Hillary Clinton on China, Putin and the threat to US democracy
In a wide-ranging interview at the FT Weekend festival in Washington, the one-time Democratic presidential candidate, who served as America’s top diplomat under Barack Obama, offered stark assessments on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US-China relations, and US president Joe Biden’s re-election prospects next year
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INTERVIEWER: So I want to get into really important things like US-China relations, the coming counteroffensive in Ukraine, Putin, of course, the 2024 election. But let me just start by asking you, have you watched the Netflix series The Diplomat?
HILLARY CLINTON: It is on my list. And I have not started it yet.
INTERVIEWER: OK, let me, so that you don't have to watch it, quickly summarise the plot. And there's a reason why I am quickly summarising the plot. Mid-level diplomat gets called into the Oval Office by the president, and he says to her, you're going to London as ambassador.
But I was going to Afghanistan. You're going to London. Next morning, she's on a Gulfstream jet to London. She arrives at the Downton Abbey on Thames place, apparently having been-- they didn't show this-- having been confirmed overnight by the Senate. And then--
HILLARY CLINTON: Fiction, fiction for sure.
INTERVIEWER: And then she has a Cinderella shoot with British Vogue. Now, the reason I mention this seamy sort of realistic plot to you is because the scriptwriters of it, and it's quite a big hit, say that they partly draw their inspiration from you and Bill Clinton, because her husband's also a high ranking diplomat. So my question is, does any of this ring any bells with you?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I was confirmed, but not overnight. It doesn't ring bells, but I'm thrilled that people are being drawn into a story called The Diplomat, and that it's a woman who has apparently the largest writ to be ambassador to the UK that anyone has ever had, since she's out solving a lot of problems, besides who gets invited to the coronation. And so I think that it's doing a good service, and kind of raising people's understanding and the visibility of diplomats and diplomacy.
INTERVIEWER: So you can-- you're being diplomatic. You might watch it, you might not.
HILLARY CLINTON: I mean, if I'm talking about The Diplomat, I guess I have to be diplomatic, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: What do you watch out of internet?
HILLARY CLINTON: You know, when you were saying that, I wrote a book with my good friend Louise Penny called State of Terror about a woman Secretary of State. And we took a lot of liberties in there.
But I always tried to ground them in reality. So actually, I think it's a terrific book because she's a terrific colleague and collaborator. But when the character, the Secretary of State is flying around the world trying to stop nuclear catastrophe, she does check in with the president from time to time.
Like is it OK if I take a military plane to Iran? Oh my God, he says. But it's that kind of rooted in fact, rooted in the reality of diplomacy. But obviously, going far beyond that.
INTERVIEWER: So let me-- I was talking a little bit earlier with a mutual friend of ours, in fact, who reminded me that it's almost 30 years ago that you as First Lady and your husband went to, as president, went to Oklahoma City for the Memorial of what was and remains the largest homegrown domestic terrorist attack in US history, in modern US history. 168 people killed by Timothy McVeigh.
And you gave that famous speech that you cannot love your country and hate your government. And the fact that it's almost 30 years and the fact that you have-- you'd had death threats, credible ones before then, but the fact that you've sort of continuously lived through this reminded me that you're probably one of, if not the most sort of targeted over a period of time person in American history.
My question to you, and it's a very difficult one, is that old FDR campaign theme, happy days are here again. What's the most plausible way that America today is going to get to something approximating happy days are here again?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, that's a very complicated question, Ed. But let me sort of pick it apart a little bit. You're referring to the Oklahoma City bombing and Jeffrey Toobin has just written a brilliant description of it. And through his writing about the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, he does raise a lot of important questions about the antecedents.
Timothy McVeigh, a homegrown terrorist, former military service member was convinced, as to many people today are, that the government was against us, that there is the need to kind of cleanse society. And he was motivated in part by what had happened in Waco, when the FBI eventually had to storm a compound of some apocalyptic believers of a character who had been abusing children and all kinds of other issues.
So the direct line between a Timothy McVeigh, who committed such a heinous act, and what happened on January 6. I think Toobin really causes us all to wonder how we're going to deal with this strain of violence, this anti-government mentality that has been a part of American history, but which has been somewhat turbocharged by the alliance between the religious right, financial interests, partisan Republican politicians, and of course, Donald Trump and the militia groups that we saw in Charleston, and then we saw at the Capitol.
