Joe Biden nominated Antony Blinken, who is a former deputy secretary of state under Barack Obama and an advocate for world alliances, to the role of secretary of state. The decision indicates that the next administration is dedicated to an international approach to foreign policy, which the United States has seemed determined to jettison with Donald Trump.
The selection of Blinken illustrates the foreign policy goals of Biden and marks a reversal from those of Trump. These vital objectives include the rededication of the United States to world alliances, a restoration of our democratic authority for the international community, and working with our partners to confront the challenges with Russia and China.
I articulate the necessity of this international approach with my new book, while making a case that the isolationist approach of Trump, which harms even our own allies, has started to yield several troubling results. Outright authoritarian models for governance are in ascendancy around the world, while the United States and its allies appear to have lost faith in their own ideals in an era when they should address such hostile forces.
With the last four years and the current administration, the United States has lost confidence in democracy with the rise of authoritarianism as the viable model for governance in the eyes of millions. At the center of that story are Russia and China, which bring fundamental challenges around the future of democracy and human rights around the world.
The broadest and most disturbing threat posed by the Russia and China axis is the assault on our values and an alternative to the Western model for open societies, free markets, and democratic governance. I share the belief of Blinken that United States leadership in multilateral institutions, especially the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is essential to confront such a rise of authoritarianism that is led by Russia and China.
Blinken has said the world is safer for the United States when we have our friends and allies. He has been a vocal critic of the “America First” foreign policy of Trump, who has isolated us and made us more vulnerable to our adversaries. Blinken described the decision to move forces outside from Germany as a “strategic loser” that could assist Vladimir Putin.
Consistent with this international approach, both Biden and Blinken have indicated that they plan to recommit the United States to the multilateral treaties from which Trump has withdrawn. They also plan an extension of the New Start Treaty and to use the accord as a foundation for new arms control talks. “We will want to engage China with arms control issues, but we can pursue strategic stability by extending the New Start Treaty arms limitation agreement and seek to build on it,” Blinken claimed.
Blinken has also shown clear intent to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal, a signature foreign policy achievement with the former administration from which Trump withdrew two years ago. Blinken has indicated that it would be done by working closely with our allies to strengthen the terms of the Iran nuclear deal and to push back on the other risky activities.
United States leadership depends not only on the revival for our domestic institutions, but also on foreign policy that delivers constructive results for our country, for our allies, and for the world. The selection of Blinken to be secretary of state indicates that the incoming administration is dedicated to this vision and is committed to restoring the country as an authority on the reason for democracy and human rights around the world.
Blinken said, “We are not the leader of first choice because we are always right, or because we are universally liked, or because we can dictate such outcomes. It is because we can strive to the best of our ability to align our actions with our principles and because our leadership holds the ability to mobilize others and make a difference.” I could not concur more with this view. I also believe that when this view has been set into motion under the next administration and beyond, the United States will be in a better spot to ensure the survival of democracy for generations to come.
Douglas Schoen is a political consultant who has served as adviser to Bill Clinton and to the campaign of Michael Bloomberg. His new book is “The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise and America in Retreat.”