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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Foreign Policy Outlook for 2017 and Beyond

Dan Feldman, Advisor, Hillary for America
Philadelphia, PA
July 26, 2016




Date: 07/26/2016 Location: Philadelphia, PA Description: Dan Feldman, Advisor at Hillary for America, forecasts U.S. foreign policy for 2017 and beyond at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. - State Dept Image

3:00 P.M. EDT

THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, PHILADELPHIA, PA

MODERATOR: Hello. Good afternoon and welcome back to the Foreign Press Centers. We’re very pleased to have with us another briefing on foreign policy for the Hillary campaign. Before we begin, a kind reminder to silence your cell phones, and I’m very pleased to welcome today Daniel Feldman, an advisor to Hillary for America. He is a non-resident senior fellow with the national security and international policy team at American Progress. Additionally, Mr. Feldman serves as senior advisor at the Albright Stonebridge Group, where he works with the Middle East and Europe practices and other global projects. He brings more than 20 years of experience in international trade policy and corporate social responsibility, an area of law that he helped establish.

Mr. Feldman served as special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the U.S. Department of State, during which time he was given the rank of ambassador. While at the State Department, he was a principal advisor to Secretaries of State John Kerry and Hillary Clinton on issues related to South Asia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. A reminder that, of course, with all briefings at the convention, the views are those of Mr. Feldman and do not represent those of the State Department or U.S. Government at this time. Thank you.

MR FELDMAN: Well, thank you very much, and it’s good to be back briefing the State Department press corps. I left the State Department last September after serving over six years in the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, first as deputy to Ambassador Holbrooke and his successors Mark Grossman and Jim Dobbins, and then as special representative myself from 2014 to 2015. In that capacity, as you heard, I worked very, very closely with Secretary Clinton and her team, but I actually first met her when I was on the National Security Council staff in the Clinton Administration and then later when I was working in the Senate at the same time just after she was elected senator from New York.

So I’ve worked with her and her team for quite a while, and I’m here purely out of my own personal passion and conviction that I have never seen, as President Obama himself has said, someone who is more qualified than she is to be president, and certainly, given the alternative that we have with the Trump campaign, the only person that has the experience and the judgment to keep us safe and to advance our national security interests as president and commander-in-chief from the very first day.

So given all the that I spent with her, and particularly what I saw her bring to her role as secretary in the pursuit of finding a more sustainable and stable future for Afghanistan, where she helped to reintroduce America to the rest of the world after eight disastrous years of George Bush’s foreign policy; where we built together a contact group of over 50 nations, which is still existing today, who were engaged in Afghanistan and were committed to its future; where she elevated the role of women and children in the future of Afghanistan; where she was extremely engaged in the region and was tough on counterterrorism measures and her narrative about the importance, obviously, of safeguarding American citizens; but also in terms of finding a more sustainable future for Afghanistan. And her judgment, her analysis, and her conviction and passions were what I was continuously impressed by and where I vowed after I left government to come back and do whatever I could to help ensure that she was elected president.

So let me just leave it at that and welcome any questions.

QUESTION: Thank you. Dmitry Kirsanov of TASS. Thanks for doing this, ambassador, and thanks to the people at the FPC for arranging the briefing. What’s in the cards for U.S.-Russia relationship if Secretary Clinton is elected president?

MR FELDMAN: Well, first of all, I just want to make sure – I’m not advising her on these issues and I think that no foreign policy advisor would want to entertain kind of hypothetical issues at this point. The most important thing, obviously, would be to assess the circumstances once she became president; to hear our – the intelligence briefing, to hear the military briefings, determine what the diplomatic challenges were, and then to assess that. And that’s the type of process that I saw her execute on a daily basis, where she gathered all the inputs in a very analytic way and listened and then took action.

But what I do think it points out is the just remarkably stark distinction that we have between her approach, particularly on a country like Russia, and Donald Trump’s, where I believe – I firmly believe that if he is elected, they will be celebrating in Moscow. His support for strongmen across the board, but particularly for Putin, is dangerous and so out of step with decades of a bipartisan approach to key foreign policy challenges, including in Russia. And I am confident that she will continue to assemble and engage the broader international community, particularly NATO – which, again, Donald Trump has already distanced himself from – to determine the best way forward and the most effective way forward.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR FELDMAN: I can’t hear.

QUESTION: Based on what you just said, I’m guessing we can expect further worsening of the bilateral relationship.

MR FELDMAN: I think what will be done is a careful analysis of what can be done with the effort of ensuring and safeguarding American interests and values, but doing it in the most effective way possible. And we’ll have to see what the instruments are to best deliver that, whether those are economic or with sanctions, diplomatic, military, and how best to engage the rest of the international community, including NATO, on addressing that.

What I saw continuously in working for Secretary Clinton was not only that passion and compassion, but the real focus on achieving results. I mean, that was ultimately where her policy interests were: How do we translate this and ensure that we are furthering U.S. policy interests and we are actually having impact? And that is, I am sure, the prism that she would view this through as well.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Feng Sun-yi* from BBC World Service. We have heard a lot of pressure from both Republican Party and Bernie Sanders on the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP. Is Secretary Clinton going to say anything about TPP? Where does she stand on this? If she gets elected, how is she going to put forward this TPP, Trans-Pacific Partnership? Thank you.

MR FELDMAN: I have no – I have no idea what further she would say on TPP beyond what she’s already said. I wouldn’t want to add anything to her statements already on that. I certainly know that there’s a – and can – given – you heard in part my background, which when I’ve been in the private sector has been focused on corporate social responsibility issues. Those include labor and environmental issues. These are issues that are at the core of many concerns.

So I think this balancing act in terms of how we continue to look at trade policies and expand opportunities for U.S. products and U.S. consumers working collectively with partners, but also making sure that these key concerns are addressed, is something that has continued to bubble up in all these campaigns, including on the Republican side as well as on the Democratic side. So it’s one that we will have to all grapple with together once we have a clear direction with a new president.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Morten Bertelsen from Norway and Dagens Naeringsliv business newspaper. I was wondering if you could comment on Hillary’s plan to defeat ISIS and why the party isn’t talking more about terrorism as such at this convention. Thanks.

MR FELDMAN: First of all, we’ve only had one night of the convention thus far, so we’ve got three more days. I would urge everyone to assess that based on the totality of what you hear. And I think that you’ll undoubtedly hear far more on national security and foreign policy issues over the coming days. I think last night was incredibly important and a remarkable success in dispensing with this sense of a lack of unity. At the end of the day, this will be a very, very unified party not only in their support for Hillary, but absolutely in what – in the dangerous alternative that Trump presents.

I think, as with everything else, she would have to continue to assess the facts when she became president, look at that intelligence, convene the right nations, continue to engage multilaterally. I don’t advise specifically on counterterrorism. There are key experts, and so, again, I would defer to those. But the process of coming up with that, I think, is one that is very important and one I saw replicated in terms of that analysis.

And I think that you’ll find, again, many, many key supporters, including across the political spectrum including many traditional Republicans. And on ISIL in particular, I know General Allen, who’s been recently heading that up, will be speaking at the convention later after announcing his support over the last few days.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, sir. My name is Nataliia Pisnia-Bystriakova. I’m a reporter for Ukrainian TV station Studio 1 + 1. And actually the question is about what should Ukraine expect from the office of Hillary Clinton regarding increasing sanctions towards Russia, and is there any chance for Ukraine to receive military assistance, lethal and non-lethal. What could be her position?

MR FELDMAN: Yeah. Again, I’m not engaging in any policy prescriptions, especially for areas of the world where I’ve not had responsibility. But I think that she has already laid out some significant pillars and tenets of her approach on many of these key issues including in her approach to Russia.

And the way in which she has brought together the international community in the past, certainly on economic sanctions which ultimately helped lead to the JCPOA in Iran, but utilizing all the instruments at the secretary of state’s disposal, and which can bring to bear U.S. foreign policy goals, whether that’s economic through continued sanctions, whether that’s diplomatic, military, intelligence, and then working collectively with our key partners to ensure that we have a sense of what the most effective mechanisms are, and then really how to implement and operationalize those to ensure that they have real impact. And so, minus the specifics of the Ukraine example, I’ve seen that repeated many times ineffectively.