So when you say, how do we get back to that, how do we get back to something that is more peaceful, where as my husband said, it's not just if you love your country, you need to love your government. You need to love your fellow Americans. You need to have a sense that we are all in this together again.
And that is a heavy lift. And honestly, I think it certainly is at the core of Biden's brand of politics. He cares deeply about trying to get people to work together. He laboured very hard, and ultimately successfully, to pass a rather remarkable legislative agenda that he doesn't get enough credit for, which has a real capacity for giving us a sensible futuristic industrial policy on clean energy, on chips, and so much more.
Plus the big infrastructure bill. So the way you do it in politics is to defeat your opponents who want to divide the country, who want to use cultural issues to inflict pain and punishment on people who don't fit within their version of the United States.
And I know when people ask me, what can we do, and I say something like, you can vote, and you can vote in every election, because the other side does. And you need to show up, and you need to get other people to show up.
They look at me like, well, what else can I do? There must be something else I can do. Unless you defeat those politicians, those demigods, those authoritarian wannabes, we are in a very dangerous position right now in this country.
And so I think it comes down to winning elections, as maybe boring and simple as that sounds. And it also comes down to having a better sense of what's really at stake. And I'm encouraged that young people are turning out in much larger numbers in elections, in referenda.
They're motivated by abortion. They're motivated by gun violence. They're motivated by the climate. They're motivated by the lack of freedom and the sense that governors are banning books that they read when they were 10 years younger in school.
So there's a lot that is churning right now in our society, and therefore reflected in our politics. So you've got to try to prevent the people who want to turn the clock back from continuing to win elections.
INTERVIEWER: You were, of course, Secretary of State. And I think-- I don't know whether John Kerry, he was competing with you for the number of air miles, or who had more air miles, you or John Kerry. But you had a lot of air miles. You visited a lot of countries, one of which, of course, was Russia, and you interacted with Putin. Could you reminisce a little bit about those interactions and what they told you about him?
HILLARY CLINTON: Nothing good.
And apparently he felt the same way. So look, I remember when George H.W Bush famously said, he looked into his eyes and saw Putin's soul. And I maybe not so famously responded, he's a former KGB agent. By definition, he doesn't have a soul.
And it became really clear to me that his mission was to reassert the greatness of Russia, an imperial project, for sure. He had said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was one of the great catastrophes of world history. And he was going to use every tool at his disposal to actually accomplish that.
So we, of course, knew he was suborning politicians in Central and Eastern Europe. He was funding political parties and candidates like Le Pen in France. He was having favoured oligarchs purchase media in the Baltics and elsewhere to try to convey a pro-Russian anti-West view. So he had a whole project that was going.
And we also saw his invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the annexation of two sections of that country. And although we all wrung our hands and I guess imposed sanctions, we basically tried to just say, OK well, yeah, but you know, Saakashvili, who was then President of Georgia, he's kind of difficult. So let's not get into it.
And at every turn, Putin thought, well, hey, what more can I do? So when he invaded Ukraine for the first time in 2014, and again, seized Crimea, seized additional territory in the Donetsk from Ukraine, there was a lot of anxiety and angst about how to deal with him.
But you know, Ukraine, complicated place, difficult. Whatever. You had the arguments as to why Putin might have felt aggrieved. I personally have always found the arguments that Putin was motivated because NATO accepted members from the former Soviet Union to be such a losing analysis.
And it is, in part, because if you've ever talked to an Estonian, a Latvian, a Lithuanian, a Pole, or anybody else, you know that they didn't just fear the Soviet Union. They feared Russia.
And so everybody wanted to get along with Putin's Russia. As Secretary of State, I would go to NATO meetings. We had a NATO-Russia dialogue. We did everything we could. That was a nice thing to do, but it didn't make any difference to him, because he was going to go as far as he could, using the old Leninist line-- you take the sabre and you push until it hits bone. You go as far as you will be let to go.
So in my meetings with him, I found him aggressive, contemptuous of the West, uninterested in really finding common ground to work on things. Toward the end of my time as Secretary of State, I watched how he began to forge even a closer relationship with the most conservative elements of the Russian Orthodox church. And as part of that relationship, to begin going after the LGBTQ community with crackdowns and very homophobic rhetoric.
