Washington: President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the State Department promised to revitalize alliances and approach the world with humility, offering a contrast with outgoing Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s embrace of “swagger” and his take-it-or-leave-it diplomatic approach.
“Humility and confidence should be the flip sides of America’s leadership coin,” secretary of state nominee Antony Blinken will say in his nomination hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks. “Humility because we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad.”
The statement signals that Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, intends to draw the curtain on four years of “America First,” in which President Donald Trump browbeat the NATO alliance, slammed staunch allies such as Germany and France and demanded that nations like South Korea and Japan pay more for the privilege of hosting U.S. troops.
Gone was any hint of Pompeo’s “swagger” — a favorite term of the former congressman that was frequently derided by career diplomats — or the departing administration’s public skepticism of multilateral institutions. Already the Biden team has signaled it will quickly rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and reverse Trump’s plan to leave the World Health Organization.
At the same time, Blinken, 58, acknowledged the threats posed by China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, saying the Biden administration will “engage the world not as it was, but as it is.”
That appeared aimed at assuaging both Democrats and Republicans who fear Blinken and the rest of Biden’s foreign-policy team, many of whom served under President Barack Obama, will simply try to pick up where they left off.
The incoming administration will face some major foreign policy decisions immediately after taking office, while managing the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans and left the U.S. economy reeling.
Blinken’s remarks cite a “a world of rising nationalism, receding democracy, growing rivalry with China, Russia, and other authoritarian states, mounting threats to a stable and open international system and a technological revolution that is reshaping every aspect of our lives, especially in cyberspace.”
Even though Blinken — and nominees to lead the Defense, Homeland Security and Treasury departments and the intelligence community — will have their confirmation hearings ahead of Biden’s swearing-in on Wednesday, the president-elect is likely to take office with acting leadership teams at his cabinet agencies.
There were elements in Blinken’s brief remarks that went unspoken for the last four years and will please progressives, including a promise to tackle climate change, which he called an “existential threat” and Trump once referred to as a “hoax.”
Blinken also vowed that things would be different now after years in which Pompeo refused congressional subpoenas over Trump’s first impeachment and declined to testify out of frustration the Senate wasn’t signing off on Trump administration nominees.
“In recent years, across administrations of both parties, Congress’s voice in foreign policy has been diluted and diminished,” Blinken planned to say. “That doesn’t make the executive branch stronger – it makes our country weaker.” – Bloomberg