US Secretary of State John Kerry made the case on Tuesday (4 October) for a stronger European Union after the Brexit vote, arguing in favour of a reformed EU and reinforced partnership between the United States and Europe in the face of growing populism and a more muscular Russia.
“There are no easy ways to address anxieties,” he said referring to the multiple crisis undermining unity in the European continent. “But there is a logical place to begin by remembering who we are and what we stand for.”
“Here in Belgium, you have a motto: L’Union fait la force. In the United States we have our own version: A pluribus unum, out of many one. Unity within Europe and partnership between the United States and Europe remain absolutely indispensable for global security and prosperity,” he added.
In Brussels to take part in the EU conference on Afghanistan, Kerry gave a wide-ranging speech at an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He argued against isolationist policies, saying no nation can be efficient or effective operating in a vacuum.
“As much as some of us may wish the UK vote had gone the other way, the lesson we must take from this democratic choice is not that we need less Europe or less UK,” Kerry said. “Rather, we all need more of both.”
“The United States will support its friends and allies on both sides of the channel as you work through the tough issues ahead. But we will not be shy about where our interests lie: We need the strongest possible EU, the strongest possible UK, and a highly integrated, collaborative relationship between them,” Kerry insisted in his speech.
“We should never take for granted the good achieved by the unity of Europe,” he insisted, adding that “some people do so too quickly”.
Criticising Eurosceptics, Kerry said that “reform within the EU is necessary, but (to) dissolve the institutions is dangerous and short-sighted, as there is no way back.”
Blunt criticism of Russia
Kerry did not mince words in attacking Russia for its “irresponsible and profoundly ill-advised decision” to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and said efforts to end the war in Syria must continue, in spite of the US decision to break off talks with Moscow.
“I want to be clear that we are not giving up on the Syrian people and we are not abandoning the pursuit of peace,” Kerry said in Brussels.
“We will continue to pursue a meaningful, sustainable, enforceable cessation of hostilities throughout the country – and that includes the grounding of Syrian and Russian combat aircraft in designated areas.”
The United States broke off talks with Russia on Monday (3 October) on implementing a ceasefire agreement in Syria, accusing Moscow of not living up to its commitments under the deal to halt fighting and ensure aid reached besieged communities.
Kerry said the United States would work to create conditions for a resumption of peace talks and added that Russia and Syria “know exactly what they need to do”.
He charged that Russia had “turned a blind eye” to Assad’s “deplorable” use of chlorine gas and barrel bombs and suggested they were pursing a scorched earth policy in place of diplomacy.
“Where they make a desert, they call it peace,” he said, quoting the Roman historian Tacitus. He said if Russia was serious about peace, it would have to behave differently than it was now in Syria.
Kerry insisted that the United States will not abandon Syria and will prevail in the confrontation with Daesh without changing the nature of American society, and succumbing to bigotry and fear.