Candidates for US President-elect Joe Biden, head of state and defense departments, told Congress on Tuesday that they would seek to reaffirm the nation’s leadership in world affairs and reverse the policies of the Trump administration.
Anthony Blinken, who has been nominated to be the next US Secretary of State, has pledged to restore US leadership in international affairs after four years as President Donald Trump.
“We will revitalize US diplomacy to face and meet the most pressing challenges of our time,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“American leadership still matters,” Blinken said, describing the world as a world defined by “the rise of nationalism, the retreat of democracy, the growing rivalry between China and Russia and other authoritarian states.”
For his part, Lloyd Austin, Biden’s candidate for defense secretary, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that renewing US military alliances against China would be one of his top priorities.
“I can’t wait to get out there to renovate these alliances,” Austin said when questioned by Democratic Senator Jack Reed, who will chair the committee this year.
As Trump steps down and Biden inaugurates a new administration on Wednesday, the United States faces diplomatic and military challenges from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, said stated Blinken and Austin.
Trump had pursued an “America First” foreign policy that angered Washington’s allies in Europe and strained relations with NATO, and had taken a tough stance against China and Iran.
Blinken has identified China as the main challenge for U.S. foreign policy and said he agrees with the general thrust of the Trump administration’s tougher approach.
“The basic premise was the right one,” Blinken said, adding that he did not agree with some of the actions Trump took, however.
“We have to start by approaching China from a position of strength,” Blinken said, which will require “military investments to ensure that we can deter any aggression.”
Politics in the Middle East
Regarding the Middle East, Blinken said the new Biden administration would seek to build on recent US-brokered normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
Blinken stressed that the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security is “sacrosanct,” and said the two-state solution, which has long been at the heart of US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is “highly contested at this stage”.
At the same time, Biden’s team will be looking at some of the commitments Trump made to push countries to make those deals with Israel, Blinken said. He did not specify what that would mean.
For example, US recognized Claim by Morocco on the disputed territory of Western Sahara within the framework of the Morocco-Israel normalization agreement. This too removed Sudan from its list of “sponsor states of terrorism” after the Sudanese government accepted its own deal with Israel.
Blinken also reiterated Biden’s pledge to end US support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
This has been a major request from Democratic Party lawmakers, who say Washington’s involvement in the devastating conflict has exacerbated an already severe humanitarian crisis.
The war in Yemen began in late 2014 when the Houthi rebel group took control of much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
The conflict escalated in March 2015 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates united a US-backed military coalition to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
– Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 19, 2021
Regarding Iran, Blinken said Biden would seek to renew the nuclear deal with a “longer and stronger deal.” Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iranian nuclear pact in 2018 as his administration pursued a strategy of “maximum pressure” against Tehran.
Blinken said Trump’s assassination of Iranian General Kassem Soleimani a year ago “made us less secure” in the region.