You are viewing:


Information released online from January 20, 2009 to January 20, 2017.
Note: Content in this archive site is not updated, and links may not function. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Hillary Clinton's Foreign Policy

Jake Sullivan, Senior Policy Advisor, Hillary for America
Philadelphia, PA
July 25, 2016

Date: 07/25/2016 Location: Philadelphia, PA Description: Jake Sullivan, Senior Policy Advisor, Hillary for America, will discuss Hillary Clinton's foreign policy positions at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. - State Dept Image

2:00 P.M. EDT


MODERATOR: Good afternoon. My name is Orna Blum. I am director of the Foreign Press Centers and I am very pleased to welcome you all to our Foreign Policy Briefing Room here at the Democratic National Convention. This afternoon I am very pleased to welcome someone who many of you may know, but before introductions I’m going to do a little bit of housekeeping.

First of all, a kind reminder to silence your phones if you have not already. Secondly, please bear with us. We have some technical challenges and only one microphone for questions, and we will get as many questions as we can from each side of the room. Also, a kind reminder that, as with all of our briefings at the conventions, the speaker’s views are his or her own and not those of the U.S. Government.

So without further ado, today I am very pleased to welcome Jake Sullivan. Jake Sullivan is senior policy advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. He was the Oscar Ruebhausen Distinguished Senior Fellow in National Security and Visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School from 2014 to 2016. He previously served as deputy assistant to the President and national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, and as director of policy planning at the U.S. Department of State. Mr. Sullivan holds undergraduate and law degrees from Yale, a master’s degree from Oxford, and he’s here to speak to you about foreign policy for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Without further ado, Mr. Sullivan.

MR SULLIVAN: Thank you, Orna, and thanks, everybody, for being here today. I’d like to get to your questions very quickly, so let me just say at the top that Secretary Clinton intends in this general election campaign to put forward a strong, principled vision of American leadership in the world, one that is based on deep and enduring relationships with our allies, clear and firm dealings with our competitors and adversaries, and a commitment both to the values that the United States has stood for over decades and to finding common ground and cooperation with every country in the world that would like to work constructively to solve the big problems that we face. Whether it be nuclear proliferation or global climate change or terrorism or human rights and women’s rights, religious freedom, LGBT rights, the United States will be a willing partner and a leader on all of these fronts, eager to be engaged in the world under a Hillary Clinton presidency.

We will see a very stark contrast in this general election contest between two different perspectives on American foreign policy. My goal today is to speak as directly and candidly with you as I can about Hillary Clinton’s perspective, about the positive vision and agenda she wants to put forward to keep the American people safe and to enhance security, prosperity, and universal human rights for all people everywhere around the world. So without further ado, I would be happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you and one moment. Remember, please, when you ask questions to state your name and your media outlet. Thank you. We’ll start --

QUESTION: Thank you. Can you hear me? Yeah. Thank you very much for the briefing. Paolo Mastrolilli with the Italian daily La Stampa. I would like to ask you if you think that the – what happened in the UK with Brexit is something that could help Trump here in the United States, and what Hillary Clinton as president intend to do to help European Union to avoid the disaggregation that we have been seeing.

MR SULLIVAN: We believe that the vote over Brexit in the UK cannot easily be analogized to the presidential election in the United States. For starters, obviously the United Kingdom and the United States are different countries with different constituencies and different considerations at play in the election. But more than that, the vote over Brexit was a vote on how the United Kingdom would relate to an institution. The presidential election in the United States is a choice between two candidates, two people, two human beings, and the character and temperament of those two human beings will be very much on the voters’ minds as they go into the voting booth.

In addition, we believe that, as Secretary Clinton has said before, the kind of turbulence and the kind of uncertainty generated by the Brexit vote will ultimately demonstrate to American voters that an approach that is based on evidence and fact and sound, sensible policymaking is the approach that the American people are going to pursue. Just as one example of this, some of the architects of the Brexit campaign put forward grandiose promises in the course of running their argument for why the UK should leave the European Union. As soon as the vote happened, they came out and said, well, maybe we didn’t mean it with those promises. We think the American people have seen that and it is going to make them more skeptical of grandiose promises here on this side of the Atlantic in this election.

So our view is that ultimately this comes down to something about the United States, not about Europe, not about the UK. But to the extent that you can draw lessons from the Brexit vote, many of them cut in favor of the kinds of arguments that Hillary Clinton has been making on the campaign trail.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Hi, Claudia Trevisan from the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de Sao Paolo. I’d like to ask about Latin America. In her book Hard Choices, Secretary Clinton presented a very positive view of Latin America that was in a different point from which it is today. And she also praised the then-President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. I’d like to know what is her view today about what is happening in Brazil and how she sees the impeachment of President Rousseff and how would be her relationship with Latin America should she be elected.