QUESTION: Jose Carreno with Excelsior Newspaper from Mexico City. The – Mexico appears to be (inaudible) really the center of the arguments in this election as a whole. So I would like to ask you how – to what degree Mexico is – or where does Mrs. Clinton would like to take the relationship with Mexico and how does she feel about the so-called North American community?

MR FELDMAN: Well, I think, again, that she has continued to note and others on her team have noted how lucky we are to have the neighbors that we have and what opportunities there are for continued trade and growth in the relationship. So again, without getting into the specifics of regional areas that I don’t have the background in, I know that the continued engagement with our neighbors, Mexico and Canada, was a hallmark of her time as secretary, and I think that it certainly demonstrates, I believe, the Republicans’ bad faith in the way that they kept our ambassador-designate from being confirmed to Mexico for an unconscionable amount of time, and that continuing to ensure that we have strong relationships with key partners is – will certainly be a continued commitment of hers and her administration’s.

QUESTION: Ambassador, welcome to Foreign Press Center again. As an expert on South Asia yourself, you can’t duck this one. You – for the campaign, Hillary Clinton campaign, you probably are the repository of all the wisdom there is on South Asia. We haven’t heard very much on South Asia from the Clinton campaign. From the Republicans we heard last week – in their platform there was a couple of paras on India and Pakistan and Afghanistan. So I’m not asking you to – I don’t expect you to go into the specifics, but broadly, where do you – what could South Asia, specifically India, expect from a Clinton administration? Thank you.

MR FELDMAN: Well, I think, again, look to her commitments to South Asia when she was secretary, her frequent travel there – and I accompanied her to India, to Pakistan, to Afghanistan, all numerous times – her commitment to continue to try to knit together this – one of the least connected regions of the world, between South and Central Asia; her commitment to economic and commercial dialogues, including elevating strategic dialogues with several countries of the region; her commitment to multilateral approaches to these regional issues, whether from the broader international community, as we saw in Afghanistan, to continuing to try to strengthen and empower key regional initiatives like she did with the Heart of Asia process and others.

And so I expect that – there is already a real growth in our relationships with key South Asian countries over the course of the last seven years. There’s enormous continued opportunity to expand and strengthen those relationships, and I’m sure that she will continue to take advantage of that.

QUESTION: David Lawler with the Daily Telegraph newspaper. The UK now has a female prime minister, so obviously it would be historic for the U.S.-UK relationship for it to be steered by two women. I was wondering if you could speak to that, whether you know of any communication between them, and also just, in a difficult period for the relationship post-Brexit, what might be in store if she’s elected president.

MR FELDMAN: Yeah. I don’t know and wouldn’t know of any particular communications. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t occurred. What I have seen over 20 years of working with her is this continued commitment to issues of women and children, and – but women in a place like Afghanistan in particular, which was really elevated by her focus on this in conjunction with key partners, including at a London conference that was held in early 2010, where we rolled out a policy on women’s rights issues, and in her continued effort to support a reconciliation process, which has always had three tenets since she first announced it – this is in Afghanistan – since she first announced it in 2009 or 2010. And those remain the same, which has always been the Taliban split from al-Qaida, that they lay down arms, and that they embrace the Afghan constitution, including the rights of women.

And the fact that she was out there vocally discussing this, that she sent her special ambassador for women and creating this position – first for Melanne Verveer and now being held by Cathy Russell – and that it helped to highlight and spotlight the role of women and the role of development issues and entwined with diplomatic and strategic interests is something that she uniquely brought there. And I’m sure that she would love to take advantage of the opportunity of working with other key woman leaders around the world.

On Brexit, obviously everyone has committed to trying to ensure that the special relationship remains as unique and special as it’s been, but we’re all in uncharted territory right now, and we’ll have to see where this continues to go.

