By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com
President Joe Biden will use his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly to rally allies, partners and institutions to deal with the major challenges of our time: “COVID-19; climate change; emerging technologies; rules of the road on trade and economics; investments in clean infrastructure; a modern approach to counterterrorism; and vigorous competition with great powers, but not a new Cold War,” said a senior administration official during a press call to preview the President’s speech.
“The speech will drive home the message that ending the war in Afghanistan closed a chapter focused on war and opens a chapter focused on purposeful, effective, intensive American diplomacy defined by working with allies and partners to solve problems that can’t be solved by military force and that require the cooperation of many nations around the world as well as nonstate actors from the private sector and nongovernmental organizations and international institutions,” he said.
These big, hard challenges “will define the scope and shape of prosperity and security for the people of the United States and for people of the world in the years ahead.”
The President “will reinforce the notion that our futures and our fortunes are really interconnected and bound up with one another. And so, we all have to work together to cooperate in service of solving problems and seizing opportunities that lie before us.”
After arriving at Kennedy International Airport, President Biden was to have his first extended one-on-one meeting with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, to discuss issues including Afghanistan and Yemen, as well as big global challenges like COVID-19 and climate change.
At the end of the week, the President will host the first-ever in-person Quad Summit, “a gathering of likeminded, democratic partners to tackle these big challenges — COVID, climate, economic investment, technology.”
He will hold bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia in New York on Tuesday, followed by a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom in the evening in Washington; Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India on Friday, as well as an engagement with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan on Friday in Washington.
On Wednesday, President Biden will host a summit on COVID-19 “to rally the world urgently to work towards ending this pandemic as rapidly as possible and building our systems better to be able to handle the next pandemic.
“He believes that it is high time for the world to come together — and not just national leaders, but he’s placing a heavy emphasis on international institutions, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations — all of the actors who collectively have the capacity to beat COVID-19. And he is going to call for an all-hands-on-deck effort that can end this pandemic much more rapidly than if we allow for things to unfold without the kind of focused, sustained energy and effort that is required,” the official said.
The summit will involve setting bold goals to hit on everything from vaccinations to the supply of lifesaving medications and technologies. And it will also set out a pattern of high-level meetings through the coming months to ensure that we are holding ourselves and the world accountable to following through on achieving these goals.
The United States will also have a series of announcements about further contributions above and beyond what has already been contributed to ending the pandemic globally.
Earlier in the day, the Biden administration announced it was easing up restrictions on foreign travel into the United States, by opening access to foreign nationals who have been vaccinated and have had a negative COVID-19 test within three days of travel. In addition, airlines will be required to keep information for contact tracing, should that be necessary. The new, strict protocols will be in place by early November.
“Critically for our European partners and for the UK, this policy means that we will no longer be implementing the current 212(f) travel policies for individual countries as of early November. We’ll be moving to a consistent requirement for all international air travelers coming to the United States.
“But we’re very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to develop a protocol that will permit travel by individuals and families and business people from the E.U. and the UK, as well as from Brazil and India and other countries, to the United States with proof of vaccination.”
Responding to a question about the controversy over the United States selling nuclear submarines to Australia – which angered France –and whether this would be a new precedent for the United States to sell nuclear technology, the official said, “This is a unique set of circumstances involving a unique actor — Australia – which is a model nonproliferation citizen in the world, has incredibly high standards, has a history of proving out its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has proven that not just by word but by deed, decade after decade.
“And so, President Biden felt that with the unique case of Australia and then a unique set of safeguards for this material — the highest possible standards of safeguarding the HEU, stewardship of the HEU, consistent with the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in consultation with the relevant international bodies — that we will be able to show that this is not a broad precedent that opens the doors but rather a very narrow-use case involving the combination of a unique set of circumstances.”
There is no plan to sell such technology to South Korea or any others.
With respect to President Macron, he said, President Biden plans to discuss the way forward, and reinforce his deep commitment to the U.S. alliance with France – “an alliance that has fostered security, stability, and prosperity around the world for decades. The President wants to communicate his desire to work closely with France in the Indo-Pacific and globally, and to talk about specific practical measures that we can undertake together.