So he was someone who had an idea that the West was weak, that the United States was weak, that he could sow division within Europe, that he could basically have an opportunity to, both through intimidation and then, where necessary, direct action, reform an imperial Russia with countries along the border who were beholden to it.
So bottom line, I found it-- he was extremely unhappy with me on several occasions. But the most dramatic was in the fall of 2011. He had announced he was going to go back as president. And Medvedev, who'd been serving as president, was going to become Prime Minister again.
And they had elections. They had had Duma elections and local elections, all of which were rigged. And they were rigged in such a blatant way. It was a message to the Russian people. Because you had video of people throwing away ballots. Everything that was Donald Trump's dream was actually on video in Russia.
And so as Secretary of State, I made what we do all the time, a statement in favour of democracy. I know, it's very novel. And so I said, the Russian people deserve to be able to elect their own leaders. They deserve free and fair elections. And that's not what we've seen in Russia.
Now, having literally nothing to do with my statement, tens of thousands of Russians had already gone into the streets. They were protesting because they had hoped for better. And it was very clear Putin was not going to permit that.
So then Putin blamed me for the demonstrations. Because the one thing he fears is internal protests that could lead to his being toppled. He saw it in Ukraine. He saw it in Georgia. He lives in fear of that.
And so he blamed me for agitating and arranging for people to go out into the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and a few other places. So that's really one of his major reasons why he was determined to undermine the 2016 election.
And he found a willing partner in Trump, who was very susceptible to the idea that a strongman, a kind of tough man, the kind that Trump admires and wants to be, would be paying attention to him and reaching out through intermediaries.
INTERVIEWER: I do seem to recall, though-- sorry to lower the term-- some incident with man spreading and Putin?
HILLARY CLINTON: Oh, look, you know-- OK.
INTERVIEWER: I'm sorry.
HILLARY CLINTON: He has-- you know, he's a short guy.
So he does-- he obviously works out all the time. Because he's got his shoulder it's about as broad as they can be given his size. And he struts around. And he particularly loves to embarrass or show his disdain for women leaders.
There's that story of he knew Angela Merkel was afraid of big dogs. So when he was meeting with Angela Merkel, he had this huge Russian wolfhound or some other giant dog in the room, to just kind of just give her a hard time.
He always man spreaded. I mean, that's the way-- he'd sit in these-- I don't want to do it. But he'd sit in these meetings. And what would happen-- I think the last one on one-- no, the second to last one-on-one meeting I had with him was at his dacha outside of Moscow.
And so he calls in the press. It's just me, the ambassador, and my aide. And he's got two people. He calls in the press. He launches an attack on the United States about something. And then before I can respond, he directs the press out.
But when he's talking to the press, he's doing his man spreading deal, and his kind of slouched down attitude. So that time, I was determined we were going to talk about something. Because everything was on my agenda, he wasn't interested in hearing about. And he wasn't interested in really working with us. This was, by now I think 2011.
So I had read that he was interested in conserving some of Russia's wildlife, like polar Bears. And I said to him, I said, you know, I read that you really are serious about this and I commend you for that. I think that's important.
He said, yes. And he said, come with me. And so he jumps up, and he leads me out of the room. We go down the stairs. We go down this long hallway, and we go into this secret door. And there are these security guys sitting around. They're shocked to see him. They jump up.
He goes into another door. Then we go in another door. And then we're in this like inner sanctum office, just me and him. And on this wall he has this huge map of Russia. And he starts to tell me what he is doing about saving these various species of animals.
And he said, you know, I'm going up here. And he points to the far north of Russia. He said, I'm going up here to tag polar bears and to count polar bears. Would your husband like to go with me?
I said, well, I don't know, I don't know his schedule. But I'll go with you. I was-- yeah, that wasn't an invitation for me. But I mean, so you could get him animated about some things.
The other time he got animated was in September of 2012. You know, Obama is running for re-election. There's a president-- there's what's called APEC, the Asian Pacific Economic Committee meeting in Vladivostok. And Putin has spent all this money. He's taken this island. He's turned it into kind of a university. We're all staying on it. That's where the meetings are held.
