Biden’s Secretary Of State Nominee Antony Blinken Delivers Remarks | NBC News
What do those who know him say about the future chief US diplomat?
Antony John Blinken, nominated by US President-elect Joe Biden for the post of Secretary of State in the next administration, can bring joy with his biography and career to anyone who values intelligence, tradition and a broad view of the world outside of his country in a diplomat. This conclusion can be made by talking to his colleagues in the US government and experts who followed Blinken’s steps in this field..
However, it is possible that these very qualities – tradition and belonging to the establishment – will be the subject of criticism from those who do not believe that US foreign policy in the future can be conducted in the same way as it was carried out before 2017..
It is worth learning more about America’s top diplomat since January 2021 (if Blinken’s candidacy is approved by the Senate).
Family and career
Anthony “Tony” John Blinken was born in New York in 1962 to a family of successful businessmen who later became diplomats: Tony’s father, Donald Blinken, was the US ambassador to Hungary in the 1990s, and his uncle, Alan Blinken, was in Belgium. His mother, Judith, is also a diplomat of her kind – in 2017 she became UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Cultural Diplomacy. Judith divorced Donald Blinken when Tony was still a schoolboy, and his stepfather, Samuel Pisar, took his wife and future American politician to Paris, where he studied at the prestigious school of Jeanine Manuel.
In addition, Anthony Blinken studied at Harvard and Columbia University Law School, and entered politics in 1988, together with his father, raising funds for the campaign of the US presidential candidate from the Democratic Party, Michael Dukakis. From 1994 to 1998, Blinken was Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton and held several positions on the US National Security Council – in particular, was responsible for strategic planning and speechwriting. At the end of Clinton’s second presidential term, from 1999 to 2001, Blinken was responsible for contacts with Europe and Canada at the US National Security Service..
In 2002, Anthony Blinken went to work for the Senate and until 2008 was the chief of staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In this position, Blinken became the main speechwriter and “right hand” of Joe Biden, at the time – the chairman of this committee..
In 2008, Anthony Blinken returned to the US administration – already in the position of Vice President Biden’s national security adviser. In November 2014, President Barack Obama appointed Blinken to the post of US Undersecretary of State, and he left this position along with the entire Obama-Biden team in 2017..
Positions on key international issues
Anthony Blinken takes the values of democracy and human rights very seriously – this is what everyone who worked with him says. However, it is this attitude, as several people who have worked with Blinken have told the Financial Times, that makes him come up with solutions long enough to achieve perfection, and this, according to his critics, sometimes led to a loss of time to make a decision..
At the same time, the future US Secretary of State is known for his commitment to decisive actions if they are taken to punish those who violate human rights: in particular, it is known that Tony Blinken considered it necessary to attack Bashar al-Assad after the Syrian dictator used chemical weapons. When Donald Trump launched missile strikes on Syria in 2017 and 2018, Blinken supported those moves..
Anthony Blinken had a great influence on shaping the response of the Barack Obama administration to the annexation of Crimea by Russia and was often the one who explained this response to the public and experts. Speaking at the Brookings Institution in the summer of 2014, he said the US aims to isolate Russia internationally in response to its aggression against Ukraine, severe economic sanctions against Moscow, and support America’s friends and allies in Europe. Then, in the summer of 2014, Anthony Blinken expressed Washington’s wish that Europe would adopt sanctions against “key sectors of the Russian economy”.
However, the expression “the Crimean rose will eventually fade”, which Blinken used then at the Brookings Institution, was too optimistic: the sanctions had not yet caused damage to the Russian economy that would have forced Moscow to change course, Russia avoided isolation by increasing cooperation with China, and relations with allies US in Europe has seriously deteriorated during the years of Trump’s presidency.
Tony Blinken was also very active in the Middle East: he was one of those who promoted the achievement of a “nuclear deal” with Iran, while always defending Israel’s right to self-defense; he believed that if the Obama administration spoke about the “red lines” in the behavior of the Assad regime in Syria, then they should be punished for crossing them (the media say in this regard about his expression: “Superpowers do not bluff”).
Tony Blinken was deeply involved in the events in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine in 2014-2015, when these countries were subjected to armed aggression by Russia. Blinken met regularly with Arseniy Yatsenyuk when he was Prime Minister of Ukraine, and also visited Kiev and Tbilisi to agree on US assistance.
In Russia, the nomination of Anthony Blinken to the post of secretary of state in the future administration of Joe Biden was commented on in terms that could complicate Moscow’s interaction with the US Department of State. On November 25, Olga Skabeeva, the host of the propaganda program of Russian television, called Blinken a “genetic Russophobe” who “absorbed hatred of Russians with her mother’s milk.”.
Another state media, the Rossiya Segodnya agency, on the same day published a comment by the permanent author Irina Alksnis, where the following is said about Blinken: “Doubts to what extent as Secretary of State he will be guided exclusively by the national interests of the United States is quite natural.”.
