Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday outlined how President Joe Biden’s administration will approach the foreign policy arena, including shifting the United States back into international agreements after the previous administration stressed strong nationalism.
During a speech from the State Department, the Biden appointee said the Democrat-led government will “renew America’s strength to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of our time” by cooperating with other nations in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, especially on vaccinating people and hammering out deals like the one reached with Iran under the Obama administration.
“American leadership and engagement matter. We’re hearing this now from our friends. They’re glad we’re back. Whether we like it or not, the world does not organize itself. When the U.S. pulls back, one of two things is likely to happen. Either another country tries to take our place, but not in a way that advances our interest and values or maybe just as bad, no one steps up and then we get chaos and all the dangers that creates. Either way, that’s not good for America,” said Blinken, who served in the State Department during the Obama-Biden era.
Biden has already announced that the United States is rejoining or moving to rejoin the pact with Iran, the Paris climate accords, and the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, among other international agreements or entities. Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the pacts, arguing they weren’t serving their stated purposes.
While Biden’s administration will “lead with diplomacy,” the ability to effectively negotiate “depends in no small measure on the strength of our military,” Blinken said, nearly a week after the United States launched airstrikes at Iranian-backed militant groups in Syria.
The United States will make revitalizing ties with allies a major focus under Biden, his top foreign policy official said.
Blinken has acknowledged missteps by the administrations he’s served. For instance, he told CBS last year that the Obama administration “failed to prevent a horrific loss of life” in Syria. On Wednesday, he said that some administration officials were mistaken in believing free trade agreements would broadly benefit Americans, pledging this time around to “fight for every American job and for the rights, protections, and interests of all American workers,” including using “every tool to stop countries from stealing our intellectual property or manipulating their currencies to get an unfair advantage.”
In another echo of Trump’s foreign policy outlook, Blinken described China as “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century.”
Blinken also said that strong borders “are fundamental to our national security,” but argued there must be “a just plain decent solution” to the waves of migrants who reach America’s borders each year.
“We need to address the root causes that drive so many people to flee their homes and so we’ll work closely with other countries, especially our neighbors in Central America to help them deliver better physical security and economic opportunity, so people don’t feel like migrating is the only way out and up,” he said.
The secretary of state also emphasized that the administration will “drive a green energy revolution” in trying to “tackle the climate crisis,” blaming climate change for wildfires in California and flooding in the Midwest.
James Carafano, vice president of the Heritage Foundation’s Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, told The Epoch Times that he couldn’t “divine any real substantive action” from the speech.
“For example, he said secure borders are important. Okay, that’s totally contrast with everything they’re doing,” he said.
“My assessment is: These guys came in without a plan. They don’t have a plan for China. They don’t have a plan for the Middle East. They don’t have a plan for Russia, that they have an impulse to say well we’ll do the opposite of Trump,” he added. “What we’re seeing as a policy, that’s the admixture of Biden’s natural tendency to be very consensus building; Obama people just want to go back and what they’re doing before, and some people have incredibly radical ideas like we’d be better off with the Muslim Brotherhood [in] charge in the Middle East than Israel or the Arab countries. And what we’re seeing is kind of a weird admixture of, we’re not seeing a clear policy of how do you deal with [the] great power competition of the 21st century.”