And by this time, he's really unhappy with me because I'm agitating about Syria and what the Russians are doing in Syria. And I had reached an agreement with Lavrov about a ceasefire fire in Syria. And then Putin had blown it up. And so he's very unhappy with me.
So Obama can't go, so I'm there. And he won't talk-- and Putin won't talk to me. But because of protocol-- you know that old joke? Like what's the difference between a terrorist and a protocol officer? You can negotiate with a terrorist.
Well, because of protocol, the United States had hosted the event in Hawaii the year before. Indonesia was hosting the event the next year. So at dinner, Putin had to sit between me and the president of Indonesia. He was not happy.
And so I'd been trying to get a meeting with him about Syria. And he wouldn't talk to me. And then right before dinner, he said he would talk to me for like 10 minutes about Syria, and then we had to go in to dinner.
So I'm sitting with him. And again, I'm going, I've got to find some way to get him to talk. I got to hear-- I've got to figure out what's going on. So yeah, that's how I felt. And then so--
So I said to him, you know, I said, Mr. President. He also was speaking English to me, which he pretends he doesn't know or understand. And he said-- I said, you know, I was just in St. Petersburg, and I finally had a chance to go to the museum honouring the siege of Stalingrad and the heroic efforts of the Russian people to prevent the Nazis from going any further.
And all of a sudden, he gets kind of involved again. And he says, let me tell you a story. It's just him and me. And he said, you know, my father was on the front lines during the siege. And he would have to be there for like three days, and then they would let him go home for a half a day or a day. And then he'd have to go back.
And he said, there was no food. People were starving to death. There were rats everywhere. And so he's trudging back to the apartment where he lived with my mother. And as he's walking down the street, there's a huge pile of bodies. Because the body collectors would come to try to collect the bodies to prevent the spread of plague and other things.
And as my father is walking by the pile of bodies, he looks down and he sees my mother's foot with a shoe on it. I mean, I'd read a lot about Putin. I'd never heard this story.
And he ran over. And he was pulling what he thought to be the body of his wife out of the pile. And the body collector said, go-- stop it, go away. These people are dead. Don't touch them. He goes, that's my wife, that's my wife, I want my wife.
So finally, fine, take her. And so he his father took the woman's body. And she wasn't dead. So he took her into the apartment and nursed her back to health. And then after the war, Putin is born.
So Putin tells me this story. And all of a sudden I thought, wow, that says so much about his mentality and who he is and how he sees the world. And after it was over, you know, I got my team up-- after the dinner was over, I got my team, and I told my team. And Mike McFaul was the ambassador to Russia at the time. We had people from the CIA with us. We had a whole entourage.
I told him this story. Nobody had ever heard it before. And so I put it in my book, called Hard Choices. And I related it as he had related it to me. They never said a word. And then since then, I've heard that it's certainly something that he tells people.
So look, he's a complicated messianic, narcissistic, authoritarian, and he launched his invasion, his second invasion of Ukraine in part because Trump lost, because he thought if Trump had won, Trump would have pulled us out of NATO. It would have literally been a cakewalk for him.
And so when Trump didn't win, he figured he had to go forward. He thought he had enough chits with the Germans and others to prevent a united front in support of Ukraine against his invasion. He turned out to have absolutely the wrong calculation.
And I just want to say one other thing, which was I thought brilliant, and I give the Biden administration huge credit for this. Putin intended a false flag operation to justify his invasion. He was going to set something up that looked like it would give him a-- it wouldn't be credible to anybody who knew anything, but it could be used as propaganda as to why he had to go into Ukraine.
And so when the United States declassified intelligence showing that he intended to invade, that there was no false flag operation, and that he was going to invade on a very, very rapid timetable, and people didn't believe it, including initially the Ukrainians, that was an incredibly important unprecedented use of American intelligence to try to put Putin on the back foot, where, thankfully, he still is, and we hope finally gets driven out of Ukraine.
INTERVIEWER: So I think, judging from the reaction, most people in the audience take your view of Putin and of this war in Ukraine, as do I. But a lot of the global South doesn't. Brazil, you go to Brazil, you go to India, you talk to a lot of people in Africa, you talk to people outside of the West. And it's not necessarily a shared perspective.
