Updated: Oct 15, 2021
With considerable support from both parties, Antony Blinken was confirmed as the 71st U.S Secretary of State by a 78-22 Senate vote on Jan. 26. As the country’s top diplomat in the wake of four years of President Donald Trump’s firmly isolationist policies, Blinken will be faced with the challenging task of reestablishing the United States’ footholds on the global stage. Nonetheless, having served as a foreign policy adviser for the previous two Democratic presidents as well, Blinken will have nearly 30 years of governmental experience and significant bipartisan appeal to work with as he navigates through this uniquely difficult time in American diplomatic relations.
Although he spent his formative years in his birthplace of Yonkers, NY, Blinken attended and graduated from grade school in Paris, France after moving there at the age of nine. Following his graduation in 1980, Blinken attended Harvard University and majored in social studies four years later. Blinken then enrolled in Columbia Law School. While there, Blinken authored the novel “Ally vs Ally: America, Europe, and the Pipeline Crisis,” an account of the conflict between the U.S. and its European allies regarding support for a Soviet pipeline being built in Western Europe.
Following in the footsteps of his father Donald Blinken, the U.S Ambassador to Hungary at the time, Blinken officially stepped into government service in 1993 as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs. In 1994, he would join President Bill Clinton’s National Security Council staff as the administration’s head of foreign policy communications and speechwriting. Blinken continued to rise, and from 1999 to 2001, he served as President Clinton’s chief advisor on European Affairs.
After Republican George W. Bush assumed the presidency in 2001, Blinken relocated from the White House to Capitol Hill and served as the Democratic Staff Director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There, he established a working relationship with Biden, who at the time was the committee’s chair. Even after Biden set his sights past Congress and on the White House, the future-president and Blinken continued to work together, with Blinken acting as a foreign policy advisor for Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign. Although the campaign ended in uneventful fashion with less than 1% of the vote in the Iowa caucus, both Blinken and Biden would reach the White House later that year—Biden as vice-president and Blinken as his National Security Adviser.
In 2013, after five years as Biden’s National Security Adviser, Blinken transitioned to the role of Deputy National Security Adviser. Two years later, he was named Deputy Secretary of State, becoming the nation’s second-highest-ranking diplomat.
During the Trump administration, Blinken worked as a strategic consultant for WestExec Advisors, which he co-founded with three other Obama administration officials. As the Biden administration began to take shape, Blinken and several other members migrated from the consulting firm to the White House, prompting Politico to deem the company a “government-in-waiting.”
In his initial statements as Secretary of State, Blinken has made it clear that the United States’ foreign policy initiatives will reflect the more internationalist principles of the Clinton and Obama administrations. “America’s leadership is needed around the world, and we will provide it because the world is far more likely to solve problems and meet challenges when the United States is there,” Blinken said upon being confirmed.
Specifically, Blinken asserted that the U.S. would seek to re-establish the Iran Nuclear Deal, from which the U.S withdrew in May of 2018. “The path to diplomacy is open right now,” Blinken said on Feb. 16 in regards to the 2015 nuclear deal.
Even so, Blinken has signaled agreement with the Trump administration’s hardline stance on China, a driving force behind much of their foreign policy initiatives. Labeling the East Asian nation’s treatment of Uighur Muslims as genocide and questioning their transparency on COVID-19, Blinken committed to maintaining a tough tone with China. “I disagree, very much, with the way that [Trump] went about it in a number of areas, but the basic principle was the right one,” Blinken said in his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing.