President-elect Joe Biden will tap Tony Blinken as his secretary of state on Tuesday, Bloomberg and The New York Times reported Sunday night. The move elevates a longtime Biden aide with deep experience in foreign policy who is popular among U.S. allies abroad and with many officials at the State Department, which has seen morale plummet under President Donald Trump.
Biden’s choice also indicates the importance he plans to place on global affairs: he’s giving the job of top diplomat to one of his chief advisors after speaking repeatedly during his campaign about restoring America’s badly damaged image abroad.
Blinken served as the deputy secretary of state, the second-highest job at Foggy Bottom, during President Barack Obama’s second term. He previously worked for Biden in the Senate for years when the president-elect helmed the chamber’s foreign relations committee and before that worked in the Clinton administration.
He’s seen as respecting and deeply understanding other nations while believing in strong U.S. global leadership; he helped design Obama’s intervention to prevent a massacre by Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi and was open to stronger American action against Syria’s Bashar Assad. But like Biden and many in his orbit, Blinken has over time become more cautious about the risky consequences of assertive U.S. actions and he’s a loud supporter of diplomatic solutions to international crises, serving in recent years as one of the biggest boosters of the Obama-era deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program.
Biden hopes to quickly rejoin the deal, which Trump abandoned but Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran continue to largely abide by. Achieving that goal and reinvigorating the State Department will likely be Blinken’s first priorities. He’s also certain to emphasize joint international action against climate change; Biden wants to recommit the U.S. to the Paris accord on limiting global carbon emissions, which Trump left, and take further steps to prevent further warming in concert with foreign partners.
Blinken’s journey to actually entering the job could be hindered by two important groups: progressives and Republicans. Some figures on the left are wary of him for advising wealthy private companies after the Obama administration and believe he is too committed to traditional Washington ideas about American shows of force on the world stage. The GOP, which could complicate Blinken’s Senate confirmation, could press him hard on Iran, which many Republicans want to continue pressuring, and on Obama-era foreign policy choices they see as problematic.
Given their close relationship of nearly 20 years, however, Biden will likely advocate heavily for Blinken to succeed.
The president-elect will soon reveal additional appointments for key foreign policy jobs, including his national security adviser at the White House and his defense secretary.
Former State Department official Jake Sullivan is the prime contender for the former post, per Bloomberg; Michèle Flournoy will almost certainly take the latter, becoming the first woman to run the Pentagon.
Biden will also appoint Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a veteran diplomat, as ambassador to the United Nations, making her the second-ever Black woman in the role, Axios reported earlier on Sunday.
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