"A lot of countries have economic power today that they didn't have in the last century and they're feeling their oats," he said in an interview Thursday with The Atlantic at the Sixth Annual Washington Ideas Forum.
With more and more nations unwilling to accept "the behemoth United States, superpower of the world, telling us all the time what we have to do" Kerry said the "American power needs to be projected thoughtfully and appropriately."
"It requires more dialogue. It requires more respect for people, more mutual interest finding," he said suggesting the situation was more like "back towards the latter part of the 19th century or even 18th century in dealing with countries."
"Countries are flexing their muscles and standing up for their own interests and they have some greater economic independence and ability to do it. And then you see the BRICS - Brazil, Russia China, India - standing up and saying -- we want something - a different access, in a sense," he said.
"So we have to work harder at it. And my warning to the Congress and to the country is, really, this doesn't come for free," Kerry said.
Kerry: We're still critical to everything that happens in the world
He then cited the visit of Modi, who came to the US after going to China and Japan getting billions of dollars for infrastructure development, but didn't get much from US. "Prime Minister Modi from India came here the other day. He came after going to China and going to Japan, both of whom gave him double-digit numbers of billions of dollars for infrastructure development," Kerry said.
"China, I think, did 30 billion; Japan did somewhere similar," he said lamenting, "We couldn't even do a $1 billion loan guarantee, the United States of America. Now everybody here ought to be shocked by that. We are behaving like we're the richest country on the face of the planet," he said.
"We're still critical to everything that happens in the world. And we are not sufficiently committing the resources necessary to do what we need to do in this world," Kerry said.
He discounted a suggestion that "American power in the world is living on fumes," but acknowledged that "We talk about democracy, we go out and we extol the virtues of our way of life, et cetera, but are we backing it up?"
"So we've got to get our act together," Kerry said explaining the US rebalance with Asia with 40 percent of the global economy, "we're focused strategically on how do you play the long game here? And the long game is raising the standards of trade, opening up more trade," he said.