Every American diplomat knows the story of JFK and Nikita Khrushchev. The US president met the Soviet leader in Vienna in June 1961, and Khrushchev took the opportunity to intimidate his fellow American who had just assumed office. Kennedy later said: “I told him that nuclear war would kill 70 million people in ten minutes.” “And he looked at me as if he wanted to say: So what?” Kennedy concluded the meeting: “He hit me hard.”
One hears this anecdote every now and then in Washington when speaking to foreign policy makers about the meeting between senior officials from the United States and China in Alaska last week. Ambassadors from Beijing also used the opportunity there to intimidate the newly elected US government with unusually harsh and overt criticism. Kennedy was not played by President Joe Biden in Anchorage, but by Anthony Blinken, the new Secretary of State of the United States.
Anthony John Blinken was expected to take over this position one day. His father, Donald Blinken, was the US ambassador to Hungary and one of his uncle was the US ambassador to Belgium. After his parents’ divorce, Blinken grew up partially in France, where his stepfather, Samuel Pissar, a famous lawyer and Holocaust survivor, worked for the United Nations. After leaving school, Blinken studied at Harvard and Columbia, and in 1988 he graduated with a law degree.
Since 1994, the 58-year-old Blinken has been part of the Democratic Foreign Policy Foundation in Washington. He worked with President Bill Clinton on the National Security Council, and then, when he retired, on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, which then included Joe Biden. In the Obama administration, Blinken served first as a security advisor to Biden, who rose to the position of vice president, then President Barack Obama as deputy security advisor, then deputy secretary of state.
Blinken spent the Trump years in a kind of political exile, which was, however, extremely lucrative: along with other foreign and security Democrat politicians, he founded a consulting firm, became a partner in a financial investment firm, and made money from his knowledge and contacts around the world. . When Biden was putting his government together in late 2020 and looking for a secretary of state, it came as no surprise that his eyes fell on longtime colleague and friend Tony Blinken.
Washingtonians who know Biden and Blinken often emphasize how similar the two have in mind. Blinken is – just like the president – the traditional American foreign policy maker. He believes in the role of the United States as a power in a world order and a protector of democracy and human rights. Plus, like Biden, he is a powerful transatlantic. Blinken believes that the alliance with Europe is making the United States stronger. He supports European unification and describes Great Britain’s exit from the European Union as “a complete mess”.
In this regard, Blinken’s visit to Europe this week is likely to be more cordial than the icy meeting with the Chinese. In Alaska, in the words of Kennedy, Blinken was beaten badly – and to be honest, he just wasn’t looking good at doing it. The minister was apparently surprised by the aggressive tone, and his improvised response to Chinese criticism was rather weak. In Brussels, however, Linkin will be welcomed with open arms. European NATO partners are pleased that Washington is finally ruled by a president who does not abuse them as parasites like Trump.