And it's not that they disagree that what Putin has done is an aggressive action and violation, violent violation of sovereignty. It's that they point to, well, what about what's going on in Ethiopia, or in the DRC, or in Syria. So we don't have the global South.
And in some sort of key respects, we are kind of in a bubble about this war. I guess my question is, how do we address that?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I disagree with the premise. The so-called global South has every reason to have their own views. And yeah, we haven't done enough in Ethiopia. The most brutal war of the last 30 years was in the DRC, where more than 5 million people were killed.
And the war continues to simmer. They're absolutely right about all of that. But that is not a factor that needs to or should influence our policy or our determination. And also, if you really look closely, with very few exceptions, the rhetorical questioning has not been matched by materialistic support for Russia.
And even India, which continues to import from Russia, has not dramatically increased. And one of the most important meetings that has taken place in recent days with respect to Ukraine took place today in Japan, when Zelenskyy showed up and met with Modi.
And so because of India's critical role in both the global South and its strategic positioning, their slow walking is advantageous. And look at China. Before he invaded, Putin goes to China. He meets with Xi. He, I think, previewed what he was going to do.
He basically was a believer in his own intelligence. And one of the problems when you're a leader who stays for life and you're surrounded by sycophants is they tell you what you want to hear.
And what they told him was, this is going to be easy. We'll be in Kyiv in a week. We'll instal a puppet regime. It'll all be taken care of. And so that's what Xi thought would happen. And then that's not what happened. And so I think the support that Putin expected from China has not been forthcoming.
So honestly, it's a difficult road for some of the countries. You mentioned Brazil. You mentioned South Africa. A lot of the people in the current Brazilian government and the people in the current South African government had linkages to Russia.
During apartheid in South Africa, who was supporting the African National Congress? People like Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat. The Russians. So I think there is a bit of a balancing act going on. But in terms of what matters, which is materialistic support, that has not materialised.
INTERVIEWER: Have you met Xi Jinping?
HILLARY CLINTON: Yes, I have.
INTERVIEWER: And what's your assessment?
HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I thought, originally, he was in the mould of the prior Chinese leaders, who understood that there was a consensual agreement about the transition of power, that a leader would stay-- I can't remember-- six, seven years, and then they would move on.
And that new leader would be, in effect, agreed to by the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. And it would be a peaceful transition of power. And they would move forward like that. Because it gave them a safety valve.
They don't have a real electoral system. It's by favour and privilege and networking. And so people would rise up through the Communist Party apparatus. They would prove their worth and their ability with their peers. And then among them would be the next leader.
So when Xi Jinping broke the agreement, I thought that was a very worrisome sign. And when he humiliated Hu Jintao at the prior Communist--
INTERVIEWER: The 20th Party Congress.
HILLARY CLINTON: The 20th Party Conference. Humiliated him in public. And I had more interactions with Hu than I did with Xi, because that's when I served. That I thought was just such a signal that I'm in, I'm not going anywhere, I'm staying for as long as I want to stay. Get in line or else.
And it's never a good sign when that happens. I mean, they don't-- they at least would provide some variation on leadership. And you would see some movement on issues between leaders, and who was up and who was not. And it would give you a sense of how decisions were being made.
And now it's all him. So here's the positive news about Ukraine, is I was of the opinion that he-- that Xi would make his move against Taiwan sometime within three to four years of really consolidating his power. I didn't know whether it'd be a cyber attack, a blockade, an invasion. I couldn't tell you that.
But I thought he would make whatever move he was going to make. I think Ukraine has really set him back. I mean, what has happened in Ukraine has had a significant impact, in my view, on the Chinese leadership.
Now, I also, again, give the Biden administration credit. I think their China policy has been quite adept. And by that I mean, bringing this so-called quad together-- India, Japan, Australia, the United States-- trying to-- when I was there, I made a speech in Chennai urging the Indians to understand that they had a big role to play in dealing with a potentially more aggressive China.
And I think having the quad concept come to fruition, working with the UK to deliver submarines, nuclear powered submarines to Australia, developing a closer relationship with South Korea, who just was here for a state visit, Japan increasing its defence budget, in part because of problems, not just with China, but with Russia over contested territory, the Philippines once again welcoming American military assets being based in the Philippines, all that has happened in two years under the Biden administration.
