerry, thank you for being with us on the Global Conversation. We have witnessed some massive political changes around the world over the past year. What’s the United States’ place in this new world? Do you see its role changing on the global arena?”
John Kerry, former US Secretary of State: “Well, I hope not. I believe the Unites States needs to be very engaged. I believe in multilateralism, I believe in extensive diplomacy and I think it’s very important for the United States to continue to lead on key issues, like climate change, non-proliferation, peace initiatives. My hope is that the United States will continue to play the important role we have. Now there are some indications that it’s moving in a different direction, and I find that very concerning. My hope is that we will continue to be as engaged as we have been in the past.”
Sasha Vakulina: “Speaking of moving in a different direction, if we speak of foreign policy amid the North Korea crisis, in what direction is the country going?”
John Kerry: “Well the United States remain deeply committed to a denuclearisation programme in North Korea and we are going to continue. And here I agree with the Trump policy about putting additional requests to China, asking China to do more, because China can do more. And the notion that North Korea is near collapse for the steps that have been taken is ridiculous. China can do more. We asked them to do more, we ratcheted it up, then we saw new, additional sanctions from the Trump administration, twice now, but still it is not enough. We know it’s not enough, I believe China knows it’s not enough.
“And I think it’s important for additional pressure to be put in place. China provides 100 percent of the fuel that flies the airplanes, drives the trucks and the cars of North Korea. They can have an effect. China is the source in Beijing of, perhaps, close to 100 percent of the banking facilities that take place for North Korea. So China clearly has the ability to have an impact here and my hope is that as China plays an increasingly important role in the world – which we look to and welcome – it will take greater responsibility and change the dynamics on DPRK.”
Sasha Vakulina: “What could Russia do to contain North Korea?”
John Kerry: “Russia needs to help China see that it’s an important step to take and Russia can be supportive of it. I mean the key in not to have a veto from either China or Russia in the UN Security Council.”
Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: “The current US administration has been trying to reverse some of the policies of the Obama administration, for example the Paris climate accord. I do know that this one has been particularly important to you.”
John Kerry: “Well it is because I was very involved in the negotiations of the climate change agreement and I was in Paris when we came to conclusion on it. I think that the decision that President Trump made to pull out of it is a huge mistake. It is not based on facts. It is not based on any science. And president Trump misrepresented to the world the rationale for pulling out because he said the Paris agreement places a burden on the United States. No, it doesn’t. There is nothing required by the Paris agreement of anybody. What happens is that each country is designing its own plan. So this is an opportunity for America to lead, it’s important to the world, there are millions of jobs to be created in the new energy sector. And I would like to see the United States continue to lead as we did under the Obama administration.”
Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: “Do you think it’s possible that the administration will reconsider this decision?”
John Kerry: “No way, I doubt in the near term. But I’ll tell you this: in America most of the states that matter in this – the big states of New York, New England, California – these states will continue to do what we said we would do in Paris. And the United States will, despite Mr Trump’s decision, meet its Paris agreements.”
Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: “Now, when you are no longer in the administration, what is it that keeps you awake at night now? What are your biggest concerns?”
John Kerry: “Well, first of all, I have learned not to stay awake at night unless I have to. I think you need to put thing in their right perspective. There are issues that concern me greatly. One of them is climate change, I just talked about it – we are not responding fast enough to the demands of climate change. Another is radical religious extremism, and the challenge of taking two billion young people under the age of 15 and making sure they get education and opportunity. I think that we could be doing a much better job of bringing modernity, health care, power, education opportunities to a lot of poor places in the world. I think there are many things we could be doing better than we are on a global basis, and I believe in the multilateral effort. So one of the things that concerns me right now is the current administration’s walking away from many of those kinds of responsibilities and leadership requirements.”
Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: “You’re now Yale’s first ever Distinguished Fellow for Global Affairs, is that correct?”
John Kerry: “I think that’s what they call it.” (Laughs)
Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: “What is the most popular question you get from students?”
John Kerry: “Well, most of the students ask me how they can get to do the things they want to do, ‘How do I get in politics?’ ‘How do I get into the foreign service?’ You know, they are thinking about their career, they are thinking about their future.”
Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: “What advice do you give them?”
John Kerry: “Well I try to tell them not to worry too much, not to rush it. You know, young people today have more time than they think to choose a career or to become involved in something. You don’t have to rush. In today’s world, you could have two or three careers. So there is plenty of time to pick something that is a real experiment, that is a risk and take the risk. And I tell them, ‘Don’t feel that you’ve got to get on a track and stick on that track alone too quickly, because then you’ll wonder in 10 or 15 years from now, ‘Wow, did I really test this, did I give it a chance?’‘. I think it’s important to give those things a chance.”
Sasha Vakulina, Euronews: “Thank you very much for this interview.”
John Kerry: “My pleasure.”