MR SULLIVAN: When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State of the United States, she elevated and prioritized the relationship between the United States and Latin America as a relationship of partners, as a relationship of mutual respect, and as a relationship of shared responsibility; that the United States and Latin America each had responsibility to do all we could to deal with the common challenges that we face. And she talked in speeches and in her book about what she called the power of proximity; that the trade links, the people-to-people ties, the energy relationships and all the other ways in which this group of countries in the Americas could work together to enhance our common security and prosperity, that we had to harness that power of proximity and we had to make it something real in the lives of our citizens.

So I expect that as president, Secretary Clinton will take a very similar approach to the one that she did as Secretary of State. She will continue to place priority on the relationship with Latin America. She will continue to see opportunities for democratic development, for economic growth, for energy cooperation, and of course, for the deep and abiding ties between our peoples.

I’m not going to comment specifically on the internal political and legal issues in Brazil, but I will say this: Secretary Clinton saw early and has consistently been committed to a strong U.S.-Brazil bilateral relationship. In fact, when she was Secretary of State she launched something called the Global Partnership Dialogue with Brazil, a comprehensive dialogue across all the range of issues that the U.S. and Brazil could work together on.

And if you think about it, these are two major countries, major democracies, with strong, vibrant societies and a heck of a lot in common. We should leverage that. We should be working together in common purpose both on issues related to the Americas but also on a whole range of global issues as well. And that’s the kind of spirit that she would bring to the White House as president.

QUESTION: Hi, Jake. Thanks for doing this. I’m Andreas Ross with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. A lot has been said and written about this, but I would like to hear from – in your words in what significant ways and areas would Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy differ from that of the current Administration under President Obama, who by so many Americans is considered weak even though in more specifics they might actually share the way he has acted. How would her policy differ?

MR SULLIVAN: Let me start by saying that Secretary Clinton is proud to have served as Secretary of State for President Obama for four years, was proud to advance a common agenda that beginning in Copenhagen laid the groundwork for a landmark climate deal in Paris; that beginning with the sanctions we imposed upon Iran resulted in a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran; that led to the operation that ultimately brought Usama bin Ladin to justice; that led to a treaty with the Russians to reduce nuclear stockpiles between the United States and Russia to historically low levels; and so many other things that she worked on as part of that Administration. She’s proud of that.

I will leave it to the pundits and the commentators and the scorekeepers to talk about the specific differences between the two of them because I think this has become a certain kind of sport: Where do we find daylight between the President and the Secretary. I will only say that in Hard Choices and on the campaign trail she’s made clear that on certain issues, whether it be how we approach Syria or how specifically we deal with Vladimir Putin, she’s laid out a different set of policies than the President has. That’s been true and known for a number of years at this point.

But I think my job and her job is to describe what she intends to do as president and leave it to all of you to conclude how you believe that that is different from the way that the current President is approaching foreign policy.

QUESTION: Chia Chang from United Daily News, media from Taiwan. I would like to know Hillary’s foreign policy for China and Taiwan and her solution for the South China Sea situation.

MR SULLIVAN: Secretary Clinton supports the current Administration’s policy on China and Taiwan; will continue to do so; believes that peaceful development and strengthening of cross-strait relations is important; supports the Taiwan Relations Act; supports the “one China” policy. So you won’t find any surprises or significant departures from the secretary’s position on the relationship than you do with President Obama over the last few years.

I would say that she feels strongly that China has to be not just a selective stakeholder, but a comprehensive, responsible stakeholder in the international system, and that goes for its dealing with all of its neighbors, and it goes for its dealings in the South China Sea.

In Hanoi in 2010, the Secretary brought forward a set of propositions about the peaceful resolution of disputes and compliance with international law in respect to disputes within the South China Sea. She believes that the recent tribunal finding, which I know both China and Taiwan have raised objections to, advances the goal of peaceful resolution of disputes and the lawful settlement of claims in that area. But ultimately, she believes this is a matter for diplomacy for the various parties to come together in a multilateral format and work out once and for all the very difficult questions that have troubled the region and the area in the South China Sea.

In the meantime, the United States will remain committed to principles of freedom of navigation, to lawful commerce being able to cross the South China Sea, and to supporting our allies and partners in trying to reach for those resolution of disputes.

The last thing I would say is perhaps the most important factor here is that every country do all that it can to avoid escalation of the situation, to avoid intimidation, to avoid coercion, to avoid miscalculation, to avoid mistake. All of us need to work together to try to get ourselves on a diplomatic pathway that can resolve this and to stay off a pathway of escalation, precipitous activity, any type of military activity that is going to make it harder to reach a resolution here. And that’s the position that she will pursue as president.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jake. James Reinl here from Al Jazeera. A number of Clinton campaign officials have suggested there’s a link between the email leaking and Russian state hackers. In your opinion, how strong is the evidence linking the Russian state to this? And why do you think the Kremlin would prefer a President Trump to a President Clinton?

