Democratic ‘force multipliers’ can outcompete China, says Blinken


Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken today outlined his vision for a revitalized foreign service and diplomatic corps in his opening statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, promising to reengage with global partners in pursuit of “the greater good,” POLITICO reports.

An alliance of democracies is best placed to address the challenges of  “a world of rising nationalism, receding democracy, growing rivalry with China, Russia, and other authoritarian states, mounting threats to a stable and open international system, and a technological revolution that is reshaping every aspect of our lives, especially in cyberspace,” Blinken suggested in his prepared remarks.

“We can revitalize our core alliances – force multipliers of our influence around the world.
Together, we are far better positioned to counter threats posed by Russia, Iran, and North Korea and to stand up for democracy and human rights,” he said.

Only active engagement in the world will counter creeping authoritarianism by demonstrating the superiority of democratic values and institutions, he suggested.

“When we’re not engaged, when we don’t lead, then one of two things happen: either some other country tries to take our place, but probably not in a way that advances our interests or values. Or no one does, and then you get chaos,” Blinken added. “We can outcompete China—and remind the world that a government of the people, by the people, can deliver for its people,” paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln’s paean to democracy

A former Obama official said Mr Blinken would probably take a tougher stance on human rights than the Obama White House, the FT reports.  “Tony would be visibly tougher on Russia and more receptive to the idea of ideological competition with China, cranking up a few notches the democracy promotion and human rights dimension of foreign policy.”

Mr. Blinken’s team includes Obama administration veterans, the Wall Street Journal adds. Daniel Fried, who had served as the top State Department official for Europe, said that he expects the Biden team to put more emphasis on rallying the world’s democracies against authoritarian regimes—a theme Mr. Biden struck during his campaign.


“The center of gravity of this team is a shade more pro-European and more pro-democratic values,” said Mr. Fried (right), a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). “They are also sobered and even a little burned by experience in the Middle East, and therefore appreciate the challenges in carrying out big ideas.”

Mr Blinken’s views on alliances and promoting democratic values fit with a growing view in Washington that the US needs to work more closely with allies to gain greater leverage to tackle China, the FT adds.

In a recent Intelligence Matters podcast, Mr Blinken – a pragmatic realist who believes in US power but understands its limits – said the US had to rebuild alliances to tackle the “democratic recession” that let “autocracies from Russia to China . . . exploit our difficulties”.

Philip Gordon, a former Obama administration official, said that Blinken’s views were informed by his family history. His Polish-born stepfather Samuel Pisar survived Auschwitz and eventually wound up in the US, where he became a successful international lawyer, while other relatives entered the US as refugees, the FT adds.

“That has left him believing that the US can and should do good in the world,” said Philip Gordon, a former Obama administration official. “But I would pair that with the notion that he is a real pragmatist who also understands the limits of American power. He is anything but an ideologue.”


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