“We understand the French position. We don’t share their view, in terms of how this all developed, but we understand their position. And we will continue to be engaged in the coming days on this. And we look forward to the phone call between President Biden and President Macron once its time is fixed on the books. We think that will be an important moment and opportunity for the two leaders to speak directly with one another.”
He countered an assertion that the Afghanistan evacuation and the unilateral decision with Australia warrant criticism that the U.S. is not engaging with its partners and that it’s moving on its own.
“If you look at the most significant challenges, the highest-priority issues facing the world today, you see the United States has been deeply engaged with allies and partners and with the relevant international institutions.
“The President is hosting a summit on COVID-19 on Wednesday where allies, partners, and even competitors have been invited to talk about how we find a collective way forward.
“The United States and the European Union are holding a ministerial-level meeting of the Trade and Technology Council on September 29th. This will be an opportunity to talk about how we shape a common way forward on our economy and on emerging technologies, and it’s an unprecedented vehicle to be able to do that.
“So, when you walk through those significant issues — the depth and richness of the engagement with our allies and partners, the work that we have done with the European Union, the work we have done with Asian allies and partners, the deepening of the Quad as a vital part of the institutional framework of Asia — I think the picture is actually quite positive, despite the differences in perspective on Afghanistan and the issues we are dealing with France right now.”
He said that the US and France can find a productive pathway forward, working together on critical security issues.
“So, if you look at the totality of the Biden foreign policy — of the ways in which we have worked on the big issues and done so very much in coordination, consultation, and common action with allies and partners, and then you look at the months ahead and what’s on the docket and the trajectory that we’re setting for ourselves — the President feels very good about the path forward and about how American foreign policy can play a vital role in rallying the world and especially rallying like-minded democracies to solve the great challenges of our time.”
Hosting the leaders of the Quad fundamentally is a demonstration of the priority Biden’s foreign policy is placing of engaging in the Indo-Pacific, including through new multilateral configurations designed to focus on 21st century challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis and clean-energy, partnering on emerging technologies in cyberspace, promoting high-standards infrastructure, and an overarching commitment at the core of the Quad to promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.
This summary of outcomes of President Joe Biden’s historic Leaders on Climate, held April 22-23, 2021, was provided by the White House:
After fulfilling his promise to bring America back into the Paris Agreement, President Biden convened 40 world leaders in a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate this week to rally the world in tackling the climate crisis and meeting the demands of science. The United States and other countries announced ambitious new climate targets ensuring that nations accounting for half of the world’s economy have now committed to the emission reductions needed globally to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5-degrees C within reach. Many leaders underscored the urgency of other major economies strengthening their ambition as well on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November 2021 in Glasgow.
The Summit, which was the largest virtual gathering of world leaders, convened the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (the world’s 17 largest economies and greenhouse gas emitters) and included the leaders of other countries especially vulnerable to climate impacts or charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy. President Biden was joined at the Summit by Vice President Harris, members of the President’s Cabinet, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, as well as senior representatives of other countries and leaders from business and civil society. The full agenda and list of participants is available at https://www.state.gov/leaders-summit-on-climate/.
With the science telling us that the world needs to significantly increase the scale and speed of climate action, President Biden considered it vital to host this Summit within his first 100 days in office to make clear that it is a top U.S. priority to combat the climate crisis at home and abroad.
Vice President Harris opened the Summit by emphasizing the intertwined imperatives of addressing the climate crisis, creating jobs, and protecting the most vulnerable communities. Her remarks set the stage for the launch of the Summit’s five sessions, which were live-streamed [https://www.state.gov/leaders-summit-on-climate/].
President Biden began Session 1 (“Raising Our Climate Ambition”) by framing enhanced climate action as necessary both to address the crisis and to promote economic opportunity, including the creation of good-paying, union jobs. He told Summit participants that the United States will halve its greenhouse gas emissions within this decade, noting that countries that take decisive action now will reap the economic benefits of a clean energy future. To enshrine this commitment, the United States submitted a new “nationally determined contribution” (NDC) under the Paris Agreement setting an economy-wide emissions target of a 50-52% reduction below 2005 levels in 2030. Secretary of State Blinken conveyed a strong sense of urgency in tackling the climate crisis, noting that this is a critical year and a decisive decade to take action. He noted the U.S. resolve to work with other countries to engage in all avenues of cooperation to “save our planet.”
Participants noted the need to work rapidly over the course of this decade to accelerate decarbonization efforts and are taking a range of actions to that end. Announcements during this Session included, among others:
Japan will cut emissions 46-50% below 2013 levels by 2030, with strong efforts toward achieving a 50% reduction, a significant acceleration from its existing 26% reduction goal.
Canada will strengthen its NDC to a 40-45% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, a significant increase over its previous target to reduce emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
India reiterated its target of 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030 and announced the launch of the “U.S.-India 2030 Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership” to mobilize finance and speed clean energy innovation and deployment this decade.
Argentina will strengthen its NDC, deploy more renewables, reduce methane emissions, and end illegal deforestation.
The United Kingdom will embed in law a 78% GHG reduction below 1990 levels by 2035.
The European Union is putting into law a target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and a net zero target by 2050.
The Republic of Korea, which will host the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit in May, will terminate public overseas coal finance and strengthen its NDC this year to be consistent with its 2050 net zero goal.
China indicated that it will join the Kigali Amendment, strengthen the control of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, strictly control coal-fired power generation projects, and phase down coal consumption.
Brazil committed to achieve net zero by 2050, end illegal deforestation by 2030, and double funding for deforestation enforcement.
South Africa announced that it intends to strengthen its NDC and shift its intended emissions peak year ten years earlier to 2025.
Russia noted the importance of carbon capture and storage from all sources, as well as atmospheric carbon removals. It also highlighted the importance of methane and called for international collaboration to address this powerful greenhouse gas.
Session 2 (“Investing in Climate Solutions”) addressed the urgent need to scale up climate finance, including both efforts to increase public finance for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries and efforts to catalyze trillions of dollars of private investment to support the transition to net zero emissions no later than 2050. President Biden stressed the importance of developed countries meeting the collective goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year in public and private finance to support developing countries. He also announced that the Administration intends to seek funding to double, by 2024, annual U.S. public climate finance to developing countries, compared to the average level of the second half of the Obama-Biden Administration (FY 2013-2016). This would include tripling public finance for adaptation by 2024. President Biden also called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and announced that his Administration will undertake a series of steps to promote the measurement, disclosure, and mitigation of material climate risks to the financial system.
Treasury Secretary Yellen highlighted the role of multilateral development banks in supporting the transition. She also said that the Treasury Department will use all its tools and expertise to help support climate action. Special Envoy Kerry moderated a discussion among leaders from government, international organizations, and multilateral and private financial institutions. These leaders noted the importance of concessional finance to leverage much larger sums of private capital, as well as to provide finance to technologies, activities, and geographies where private capital is not flowing. They noted the urgent need to increase finance for adaptation and resilience in developing countries. The participants also recognized the need for governments to embrace key policies, including meaningful carbon pricing, enhanced disclosure of climate-related risks, and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Several of the private financial institutions expressed their support for coalitions such as the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero and the Net Zero Banking Alliance. They also referred to recent commitments by U.S. banks to invest $4.16 trillion in climate solutions over the next ten years.
Session 3 elevated four specific topics for more focused consideration by government officials and, in some cases, a broader range of stakeholders.
The discussion on climate action at all levels, hosted by U.S. EPA Administrator Regan and including participation from a wide range of governors, mayors, and indigenous leaders from around the world, illustrated the importance of marshalling a multi-level “all-of-society” approach to climate action. The Session showcased States, cities, and indigenous groups that are committed to an equitable vision for advancing bold climate ambition and building resilience on the ground. Participants discussed the critical importance of building just and inclusive societies and economies as they accelerate efforts to transform their communities in line with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Participants discussed not only the importance of leadership at all levels of society and government, but also the importance of collaboration between national and subnational governments to catalyze additional ambition.
