Antony Blinken filled his agenda as he takes the reins of the State Department after Senate confirmation


WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as America’s top diplomat, tasked with implementing President Joe Biden’s pledge to overthrow the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine that has weakened international alliances .

Senators voted 78 to 22 to endorse Blinken, a longtime confidant of Biden, as the country’s 71st secretary of state, succeeding Mike Pompeo. This is the highest cabinet post, with the secretary being the fourth in line with the presidential succession.

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Blinken, 58, was Assistant Secretary of State and Deputy National Security Advisor under the Obama administration. He pledged to play a leading role in the administration’s attempt to reframe U.S. relations with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned long-standing alliances. He is expected to start work on Wednesday after taking the oath, according to State Department officials.

“American leadership still matters,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at its Jan. 19 confirmation hearing. “The reality is, the world just isn’t getting organized. When we are not engaged, when we are not leading, then one of the following two things is likely to happen. Either another country is trying to take our place, but not in a way that would advance our interests and values, or maybe just as badly, no one does and then you have chaos.

Blinken vowed that the Biden administration would approach the world with humility and confidence, saying that “we have a lot of work to do at home to improve our position abroad.”

Despite the promise of renewed US leadership and the focus on strengthening strained ties with allies in Europe and Asia, Blinken told lawmakers he agreed with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. .

He supported the so-called Abrahamic Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, and a firm stand on China on human rights and its assertion in the South China Sea.

He did signal, however, that the Biden administration was interested in bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal that Trump withdrew in 2018.

Trump’s candidates for secretary of state have faced significant opposition from Democrats. Trump’s first candidate for the job, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was approved by 56 to 43 votes and only served 13 months before Trump sacked him in a tweet. His successor, Pompeo, was confirmed by 57 votes to 42.

Opposition to Blinken centered on Iranian policy and conservative concerns about dropping Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

Blinken inherits a deeply demoralized and exhausted career workforce at the State Department. Neither Tillerson nor Pompeo has put up strong resistance to the Trump administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were only thwarted by congressional intervention.

Although the department has escaped proposed cuts of more than 30% in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its rising senior and middle ranks. Many diplomats have chosen to retire or leave the foreign service given the limited prospects. for advancement under an administration that they felt did not value their expertise.

A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a long-standing presence in Democratic foreign policy, Blinken has partnered with many former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in US diplomacy. and a renewed emphasis on global engagement.

Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming personnel director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chairman of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden before moving to the State Department to serve as Deputy Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now special correspondent for climate change.

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