QUESTION: Thank you. Elliot Waldman of Tokyo Broadcasting System. Thanks for doing this. Hillary Clinton’s disavowal of the TPP sent some mixed messages to the East Asia Pacific region, given that it was such an important part of the rebalance to Asia, which was a policy initiative that she was in charge of implementing as secretary of state. Will she continue to focus on East Asia and the Pacific as president, or will there be kind a re-rebalancing under a Clinton administration?

MR FELDMAN: Well, again, I’m not the one that can lay out her first 100 days. But certainly it was very, very important being at the State Department from it’s very – from the very outset of her tenure as Secretary what that rebalance to Asia actually meant, that it was serious and rigorous. Whether it was from the symbolism of the first trips to the continued engagement across the region in East Asia, in Southeast Asia, including in places like Burma, in South Asia, where I was more familiar with it.

And we’ll have to – again, as I said to the previous question on TPP, there are legitimate concerns with big international trade deals like these and we will have to continue to assess how we can advance both economic and security interests, continue to ensure that we are growing and strengthening our key bilateral and multilateral relationships, but also ensuring that these agreements have legitimate safeguards for these concerns on labor and environmental and a range of other issues.

What I think is clear again, though, is the stark contrast that you have between someone like Hillary Clinton and someone like Donald Trump, where it is truly dangerous and truly unprecedented the positions that he has taken on a whole range of agreements, whether that’s trade agreements to others like JCPOA, and without any sense of what the alternatives may actually be suggesting that he and he alone can fix these, can renegotiate these or anything else. It just shows such a lack of understanding of what actually goes into these key agreements. And again, it brings us back to the fact that Hillary Clinton is truly the only candidate at this point who has the experience and ability to lead this country from day one.

QUESTION: Hi. Gretel Johnston with the German Press Agency. I’m going to take you back to the question on security and terrorism. We’ve seen the headlines coming out of Europe. It seems to – I think you would probably agree that the campaign – the Trump campaign will be trying to show that the Clinton campaign is not as strong on foreign policy as it is. I think you’ve used the words a couple times, saying that there’ll be a careful analysis of the situation, saying that the Clintons would be more likely to engage with – multi-nationally with other partners. The question is, do you think that’s what the voters actually want to hear from their – from the candidate, given everything that’s happened in Europe recently and the terrorism that we’ve seen gone very much off the scale right now?

MR FELDMAN: I think voters – and I have confidence that voters, at the end of the day, will want pragmatic, realistic, effective policy solutions. And that is what Hillary Clinton offers, and most importantly, what Donald Trump does not offer. He may fear monger; he may be divisive; he may try to scare everyone. And it doesn’t mean that there aren’t some legitimate reasons for concern. We all recognize that. We all want to address those as effectively as possible.

But as I said at the outset, she was always focused on what gets results, how do we actually ensure that this is addressed effectively. And that is, I’m sure, given that the fundamental precept of being president is to ensure the security and vitality of the American people, she will take as her chief priority. And so I think she will bring great energy and great rigor to this process and to her engagements. And undoubtedly, it will be more effective.

And I think that what Donald Trump has sketched out is not only so discordant from what we’ve seen – you’ve already seen it in the difference between the convention last week in Cleveland and what you heard last night, the fact that we are all unified in this party in coming together in presenting a more optimistic sense of our inclusiveness and diversity and strengths. And I think you will hear much more on the national security and foreign policy front in the days ahead, but that ultimately the alternative not only is dark and somber, but it is dangerous. And it is dangerous in terms of the strongmen that Trump is touting; it’s dangerous in terms of walking away from our alliances; it’s dangerous in terms of ripping up decades’ worth of international agreements.

And so we have a remarkably stark choice here. And I think that reasonable voters that look at the data – and I urge all the American citizens living abroad and all of your readerships and constituencies to register to vote, to get online and ensure – and they still have time right now to get out and make sure that they cast their vote. Because as an alum of the 2000 Gore campaign and having spent 35 days in Tallahassee, Florida, I know that every single vote really matters, especially in an election that will be as closely fought as this, but that at the end of the day there is a very, very stark difference in terms of the vision of America, what we do, and how effective we’ll be, particularly on the issue of counterterrorism.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

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