by David Parmer / Tokyo
New faces in Washington are no surprise, but with the Biden administration we get a collection of new faces that have been seen before in the nation’s capitol. Many of the Biden folks have been at the top tier before but just not in the spotlight. General Lloyd Austin was around before, as was Anthony Blinken and even Avril Haines. Now, these first tier players have moved from assistant this and deputy that to Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State and Director of National Intelligence. And then there is Jake Sullivan.
Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor has been around in the thin oxygen of national politics and policy for “a while” and gotten his ticket punched. Mr. Sullivan graduated from Yale University, did an MA at Oxford, and cycled back to Yale for his law degree. He practiced law in Minnesota where he worked for Senator Amy Klobuchar.
He then worked for both Hillary Clinton and then Barack Obama and worked as Clinton’s Director of Policy Planning. He worked for Obama as Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to then Vice President Joe Biden. In 2013 he worked on the JCPOA or Iran Nuclear Deal. In 2016 Mr. Sullivan was again working for Clinton, this time during her presidential campaign. After a stint back in the private sector, in 2020, Sullivan was selected by President-Elect Biden to be his National Security Advisor.
The Biden administration quickly undid a lot of Trump-era policy and infrastructure, but remains fairly consistent on China policy. Mr. Sullivan signaled no big changes in China policy during his confirmation hearing and even went on to support some of the views of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, including the question of the violation of human rights of the Uighur minority.
In Biden’s Washington it looks like the band is back together. Biden’s team is deep with experience and peopled with appointees that the president knows and trusts. Former President Donald Trump might call Biden’s team a return of the “deep state.” Around Washington (and around the world) many people are happy about this, and happy to see new-old faces like Jake Sullivan hard at work.
Photo: The White House via flickr.
To get an idea of former Vice President Joe Biden’s foreign policy when he becomes president, the best person to listen to is his top advisor, Tony Blinken.
Blinken, a graduate of Harvard College and Columbia University has been around politics and policy since 1994 when he was on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council staff. From 2002-2008 he was Democratic Staff Director for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Blinken was Deputy Secretary of State from 2015-2017 and Deputy National Security Advisor. It is possible that he will be chosen to be National Security Advisor in a Biden administration.
In two interviews (links below) he outlines a possible direction for Biden foreign policy. It should come as no surprise that one of the first priorities will be mending relations with US allies who have been alienated by the substance and manner of Donald Trump’s policies toward allies, toward Europe and toward NATO.
The big question is relations with China. In the interviews Blinken suggests that the US is operating from a position of weakness regarding China and the first task is to reestablish good relations with US allies before dealing with China. He suggests that the US and China share many common interests internationally and that these are areas for cooperation. However, he stresses that the US must do this from a position of strength.
As for Iran, the US withdrawal from the JCPOA or “Iran Deal” did not force Iran back to the bargaining table as the Trump administration had planned, nor did the crippling sanctions create regime change in Teheran. It is possible that the US might even return to the JCPOA under a Biden administration. The Europeans have been keeping the deal on life support, and it might well get new life.
While it is possible that a Biden administration would have to look inward to repair the damage done to all areas of American politics and daily life brought about by 4 years of the Trump policies, the US would still have both its international commitments and interests, and those would be addressed by people of a like mind to Tony Blinken.
Dialogue on American Foreign Policy and World Affairs: A Conversation with Former Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (Hudson Institute)
Transcript: Joe Biden foreign policy adviser Anthony Blinken on COVID shortfalls, failures in Syria (CBS News)
Photo: US Department of State via flickr