John Tefft: Tony Blinken knows how to listen
American diplomat John Tefft, who served as the US ambassador to Lithuania, Georgia, Ukraine and Russia, recalls in an interview with the Voice of America Russian Service about working with Anthony Blinken as a time of important tasks and cooperation:
“I have known Tony Blinken from the moment he came to the State Department – we met in 1992 or 1993. He was assigned to the European Bureau as a political analyst and speechwriter, and I was there at the time, so we worked together. I helped him write a couple of speeches he then wrote for Under Secretary of State Steve Oxman, and our paths have crossed many times since then – we met when I spoke to Joe Biden, then chairman or senior senator from the opposition on the committee. Senate for Foreign Relations, and, of course, when I was ambassador to Russia and Georgia, and Joe Biden came to these countries as vice president. And in his other positions, we also cooperated all the time “.
John Tefft says that Blinken’s speechwriting skills were the basis of his professionalism: “In a variety of circumstances, when I saw Tony in action, the main thing I remember was the following: as just a brilliant speechwriter, he had a very clear understanding of foreign policy issues, and the same clear understanding what exactly his boss – in this case Joe Biden, senator, vice president, and now president-elect – wants to say on these issues. And, of course, you need to have a good writing style, and Tony has it all. “.
“When I was ambassador to Georgia,” the diplomat continues, “in 2008-2009, there was perhaps the most critical moment in international affairs of those when we worked together. Joe Biden was one of the first senators to come to Georgia after the Russian aggression. Biden strongly advocated the adoption of the US aid package for Georgia, which later became known as the “billion dollar package.” It was singled out to help Georgia recover from the war and get back on its feet – both economically and politically. And Tony, as the chief of staff of the Senate committee, was a key figure in organizing the details related to this package. “.
“In 2009, while sitting in a hotel in Tbilisi, we worked with Tony on a speech that Biden, already vice president, delivered to the Georgian parliament. I and others naturally made suggestions, and after the discussion it was very great when he showed us a project – initially well done too – with our suggestions and asked if he reflected the ideas that we had expressed. He knows how to listen, “- shares his memories John Tefft.
According to the former US ambassador, Tony Blinken is not a hostage to the approaches to foreign policy pursued by the Obama administration: “He understands that a lot has changed since 2016, and not only because of the actions of the Trump administration – the world has changed in principle. First, of course, this terrible pandemic that we have to deal with, but also other phenomena and events. “.
“Tony believes America needs allies, he believes in basic human values, but he understands – like Biden-nominated National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, like President-elect Biden himself – that the world has changed and the way to what is happening in him now, you need to be creative. We need to look for new ways to solve the problems facing the United States, and they themselves said this at the ceremony of presenting candidates for the future administration, “Joe Tefft says in an interview with the Russian service of the Voice of America..
Mark Simakovsky: Blinken will have to explain to the Americans their benefits from the US status as a world power
Atlantic Council expert Mark Simakovsky, a former European leader in the Pentagon’s political apparatus, commented on Joe Biden’s choice of Secretary of State as quite successful:
“Anthony Blinken is the best candidate to head the Department of State at a time when US credibility has been severely damaged over the past 4 years. He will be able to restore allied ties and deal with what needs to be done against the opponents of the United States. As for Russia, I think the new administration will not only see Russia in its true light, that is, as our enemy, but also pay attention to areas of potential cooperation where possible “.
Mark Simakovsky believes that the beginning of such cooperation could be the immediate extension by Washington and Moscow of the Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms: “START-3 will be the most natural subject for interaction, perhaps the first task that will need to be solved simply by extending this treaty … But, in general, the question will be acute in the administration – how to interact with Russia, which is not interested in partnership and cooperation with the United States other than on its own terms, and Tony Blinken will be a key participant in discussions about this “.
Countries bordering Russia, under Blinken at the head of the State Department, should feel more confident, says an expert from the Atlantic Council: “I am sure that in the role of Secretary of State Blinken will be someone who is seriously interested in cooperation with countries around Russia, and this interest is not only that interaction with the US allies facing Russian aggression and in need of additional US assistance should be strengthened. Both President-elect Biden and Secretary of State Blinken will, I believe, put more emphasis on democracy and the advancement of human rights in countries in the region that are experiencing democratic drift and may experience “hard love” from the United States..
However, Mark Simakovsky predicts obstacles to the return of the United States to a more voluminous role in world politics, and these obstacles, he said, will be within the American society itself:
“One of the tasks of any secretary of state is to explain to the US public why we are pursuing a certain policy, and to enlist the support of the US population for that policy. I think the Department of State will have to do more to convince the American public of why it is important for the United States to be a world power. I have no answer whether they will succeed, because the Americans began to sound doubts about the need for such a status even before Trump came “.
“Americans will ask why this is important. If we can clearly substantiate why this is important for the interests of the United States, and not just for, say, Europe, then I think we can demonstrate why for decades the American people have benefited from active diplomacy around the world, ”says Mark Simakovsky.
Reporter for the Russian Voice of America Service in Moscow. Collaborates with Voice of America since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and host of programs for the BBC Russian Service and Radio Liberty. Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.
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