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    Executive Session

    by Former Senator Carl Levin

    Posted on 2013-01-29

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    LEVIN. Mr. President, John Kerry is a valued colleague and a loyal friend, and we will miss him in the Senate. But at a time when our Nation faces complex and difficult challenges around the globe, he is especially well qualified to serve as Secretary of State, and I strongly support his confirmation.

    Unquestionably, Iran is at the top of the list of challenges the next Secretary of State will face. Senator Kerry has supported efforts in the Senate, including sanctions language included in the defense authorization acts for 2012 and 2013, that have helped isolate the Iranian regime. At his confirmation hearing, Senator Kerry succinctly stated the Obama administration's policy on Iran: We will do what we must do to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and I repeat here today: Our policy is not containment, it is prevention and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance.

    Senator Kerry will be an effective and dedicated executor of that policy as we unify the international community in our efforts to prevent the Iranian government from developing nuclear weapons.

    Another significant challenge for our foreign policy is the volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Here again, Senator Kerry's unique qualifications will serve our Nation well. He strongly supports the plan for transitioning the security lead to Afghan forces so they can provide for their own security. He has established a critical relationship with President Karzai that will strengthen our bilateral relations as we define the enduring strategic relationship between the United States and Afghanistan for post-2014. Senator Kerry understands the importance of negotiating a bilateral security agreement that provides our troops the necessary protections, including legal immunity, for a limited force to continue to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces and conduct counterterrorism operations after 2014. Senator Kerry also has significant experience engaging with Pakistan, which remains key to efforts to establish security and stability in South Asia. Through the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act and other efforts, Kerry has led efforts to strengthen civilian institutions in Pakistan and to reset our bilateral relations.

    Senator Kerry also recognizes, as he said during his confirmation hearing, that ``[m]ore than ever, foreign policy is economic policy.'' Those words will hearten working families in my State and across the Nation whose well-being is increasingly connected to our economic competitiveness around the world, our ability to engage with other nations to ensure that our companies and workers have the opportunity to compete in the global marketplace on an equal footing, and our recognition that economic competition today is [[Page S350]] not just among companies, but also among the countries that support their companies and workers. I look forward to working with Senator Kerry as we bring all the levers of American policy to bear on this issue of paramount importance to American prosperity.

    Another issue on which I look forward to cooperating with Senator Kerry is our policy toward Cuba. Senator Kerry and I have similar voting records on United States policy towards Cuba. We also both recognize the need for policy that places maximum pressure on the Cuban regime to democratize. However, our voting records maintain that our Cuba policy is counter-productive in promoting change in Cuba. I look forward to working with Senator Kerry to rebalance our approach to Cuba as we look forward to a new era in that nation's history and its relations with us.

    Throughout his public career, John Kerry has proven his dedication not just to America's interests, but to its values. Indeed, he recognizes that our ability to defend our interests around the world depends on adherence to the values that make the United States a beacon of freedom and opportunity. He has spoken with eloquence about the need to combat violence and extremism around the world not just with our military might, but with the power of our ideas. As he said in his confirmation hearing, ``America lives up to her values when we give voice to the voiceless.'' His commitment to aiding those around the world whose lives have been shattered by war, repression or disaster is in keeping with those values.

    Senator Kerry knows personally the cost of war and the value of peace. He knows the difficulty of the challenges we face, and the importance of American leadership in facing those challenges-- leadership important not just to our Nation's security and prosperity, but to the world's. He has been an outstanding servant of the American people, and I am confident he will continue that record of extraordinary service as our next Secretary of State.

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