WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken used his first main tackle on Wednesday to rally a home constituency for President Biden’s international coverage at a time when Americans are targeted on the coronavirus pandemic, the economic system and different issues at residence.
The 28-minute speech, delivered to a principally empty reception room on the State Department, sought to point out that essentially the most pressing problems with diplomacy had been issues which have a direct impact on Americans.
From defending democracy to combating local weather change to managing the nation’s relationship with China — “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century,” he mentioned — Mr. Blinken outlined eight priorities of the Biden administration’s international coverage. He mentioned they have to be confronted each at residence and overseas, “or we fall short.”
Mr. Blinken’s remarks had been a companion to the White House’s launch of what it known as its Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, a 24-page document meant to function an preliminary international coverage blueprint till administration officers produce their first official nationwide safety technique, a congressionally required report printed by each White House, later this year.
Briefing reporters on the doc, the nationwide safety adviser, Jake Sullivan, mentioned the steerage was premised on the concept the United States should be capable of have interaction in “great power” competitors with rival powers comparable to China and Russia on the similar time it defended towards transnational threats, together with pandemics, local weather change and terrorism.
The key to that, Mr. Sullivan mentioned, was rebuilding America’s economic system, democracy and alliances, to work “from a position of strength” worldwide.
Neither Mr. Blinken nor Mr. Sullivan supplied new coverage bulletins. And whereas the steerage doc was designed for presidency officers, Mr. Blinken tried to attach with common Americans in a speech he might need delivered, however for pandemic restrictions, to an viewers far past the Beltway.
“I know that foreign policy can sometimes feel disconnected from our daily lives,” Mr. Blinken mentioned. “It’s either all about major threats, like pandemics, terrorism, or it fades from view.”
“Those of us who conduct foreign policy haven’t always done a good job connecting it to the needs and aspirations of the American people,” Mr. Blinken mentioned. As a consequence, he mentioned, “Americans have been asking tough but fair questions about what we’re doing, how we’re leading — indeed, whether we should we leading at all.”
(His speedy predecessor, Mike Pompeo, continuously gave talks across the United States to school college students, manufacturing facility staff and non secular teams — though critics famous that he additionally selected venues and audiences doubtlessly tied to his presumed future political aspirations.)
Although Mr. Blinken mentioned a number of international locations — together with Russia, Iran and North Korea — posed critical challenges, he made clear that China was America’s chief rival.
He repeated Mr. Biden’s marketing campaign pledge to alternate amongst aggressive, collaborative and doubtlessly confrontational postures towards China on completely different points, and mentioned robust alliances had been one of the best ways to counterbalance Beijing. “Where we pulled back, China has filled in,” Mr. Blinken mentioned.
But he supplied few specifics, a vagueness that drew cautionary notes from some former State Department officers, who mentioned that matching Beijing’s world affect would require costly diplomatic and growth efforts.
“We cannot confront China on the cheap,” mentioned Brett Bruen, a former career diplomat and White House official within the Obama administration.
Mr. Pompeo had additionally routinely singled out China through the Trump administration, calling it a rampant violator of human rights whose communist leaders had encroached on international territories and didn’t cease the unfold of the coronavirus.
Mr. Blinken repeatedly drew contrasts with the earlier administration and President Donald J. Trump’s bombastic “America First” strategy. “Real strength isn’t bluster or bullying,” he mentioned.
On immigration, Mr. Blinken mentioned the federal government would proceed to safe U.S. borders but in addition pursue a “just plain decent solution” to the plight of the 1000’s of determined Central Americans making an attempt to enter the United States.
He additionally famous the deep fractures which have emerged in American politics and helped produce the Jan. 6 riot on the Capitol. “There is no question our democracy is fragile,” he mentioned.
Yet Mr. Blinken additionally acknowledged that previous administrations — together with the Obama presidency, wherein he served — had generally let peculiar Americans down.
On free commerce, “we didn’t do enough to understand who would be negatively affected, and what would be needed to adequately offset their pain, or to enforce agreements that were already on the books, and help more workers and small businesses, fully benefit from them,” he mentioned.
Some liberal critics view Mr. Blinken as having been too supportive of previous navy interventions, and he conceded that “we must remember what we’ve learned about the limits of force to build a durable peace” — particularly in Afghanistan and within the Middle East.
“The day after a major military intervention is always harder than we imagined,” he mentioned.