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“Deploying diplomats today is much cheaper than deploying troops tomorrow,” he added the Charlottesville, Virginia, speech, his first major address since replacing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state on Feb. 1.
Kerry, who leaves Sunday on a nine-nation trip to Western Europe and the Middle East, did not discuss in detail his approach to thorny issues such as the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and Syria’s civil war.
His trip, from Sunday through March 6, will take him to London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Doha.
Instead, he focused on the possibility of the automatic spending cuts, known in Washington jargon as “sequestration,” that may kick in on March 1, as well as a general defense of U.S. engagement in the world.
Sequestration would slice $2.6 billion from the budget for the State Department and the U.S. development aid agency, Kerry said last week, arguing this would undercut U.S. diplomacy and security at a time of turmoil across the Middle East and Africa.
“When a shrinking world clashes with calls for shrinking budgets … it’s our job to connect those dots … for the American people between what we do over there and the size of the difference that it makes over here at home,” he said.
“Why the price of abandoning our global efforts would be exorbitant, and why the vacuum we would leave by retreating within ourselves will quickly be filled by those whose interests differ dramatically from ours,” he added.