The Cable

Hillary has left the building

More than 1,000 State Department employees gathered in the main lobby of the department's Truman Building headquarters Friday afternoon to hear Hillary Clinton deliver her last remarks as secretary of state before she walked out the front door and left Foggy Bottom -- perhaps -- forever.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns introduced Clinton as she stood along with Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides and Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy on the mezzanine overlooking the building's C Street Entrance.

"Madam Secretary, four years ago I stood on the same spot and had the honor of introducing you to the men and women of the Department of State. From that first day on, you've touched the lives of millions of people around the world, you've left a profoundly positive mark on foreign policy, and you've done enormous good for all of us and for the country we serve," Burns said. "We will miss you deeply."

"I cannot fully express how grateful I am to those with whom I've spent many hours here in Washington, around the world, and in airplanes," Clinton said. "But I'm proud of the work we've done to elevate diplomacy and development, to serve the nation we all love, to understand the challenges, threats, and opportunities the United States faces, and to work with all our heart and all of our might to make sure American is secure, that our interests are promoted, and our values are respected."

Clinton also mentioned Friday's terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, where a suicide bomber detonated a vest laden with explosives at an outer barrier checkpoint, killing himself and one Turkish national who was guarding the embassy. Another embassy guard was seriously wounded.

Clinton said she spoke with U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Frank Ricciardone and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davotoglu today.

"I told them how much we valued their commitment and their sacrifice," Clinton said. "I know the world we are trying to help bring into being in the 21st century will have many difficult days, but I am more optimistic today than when I stood here four years ago."

Clinton promised to be an advocate from the outside promoting diplomacy and development and said her last week of saying goodbye had been bittersweet.

"I am very proud to have been secretary of state. I will miss you. I will probably be dialing [the State Department operations center] just to talk," she said. "Next week, I would expect that all of you would be as focused and dedicated to Secretary Kerry as you were for me."

In a goodbye e-mail to State Department employees, Clinton said she would miss several things about the State Department, including State's penchant for using acronyms for everything.

"In fact, I created a few of my own," she wrote. "NY/WJC and NY/CVC - who I used to simply call Bill and Chelsea - are my newest advisors.  Instead of S, now I'll just be HRC.  I'm also thinking of turning my Chappaqua house into a SCIF, but I will not/not check my new iPad at the door."

In the crowd, State Department employees cheered for Clinton and snapped as many final photos of her as they could. They also discussed what the new regime at State would bring and exchanged speculation about which senior State Department officials would be staying or leaving, and who might replace them.

Most of the seventh-floor senior staff could stay put, so go the rumors, but several of the mid-level positions, especially at the assistant secretary or deputy assistant secretary level, are expected to change hands.

"It's a good day but a sad day," one State Department official in the crowd told The Cable. "I think it reflects the enthusiasm and support that Secretary Clinton has garnered over the last four years that so many people came here to wish her well and show her support -- not just Hillary Clinton the secretary but also Hillary Clinton the person."

Meanwhile, Kerry was sworn in as the new secretary Friday afternoon in a private ceremony; the State Department refused to disclose the location. Kerry's first day at State will be Monday, and there will be a public swearing-in as well.

There's a lot of enthusiasm at the State Department about Kerry's arrival, but also much uncertainty about how much change he will bring.

"People are hopeful that he can carry on a lot of the strategic direction that Secretary Clinton set forth and that he can bring in his own brand of leadership but also not deviate from the path that Secretary Clinton has put us on," the State Department official said.


The Cable

Biden does Europe

Vice President Joe Biden is on a tour of Europe that will include stops in Germany, France, and Britain and meetings with leaders from Russia, the United Nations, and the Syrian opposition.

The White House is framing the trip as chance for Biden to reassert the importance of the trans-Atlantic relationship at the beginning of President Barack Obama's second term. Biden will start by attending the Munich Security Conference, which he last attended in 2009.

"Now he's going back at the start of the second [term]... to take stock of what we've accomplished over the past four years and to look at the agenda going forward," said Tony Blinken, Biden's outgoing national security advisor, who will soon move into his new role as the principal deputy national security advisor at the National Security Council. "It's no coincidence that the vice president went to Europe then and returns to Europe now to help set out our foreign-policy agenda. As President Obama has said, Europe is the cornerstone of our engagement with the world and a catalyst for global cooperation."

Biden left Washington Thursday evening and arrived in Berlin Friday morning for a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Friday evening he arrives in Munich, where he will give a speech and hold a series of meetings on Saturday. Biden will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. and Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, and with Moaz al-Khatib, the president of the Syrian opposition council.

"We'll be discussing our continued political and non-lethal support to the opposition that is helping them coalesce and become more organized and provide certain services like medical services to the Syrian people," said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications. "And we'll be discussing the political way forward. And what we would like to see from other countries, including Russia, is an acknowledgement that Bashar al-Assad must go and that there needs to be a transition within Syria to a new government."

Rhodes also confirmed that Biden and Lavrov will discuss the potential for new nuclear reductions negotiations, as The Cable reported this week.

"On this question of further reductions, the president has spoken to this in the past. For instance, if you look at the speech he gave in Seoul in the spring of last year, he indicated that even as we move forward with the New START reductions and deployed warheads and launchers, that he believes that there's room to explore the potential for continued reductions, and that, of course, the best way to do so is in a discussion with Russia," said Rhodes. "We'll obviously have to carry forward that dialogue going forward."

Saturday evening, Biden will attend Bavarian minister Horst Seehofer's dinner, which honors former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. At last year's Munich Security Conference, the dinner honored former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT).

On Sunday, Biden and his wife will visit the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center before leaving for Paris later Sunday afternoon. On Monday Biden will meet French President François Hollande before moving on to London, where on Tuesday he will meet with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron for a working lunch at 10 Downing Street. Following lunch, Biden will attend a meeting of Britain's National Security Council.

Blinken said that in his Paris and London stops, Biden will be discussing the ongoing crisis in Mali and ways to increase the ongoing U.S. support for the French-led mission there.

"What we're seeing across North Africa and parts of the Middle East is an extremist threat that is fueled by the reality of porous borders, ungoverned territory, too readily available weapons, increasing collaboration among some of these groups, and, in many cases, a new government that lacks the capacity and sometimes the will to deal with the problem," Blinken said.

"And so this requires a comprehensive approach, as Ben said, bringing to bear our political and economic tools, as well as our military tools, but it also requires a common approach. And so this trip is an opportunity, in all of its stops, for the vice president to confer with leaders about that and to look forward to how we can continue to work together and strengthen our common efforts to deal with this challenge."