MR SULLIVAN: We have seen multiple intelligence experts as well as security firms describe the attack, the cyberattack on the DNC as carried out or conducted by Russian Government-sponsored entities. You’ve heard that now increasingly from experts who have deep experience in both the cyber domain and in the particular behavior of Russian-backed cyber actors. And I have to say that this is not a new phenomenon that Russia would interfere in the elections of other countries. It is a new watershed if it is borne out to, in fact, be the case. And the FBI has just today said that it is launching an investigation, so we will see as time goes on what gets proven.

But if it is indeed the case that Russia was behind this hack, this would be a new watershed. This would be Russia interfering in the American presidential election, which is deeply alarming and completely unacceptable if it bears out to be true.

In terms of why Russia would want to do this, I’m not going to stand up here and speculate today nor reach any definitive conclusions of any kind, but I will say this: Hillary Clinton’s position on supporting our allies in Europe, Hillary Clinton’s position on energy security for Europe, Hillary Clinton’s position on advancing human rights and democracy around the world may not sit too well with certain actors in the Kremlin. I will leave it to you to look at Donald Trump’s position on these various issues – his position on NATO, his position on Vladimir Putin – and judge for yourself what the answer to your question is.

All I can tell you is a number of very credible, experienced experts have drawn this link, it is consistent with behavior we have seen, and now let’s see what the facts bear out. But all Americans – Democrat, Republican, or Independent – if it turns out to be the case that Russia is doing this, needs to stand together and say we will not tolerate this kind of behavior.

MODERATOR: I think we can take just one more question, sir, (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you. Mikyung Kim with the Seoul Shinmun Daily, South Korea. Donald Trump threatens to abandon your allies, including South Korea and Japan. What’s your take on that? And on North Korea nuclear issues, how would you press China to restrain North Korea? Thank you.

MR SULLIVAN: Thank you. As a general proposition, I have always abided by the rule that politics stops at the water’s edge, and I have tried to make sure that I don’t inject American partisan politics into the global dialogue. But I will say this about the allies question, because it goes to such a fundamental precept of American foreign policy – that this is something different. This isn’t the normal debates between Democrats and Republicans that we need to work out amongst ourselves as Americans. This is a major-party nominee for an American presidential campaign coming – for the American presidency coming out and saying that the United States would not stand up and back its Article 5 guarantee under its mutual defense treaties. This is a source of great concern for the American people who have been committed to these alliances for decades; it’s obviously a deep source of concern for our allies; and I think it is a gift to those who would challenge the United States or those who would choose to be our adversaries.

And so what I can say is that Hillary Clinton is absolutely rock-solid committed to our treaty alliances both in Europe and in Asia and our allies Israel and other important partners in the Middle East, and she will maintain those commitments the same way that Democratic and Republican presidents have for decades – on the basis of the premise that this is in America’s interest, it’s in the interest of our allies, and it’s in the interest of global stability and prosperity.

As far as North Korea is concerned, this is going to be a very high priority for Secretary Clinton. What we have seen from them in terms of the development of their missile program, the provocative acts that they have taken, is deeply alarming, deeply troubling, and we want to work closely with our allies Korea and Japan to get on the same page about how we address this. And yes, we will expect that the Chinese will do their part in enforcing UN Security Council resolutions and in going further to ensure that they are using the leverage, the relationships and the pressure they have to bring to bear to get North Korea to abide by its international obligations and cease its provocative acts. That is the principle that the Secretary will bring with her to the Oval Office if she’s elected president.

MODERATOR: You get the last question. Yes, sir, last question.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. My name is Ben Bangoura, a Washington-based journalist, editor of [Guinea]. What should Africa expect from a Clinton administration?

MR SULLIVAN: Well, you should expect from Secretary Clinton what you saw from her as first lady and what you saw from her as secretary of state – somebody who viewed Africa as not just a place where there are challenges to be dealt with, but opportunities to be seized; where there are not just countries that we had to provide development aid and assistance to, but partners who could work with us on a range of global issues.

And as you saw on multiple trips that she took to Africa, all over – East Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa, North Africa – Secretary Clinton has shown herself committed to a series of pillars in the relationship, to fostering economic growth, to working together on peacekeeping and security, to working together on human rights and democratic development, and importantly, to working together on two major initiatives that she drove as secretary of state: global hunger and her program, Feed the Future, and global health and the Global Health Initiative that she brought forward, building on bipartisan work that started with President Bush.

So you will find in Secretary Clinton, if she’s elected president, a serious, thoughtful, committed partner to deal with the range of challenges and the range of opportunities that we see in Africa. She is fond of reminding us on her team many of the top 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are African economies. How we think about where the future growth is going to come from in the world is bound up in how we approach our policy towards Africa, and she will be very mindful of that, as she’s mindful of the governance and corruption and democratic development questions that are so central to – have been so central to her policy towards Africa, and will continue to be.

Thank you all. I’m sorry I can’t answer any more questions.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you very much, Mr. Sullivan. That concludes our briefing with Jake Sullivan. We invite you, please, to stay with us. There will be a 3 o’clock briefing on LGBT issues for the Democratic Party. Thank you very much.