Senate confirms Blinken as Secretary of State with mission to redirect US diplomacy
New York, Jan 27 (IANS) Anthony Blinken has been confirmed as the Secretary of State to steer US diplomacy in a new direction of greater engagement with international organisations and recasting ties with allies.
President Joe Biden’s nominee received the Senate confirmation on Tuesday with 78 votes to 22, the dissenters being Republicans in the evenly divided body.
At his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing last week, he laid out his agenda: “We’ll engage the world not as it was, but as it is. 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.”
Despite the 22 Republican votes against him, Blinken generally received bipartisan support.
Senator Jim Risch, the Republican leader on the Foreign Relations Committee, said that Blinken is “the right person for the job,” agreeing with Senate Democratic Party Leader Chuck Schumer, who called him “the right person to reassure America’s prerogatives on the global stage.”
Blinken drew flak from Republican, Rand Paul, who is often a gadfly, for his role in US fiasco in Libya when he was the deputy secretary of state in the administration of former President Barack Obama.
“With Blinken and other military interventionists, we got more war,” he said referring to the 2011 intervention by US and its allies against Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi that ended up leaving the country in chaos and US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American officials dead.
At the Foreign Relations Committee hearings, Blinken said that there would be continuity in US relations with India which grew under the previous administration of Donald Trump.
He gave an indication the US would continue to support India in its confrontation with India.
He said that the US would continue “to make sure we were working with India so that no country in the region including China could challenge its sovereignty and also working with it on concerns that we share about terrorism.”
Blinken ranked China as one of the top challenges that the Biden administration would have to confront.
“There is no doubt that it poses the most significant challenge of any nation” to US interests and there are “rising adversarial aspects to the relationship”, Blinken said during the confirmation hearings.
He gave credit to the former for recognising the China challenge, even though he disagreed with how he went about it, saying “I also believe that President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China,” he said.
When he was the deputy secretary of state, Blinken has met with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar who was then the foreign secretary.
He saw cooperation on climate change as an avenue for ties with India to grow under Biden, who has radically different priorities from Trump.
Blinken referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s programmes for renewable energy, he said, “I think there’s a very strong potential for our countries to work together in that area.”
Besides China, the Middle East is an area where Blinken will have to work on reversing Trump’s policies.
Trump had pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal worked out with European allies and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to end its nuclear programme with weapons aims.
Re-engaging Iran will also require reassuring other countries in the region like Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf nations.
With Russia, Biden has promised strong retaliation for alleged election and political interference, the “Solar Winds” computer hack that intruded into ultra-sensitive US government computers, but he is also trying to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that limits nuclear weapons and missiles.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)