Because the Trump policy was yelling about trade deficits and doing nothing. No infrastructure plan, no chips programme, nothing. But yelling about them and talking about them as a strategic risk, but no strategy behind it. So I actually think that sort of creating this potential coalition, reestablishing-- reinvigorating prior alliances, bringing more people into that.
And there was a recent meeting about a week or so ago between Jake Sullivan and his counterpart-- I think it was in Vienna-- which, apparently, according to the readouts, back to diplomacy, were constructive. And that's like the most amazing thing you can say about a meeting. It's constructive.
So I think that-- so I think there's a lot of moving parts. And I think Xi, to some extent, may be re-evaluating exactly how to deal with the United States. Look, Trump was the gift that kept giving to people like Xi and Putin.
I mean, he was so enamoured of authoritarians. He was inept in any kind of strategic approach to China. And he clearly was going to do whatever Putin wanted on NATO and other stuff, as John Bolton has told us. So I think that we are in a better place. It's a complicated calculation. But I think that Xi has consolidated power. But now, I think he's trying to figure out the best way to go from here.
INTERVIEWER: I mean, as far just sort of looking slightly higher altitude on the US-China equation right now, but when you were First Lady, and to some extent even when you were Secretary of State, we were in this positive some world mindset, that China would gradually integrate and loosen as it developed.
Now we're very much into a zero sum world mindset, that as it develops, it becomes more of a threat. Did we get it completely wrong first time? Or are we over-correcting this time? I mean, how do you read that?
HILLARY CLINTON: Look, nations have their own agendas. And I don't think we got it wrong. I think it was a good bet. And a lot of American businesses certainly relied on that bet, that we could encourage the opening of the Chinese economy to investments, particularly to American investments of all kinds.
So I think that was a good and smart bet. Obviously, putting China into the World Trade Organisation was part of that, trying to make sure that there was at least an alternative approach or vision that China might pursue.
And I think it really worked, until it didn't work. And the part of the reason it didn't is if you-- I think Xi is central to this calculation. Remember, Xi, as a young man, actually lived in Iowa. He lived, I don't remember exactly where, but somewhere along the Mississippi River.
He was like a-- he was not a young student, but he was an exchange-- he was in an exchange programme. And he was studying agriculture. And so he knew America. He'd been in America.
And the gift to these authoritarians, in their minds, is our divisiveness. If you're sitting in Beijing or Moscow or Tehran or Pyongyang, and one of these other places, and you see how crazy we act, and how incapable we seem to be of getting things done anymore--
INTERVIEWER: Maybe he went to a caucus when he was in Iowa.
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, he could have.
He could have gone to a caucus. And thank God they're over, at least for the Democrats, because they are deserving to be finished. And I mean, I won Iowa once. But still, it's not a good-- it's not a good idea.
Let my people vote. So look, I think that we have to take responsibility for some of how we are seen, which leads to conclusions about what other countries then can get away with, because we can't get our own act together to be able to craft and stick with a bipartisan foreign policy.
Now, with respect to Ukraine, it's been pretty miraculous it's been as bipartisan it has. I mean, there are the outliers and these people who say these ridiculous things who I don't think yet have any kind of sway or majority.
But if you're sitting in these other countries and you're looking at the United States in the last 20 years, where we waged two very expensive wars. Didn't pay for them. First time in American history we didn't pay for going to war. Where our whole economic system collapsed because we didn't regulate the financial industry, which then brought down the global economy.
Where we had to kind of pull ourselves out of that. And thank goodness the pattern is that the Republicans have these huge deficits and debts and then Democrats like my husband, and like Barack Obama have to come in and try to get us back on a more even keel.
And then, you've got Trump, who is personally responsible for 25% of the entire debt of America. This charade that they're playing out on the debt limit is beyond outrageous. So you look, though. I wrote a piece in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago about the National Security implications of the debt.
Because I was in Hong Kong in 2011, when we were going through this again and the Obama administration. And I was having a big meeting with Chinese business people, both Hong Kong based, at that point, and China based, And then from around the region.
And all they wanted to do was get me to reassure them that we wouldn't go into debt. And of course, you know, I'm sitting there going, oh no, you know, that's not going to happen. We'll figure it out, some time to get to the brink.
