May 17, 2021
Secretary of State Antony Blinken Denmark Visit Speech Transcript May 17
Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave remarks during a visit to Denmark on May 17, 2021. Read the transcript of his speech here.
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… accomplish together and all that this team accomplishes together. And we’re particularly pleased that we’re able to do this in person. I know we haven’t been able to do that that much over the last months, over the last year, so it’s great that you’re able to spend a little bit of time with us. To my mission colleagues and those who have been around U.S. foreign policy for the last two decades, I know that the Secretary needs no formal introduction, but I did quickly want to touch on just a couple of the highlights of his career. First, I want to say how pleased I am that there are still a few of us who started our careers in the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs at the State Department.
Secretary Blinken: (00:36)
At Canadian Affairs, yeah.
After that, the Secretary started in the National Security staff. He was the Senior Director for European Affairs, Democratic Staff Director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, National Security Advisor to then Vice President Biden, Principal Deputy National Security Advisor, and then Deputy Secretary of State for President Obama. And between all of that, he’s been a reporter, practiced law, and worked in civil society. But for all of that, for me personally, what has cast the longest shadow is the Secretary’s prowess in French. Early in my career as a young officer I was sent down to Leon to open up a small consulate there, and our ambassador at the time, [Felix Rohit 00:01:14], said, “Get out on the hustings, talk to the media, tell America’s story.”
All of which was great, except there was a guy at the NSC who spoke absolutely flawless French that the French media loved to turn to on a regular basis. So I would go out, talk to regional French TV, soldier my way through a conversation on whatever the issue of the day was, get back to the office, and sometimes think that would pretty well. Get ready for the next meeting thinking I’m going to get a pat on the back. That’s not how it went. The next meeting, it would be, “Yeah, Stewart, I saw you on TV and that wasn’t bad, but I heard Tony Blinken on TV last night. And what you meant to say was,” fill in the blank. So Mr. Secretary, you’ve always set the bar high and I appreciate you setting the bar high for the State Department today. So thanks for being with us. The floor is yours.
Secretary Blinken: (02:08)
Thank you, Stewart. Thank you so much. Thank you for a wonderful and also unique introduction. And indeed we did, we did both start in the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs. I recalled recently that the office that I had in the front office of EUR on the sixth floor at Main State, prior to my occupying it as a special assistant, the occupant was a large safe, which gives you some idea of the size of the office. There was just room for a small desk and myself. And, look, there’s progress in life. I move one floor up and I’ve got a window. So I think that’s not bad. But Stewart, thank you for not just for today, but for your leadership of this mission throughout. I’m really delighted to be here in Copenhagen. It’s actually been a while. I think I was here many years ago with President Clinton when he was here, I think in 1998, gave a memorable speech, open-air speech, with thousands of people. It was a very powerful, powerful time.
Secretary Blinken: (03:18)
But in between, lots of work with our colleagues here in one way or another, and this is a particular treat because we’ve finally started traveling again. That’s good. Mostly until this week, it’s been mask to mask. So now we’re face-to-face and that’s a big improvement. You all know and you’ve heard from President Biden that he is determined that we lead with our diplomacy, and to do that, to be the most effective department we can be, we need other countries, other nations by our side. We need to be working in partnership. And there’s a pretty compelling, but I think also obvious reason for that. If you think about most of the things you’re working on every single day that are actually going to have an impact on the lives of our fellow citizens back home, whether it’s dealing with climate change, whether it’s dealing with COVID-19, the disruptive impact of new technologies, and I could go down the list, not a single one of those things can be addressed by any one country acting alone, even the United States.
Secretary Blinken: (04:30)
And there is simply no wall high enough or wide enough to guard against some of the downsides that we face from these and other challenges. So there’s more of a premium than ever before, I think at least in the time that I’ve been doing this, on cooperation, coordination, collaboration, and that starts with our closest allies and partners like Denmark. So the work that you’re doing is especially vital, especially important right now. We’ve made reinvigorating and re-imagining those alliances and those partnerships a top priority for the administration. And you’re seeing as well that we’re reengaged very energetically in multilateral institutions as well. And that’s what this trip is actually about. It’s both the reinvigoration of our partnership here with Denmark and also as we head on to the Arctic Council, working multilaterally through that institution to make sure that we do everything we can to have a safe and open Arctic going forward.
