Saturday, January 23, 2021

Biden Chooses Antony Blinken, Defender of Global Alliances, as Secretary of State

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He will have roughly 15 days after inauguration to extend, for five years, the last major arms control agreement with Russia, a step Mr. Trump initially refused to take because he insisted China be brought into the treaty as well. “Certainly we will want to engage China on arms control issues,” Mr. Blinken said recently, “but we can pursue strategic stability by extending the New START arms limitation agreement and seek to build on it” later.

Mr. Blinken has turned more hawkish on Russia as the extent of its interference in the 2016 election and throughout Europe has become clearer, and in a recent interview suggested using Russia’s discomfort with its reliance on China, especially in technology, for leverage.

“There’s a flip side” to dealing with Moscow, said Mr. Blinken. President Vladimir V. Putin, he noted, is “looking to relieve Russia’s growing dependence on China,” which has left him in “not a very comfortable position.”

Described by some as a centrist with a streak of interventionism, Mr. Blinken has also sought to lessen refugee crises and migration. On the last day of the Obama administration, the State Department set a cap of 110,000 refugees who would be allowed to resettle in the United States in the 2017 fiscal year. That number has since dwindled to 15,000 in the 2021 fiscal year.

He has said he will look to further assist Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — the Northern Triangle countries of Central America — to convince migrants that they will be safer and better off by remaining home.

That all will likely leave less time and resources for the Middle East, he has said, although that was the policy area that consumed Mr. Blinken in the years after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

He helped craft Mr. Biden’s proposal in the Senate to create three autonomous regions in Iraq, partitioned by ethnic or sectarian identity, which was widely rejected, including by the country’s prime minister at the time. During the Obama administration, Mr. Blinken was a key player in diplomatic efforts to harness more than 60 countries to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

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