But what an absurd position to put the most productive and biggest economy in the world into. So if you're sitting there watching, so yeah, maybe there was a chance, if we had had a different focus, that China might have said, oh wow, we can't mess with the Americans.
I mean, let's develop ourselves internally. Let's figure out what we're going to do with this massive savings rate that our people have and give them a little more freedom. Not too much, but maybe a little more. And let's find some ways to work with the Americans on climate change and other stuff.
But no, instead, it's like oh my God. There's an opportunity here. You can't blame somebody for taking opportunities if you open the door to them.
INTERVIEWER: Now, before-- I mean, we're going to have a few minutes for questions from people. I know you've got a flight. But let me just squeeze in a couple of domestic 2024 questions. And I hate to put you through the thought experiment involving Donald Trump.
But I'm going to. He talks about 2024 being the final battle. He talks about being, I am your retribution. He says America's enemy is within.
The thought experiment is, and I'm not asking you to endorse this scenario, but what would happen if Trump won, first of all in Ukraine. What would happen to the Ukraine situation?
HILLARY CLINTON: Look, if Trump wins, which I do not believe will happen. Let me just quickly say that. If in some scenario that were to happen, it would be the end of democracy in the United States. It would be the end of Ukraine.
And it would become-- he will pull us out of NATO if he wins again. Just like he pulled us out of the Iran deal. He pulled us out of the Paris Accords. He will pull us out of NATO.
And so when you ask this question, I mean, the list of potential disastrous outcomes is longer than I have time to go over with you. But it's why we can't permit it to happen, why any sensible person who looks at that former president and says, oh, let's do this again--
--needs an intervention. Because he's only gotten worse. He is so angry that every one of their manoeuvres to win the electoral college. And remember, the electoral college, this terrible anachronism that has caused people like me who win the popular vote not to be president. But that's beside the point.
So think about this. I win by nearly 3 million votes over Trump in 2016. I lose the electoral college by 77,000 votes. Biden wins by over 7 million votes, wins the electoral college by 100,000 votes. It was the mirror image of what happened to me, only I was on the losing side. And Biden was on the winning side.
And I know from people who have reported to me, who were talking to Trump and his family during that time. They thought they had Georgia totally set. They thought they had Arizona totally set. They had been working hand in hand with Republican governors and legislatures to limit the vote as much as they possibly could.
And they certainly thought that Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania were potential opportunities for them. So he is angry because his game failed. His rigged game to steal the election.
And you can always tell what Trump is really doing, because he will accuse somebody else of doing it. It's projection unlike anything I've seen in public life. They thought they would pull out the electoral college.
It didn't matter that he was going to lose by over 7 million votes. It didn't matter, because they don't believe in majority rule. They believe in pluralities that they determine. And they are going to do everything they can to prevent people who don't vote for them from voting.
So I don't think he can win. But the electoral college is always a difficult outcome to predict. So yeah, we have to stop that from happening.
INTERVIEWER: A very brief question, then I'll go to the audience. Now, Biden's running again. As you say, he's had a pretty substantive record in the 2 and 1/2 years. He's in Japan. He's at Hiroshima for the G7.
Now, there was that heart stopping moment where he almost fell over coming down the stairs a day or two ago. He didn't use the railings. Jill wasn't there with him. Every time that happens, your heart is in your mouth, because these things could be consequential. Is that a concern?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I mean, it's a concern for anyone. And we've had presidents who've fallen before who are a lot younger, and people didn't go into heart palpitations. But his age is an issue. And people have every right to consider it.
But he has this great saying, and I think he's right. Don't judge him by running against the Almighty, but against the alternative. And I am of the camp that I think he's determined to run. He has a good record that three years ago people would not have predicted would have gotten done.
He doesn't get the credit yet that he deserves for what is happening out in the country, in terms of jobs and growth and planning for the future, with chips and other stuff. So I obviously hope he stays very focused and able to compete in the election, because I think he-- I think he can be re-elected, and that's what we should all hope for.
