Analysis reveals that the appointments and nominations will bolster the surge in optimism and relief that coursed through allies when Biden became the president-elect.
‘The professionals are back” that’s the message President-elect Joe Biden sent the world as he unveiled key Cabinet and national security picks earlier this week.
“We’re at the head of the table once again,” Biden said in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt. “America is going to reassert its role in the world and be a coalition builder.”
This will be welcome news in most of the capitals of the United States’ traditional allies, many of whom have struggled with President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach that eschewed long-standing agreements and partnerships. The appointments and nominations will likely bolster the surge in optimism and relief that coursed through these nations when Biden became the president-elect earlier this month.
The picks, such as former Secretary of State John Kerry as the special presidential envoy for climate and Antony Blinken as secretary of state, are establishment figures with years of experience, who are expected to try and return the U.S. to a more measured and multilateral path.
Biden has also tapped Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a veteran diplomat who spent years in African capitals and helped shape U.S. policy on sub-Saharan Africa, to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Alejandro Mayorkas as the secretary of homeland security.
Foreign governments will know Biden’s team from their time in office under President Barack Obama and other previous administrations. And European allies are particularly enthusiastic about the pick of Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who are seen as competent and experienced, European officials and former U.S. diplomats said.
“We’re very excited about the possibilities. We are on the same page on climate, on Iran, on NATO,” one European official said about the picks.
Trump has broken with Europe on all three of these issues, announcing in 2017 that he was pulling America out of the Paris Agreement on climate and in 2018 that he was withdrawing the U.S. from the landmark Obama-era Iran deal. Early in his presidency, he hinted that he would withdraw from the NATO military alliance, saying some members weren’t paying their way.
By contrast, Blinken, Kerry and Sullivan all played important roles in negotiating the 2015 Iran deal, while Kerry helped bring about the Paris climate accord. Blinken said the Trump administration’s decision in July to withdraw almost 12,000 troops from Germany, a long-standing ally, was a “strategic loser” that weakens NATO and helps Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Blinken comes from a family of diplomats. Fluent in French, he attended high school in Paris before graduating from Harvard University and the Columbia Law School, and is a longtime Biden adviser who held important foreign policy and national security posts under Obama.
In France, the Le Figaro daily newspaper described him as a “francophile” who would lead Biden’s diplomacy and said his appointment after four years of a Trump presidency “looks like a small revolution.”
It is European countries like France that will likely welcome America’s return to a multilateral approach to foreign policy and diplomacy. French President Emmanuel Macron has had a strained relationship with Trump and has rebuked his “America First” approach to international affairs.
Rivals such as Russia and China have reason to be wary of Biden but even they may welcome the new team.
Trump’s personal relationship with Putin has been warm and, at least on the Russian side, there was an expectation that this would lead to better relations, according to Neil Melvin, director of international security studies at London’s Royal United Services Institute.
However, in reality, relations with Russia have deteriorated further over the past four years as the U.S. imposed more sanctions on Moscow, conducted mass expulsions of Russian diplomats and put pressure on European nations to weaken their ties to Russia, for example on Germany regarding a gas pipeline project with Russia, he said.
Even in Israel — where the Biden administration is expected to be more critical of the government actions in the Palestinian territories — Blinken’s appointment was welcomed by foreign policy veterans, according to the left-of-centre Haaretz newspaper.