Secretary Blinken: (05:33)
I’ve looked hard at what you’ve been doing these recent months in a very challenging time, and not surprisingly, you’ve all been punching above your weight. You’ve taken what was already a close and vital partnership and I think found ways to make it stronger. And that is very, very significant. The partnership agreement negotiated with the [inaudible 00:05:55] to expand our relationship. We had an opportunity to be with them and the reopening of the consulate in [Nook 00:06:02] last year after nearly seven decades of absence, two achievements that were reached through a lot of careful diplomatic engagement. I have some idea of what actually goes in to getting results. They seem to magically appear, but we know that a lot of hard work and careful diplomacy goes into them. So that’s been very positive. We had I think a good session today too with our colleague rom Greenland, and there too, a lot of very good work has been done resolving what are thorny complex issues, including the Tooley based maintenance contract. That too took a lot of hard and good work.
Secretary Blinken: (06:41)
To Steve Bitner, a special shout-out for leading this effort. Where are you, Steve? Thank you again. I have some idea that this is a lot more complicated and challenging than it may seem. So to you, to the folks who worked with you on that, I suspect there are a few of them in this room, thank you for bringing that across the line. And, of course, what’s interesting about something like that is it also requires a lot of coordination with other agencies, with our colleagues in the government, Department of Defense as well, and multiple other agencies. And that means that we’re ensuring not only the base stays operational, but that some of the tension over the contract has been resolved after years of previous negotiations did not get to where we wanted to go. So congratulations on that.
Secretary Blinken: (07:26)
And then I think what we’re seeing too is the work that you’ve done to strengthen the relationship on issues that actually reach far beyond our two countries. The handover of the NATO training mission in Iraq to Danish forces highlights a shared concern that we have for making sure that we are continuing to fight and push back against extremism, including Daesh, and that’s just one facet of the partnership that we have. The climate crisis, of course, is front and center. It’s a central issue for the Arctic Summit, but it’s also a central issue I think in our relationship with Denmark. I’ve got to tell you, it’s inspiring to see what our colleagues here are doing in their leadership on climate change, leadership that not only sets very ambitious targets as we ourselves have done, but also is very focused on making sure that no one is left behind as some of these transitions that have to take place move forward.
Secretary Blinken: (08:25)
And I think it’s a good example of the places that we can find hopefully lessons from some of what our closest partners are doing that maybe are applicable back home. And then, of course, we had the Prime Minister take part in the Climate Summit just a few weeks ago. And maybe as important, we have incredibly rich relationships between our researchers, our experts, and our private sectors. They’re really at the cutting edge of climate innovation. All of this and more in the midst of a pandemic, and that I know has forced all of us and forced you to adopt and adapt a diplomatic toolkit that looks a little different than what we were doing before. And here too, I’ve got to tell you, I’m especially grateful. As I’ve seen this across the department and I see it in this mission here, people coming together as a team in the face of the pandemic and continuing to do their jobs and serve the interests of the American people.
Secretary Blinken: (09:26)
A couple of highlights that were brought to my attention that I just want to flag. Members of the consular team who provided uninterrupted support to Americans and Denmark facilitating essential travel between the U.S. and Denmark to protect jobs and other economic interests. The IRM team built strong telecommuting platforms to allow I think the vast majority of the team here to work remotely while management made sure that people who did have to come into work could do so and remain healthy, safe, and secure. And, of course, the security teams that have done so much to keep you all safe in these unprecedented circumstances. A couple of individuals I would like to say thank you to in particular. A couple of our nurses, Lona Ledstrom, Bobby Knits, who are here I hope perhaps somewhere. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your incredible dedication in keeping the mission healthy during the pandemic, including vaccinating the entire community within one week.
Secretary Blinken: (10:35)
Really, there are not words to thank you enough for that work and for that dedication. One of the things that I’m taking away from this is that we’re learning a lot. We’ve learned a lot in the course of this pandemic. I’m a dad with two very small kids, and I think I have a new appreciation myself for how important it is to try to be there if possible for dinner or when your kids are up in the morning and having breakfast. And one of the things I’m taking away from this is we may have even after COVID new ways of thinking about how we get the work-life balance right and how we can build in more flexibility to all of our jobs, so that we can do that. So we’re going to look closely at that as we go forward. But let me close where I began with a very, very strong thank you to every single one of you in this mission for the work you’re doing to build this relationship, this partnership with Denmark, and because this is what it’s all about, to actually deliver for our fellow citizens back home.
Secretary Blinken: (11:41)
That’s the guiding principle. That’s the North Star. In thinking about everything we’re doing, is it making a life just a little bit better, a little bit healthier, a little bit more secure for our fellow Americans as well as our friends here in Denmark? I know you’re doing that every single day and I’m grateful for it. Thank you.