INTERVIEWER: So we have time for two or three very, very quick questions. The lady in the front row. There's a mic coming. And keep it sort of--
AUDIENCE: You created the role of special advisor for the child for children's issues in your time as Secretary of State. I'm curious to know if there are other ways we could continue to leverage the government to help protect children abroad?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, thanks for that. There were many aspects to that. Adoptions, trafficking, all kinds of issues that the United States has an interest in and that we tried to build higher visibility and understanding for those issues.
I think they're trying to reconstruct that. I mean, basically nothing that we did on women and children and trafficking and human rights and all that was a priority for the Trump State Department. So we're going to have to rebuild it and raise the visibility of it so that people know it's part of what we care about when we talk about human rights and democracy, that children deserve as much support, and whether it's hunger issues, climate issues, trafficking issues, war issues.
I mean, what Putin has done by kidnapping children out of Ukraine-- and the latest estimate's maybe 200,000 missing kids. And I'm really very grateful that the International Criminal Court has indicted him and his main enabler on that. But that's the kind of issue that the United States needs to have a very, very strong position on.
INTERVIEWER: Just the second row here.
AUDIENCE: Thank you so much. Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley is doing a lot at the State Department to increase diversity, which as you know, would be very informative to foreign policy with respect to the global South. What is your perspective on the traction that she's making, and what needs to change so that we can increase diversity in the Foreign Service?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, we were doing a good job under Obama. We had a real problem when I became Secretary of State, because the pipeline for Foreign Service officers had dried up during the Bush administration. And so we made a huge effort to reach out.
And we went to historically Black colleges and universities. We went to a lot of places that the State Department had not been before. And we did a lot of recruitment. And we really began to increase that pipeline. And it was a very diverse pipeline, with a lot of first generation Americans, whose language skills were really necessary.
And then it all fell apart again under Trump. And so Gina and others are trying to rebuild that. And I think we're making progress. I've had a number of young people whom I have been asked to talk to about their interest in going in the Foreign Service.
So I think we're making real progress. And I think you're 100% right. I mean, you know, I've always believed our diversity is our strength. It's one of our greatest strengths. I mean, there is no country in the world better positioned for the future than the United States. And there are many reasons for that.
But among our strengths is our diversity. So when I see people on the other side of the political divide going right after our strengths, I think who the heck are you really representing? Because you're not representing the future of this country.
You've got some other agenda. You want everybody to look like you, act like you, think like you, read the books you think are OK to read. It's so counterproductive. Not just here at home, but in terms of our outreach in the world. So I've got my fingers crossed that we will keep building that and not have another interruption.
INTERVIEWER: So I think-- I just want to check how much longer I've got, because you're holding up notices and I can't read a thing. Oh, does that mean-- it looks like five. Yeah, it's five, yeah, yeah. The lady in the front row there. Yeah, it could have been either.
AUDIENCE: First of all, thank you so much, Mrs. Clinton, for all that you've done for our country and your incredible service. Very grateful.
And I have a really quick question. What is the Democratic party doing to prepare and mentor other future leaders like yourself, to future presidents, future other politicians.
HILLARY CLINTON: I think we're doing a lot. After 2016, I realised that the Republicans had done much more to build institutions and pipelines for young people who wanted to get into politics at all levels, not just the federal level.
And so I started a group called Onward Together, and we support about 17 organisations of young people who recruit other young people to run for office, and who helped train them and mentor them, and take on causes on all kinds of important issues, and raise money for candidates.
We've raised about $65 million in the last six years to do this work. So I think there's a number of us who are much more focused on doing exactly what you're talking about. And it's important to stress that local elections are often the feeders into state and federal elections.
And so we want more people to run-- one of the groups we support is called Run For Something. And we want more people to run for City Council, County Commissioner, School Board, Library Board, because those are where a lot of these fights are now taking place.
People are ripping books off of library shelves because they now control the library board. And so all of this is part of setting up a strong alternative to the very well organised movements on the right to wage culture war and to win political campaigns, and then to subject the rest of us to their own version of what our society should look like.
INTERVIEWER: Well, Secretary Clinton, I'm discovering as we speak that there aren't just fascists in Hungary and Russia or Trump rallies or wherever they might be, but they're actually running this conference.
And they just want it-- no, I'm panicked now. I went too far. I went too far.
HILLARY CLINTON: You did, Ed. You went too far.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah. But I'd just like to thank you so much for making the effort to come here. Really enjoyed that. And thank you.