The discussion on adaptation and resilience, hosted by Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack and Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas, focused on innovative ways in which countries from a wide variety of regions are responding to climate change in the areas of water and coastal management, food security, and human impacts. On the theme of coastal and water management, panelists offered up innovative solutions to prepare for water-related climate challenges, such as locally-owned disaster insurance instruments, relocation, and the use of green and blue bonds to finance nature-based solutions. Focusing on food security and climate, participants highlighted the need for better technology to address a changing agricultural landscape as well as the importance of supporting small-scale farmers. On human health and security, the discussion centered on scaling up locally-led solutions to climate vulnerability, emphasizing that economic opportunities are key to keeping communities healthy and stable. The session emphasized that adaptation and mitigation go hand in hand.
The discussion on nature-based solutions, hosted by Interior Secretary Haaland, addressed how achieving net zero by 2050 is not possible without natural climate solutions, such as stopping deforestation and the loss of wetlands and restoring marine and terrestrial ecosystems. She announced U.S. support of a proposal to protect the Southern Ocean through the three marine protected area proposals under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). All participants highlighted their support for protecting and conserving land and marine areas to sequester carbon and build climate resilience, and several made announcements. Seychelles is dedicating a chapter of its enhanced NDC to ocean-based solutions and is committing to protect at least 50% of its seagrass and mangrove ecosystems by 2025 and 100% by 2030, with support. Canada, for its part, is committing $4 billion in its new federal budget for land and ocean protection. In addition, Costa Rica underlined its co-leadership of the High-Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and the intention to have 30% of its ocean under protection by 2022; Peru highlighted that more than a fifth of its NDC measures are associated with nature-based solutions; Indonesia discussed its Presidential decree to permanently freeze new license for logging and peatland utilization, as well as its mangrove rehabilitation program; and Gabon noted that its intact and logged forests absorb four times more CO2 annually than its total emissions across all sectors. Representatives of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities and of the Kharia Tribe of India highlighted the need to recognize the contributions and traditional knowledge of local and indigenous communities in ecosystem protection.
The discussion on climate security was hosted by Defense Secretary Austin. His remarks were followed by remarks from both Director of National Intelligence Haines and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas-Greenfield, who then moderated a panel discussion. Speakers included NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, defense officials from Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Spain, and the UK, as well as the Philippines’ finance minister. A common theme throughout the discussion was how climate impacts exacerbate security concerns and, as a result, affect military capabilities, heighten geopolitical competition, undermine stability, and provoke regional conflicts. Participants further emphasized that their nations and regions are vulnerable to extreme weather events, including sea level rise, cyclones, typhoons, drought, and increasing temperatures. All of these intensify underlying political, social, and economic conditions, which in turn can lead to food insecurity and water scarcity, violent extremism, and mass population movement, with disproportionate effects on vulnerable populations, especially women. Defense officials noted that their ministries are increasingly called upon to respond to disasters, which taxes their resources, thus elevating the need for enhanced disaster preparedness and response. In looking at their own operations and readiness, they showcased current efforts to decrease their militaries’ emissions, emphasizing how incorporating climate considerations into their operational planning can increase the agility of their forces. Additionally, they described the benefits of collaboration between defense ministries on shared climate risks. Participants highlighted the NATO climate security action plan and called on countries to incorporate climate considerations more broadly into multilateral fora, including UN peacekeeping missions. Perhaps most noteworthy, this was the first-ever U.S. Secretary of Defense convening of Secretaries of Defense focused on climate change.
Session 4 (“Unleashing Climate Innovation”) explored the critical innovations needed to speed net-zero transitions around the world and highlighted the efforts of governments, the private sector, and civil society in bringing new and improved technologies to market. Energy Secretary Granholm and Commerce Secretary Raimondo emphasized the economic rewards from investing in innovation as multi-trillion dollar markets for clean technologies emerge in the coming decades and announced reinvigorated U.S. international leadership on innovation. The discussion underscored the urgent need for innovation: 45% of the emissions reductions needed for a swift net-zero transition must come from technologies that are not commercially available, according to the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, and Bill Gates urged investment to drive down “green premium” prices of most zero-carbon technologies compared with fossil fuel alternatives. Several leading countries — Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Kenya, Norway, and Singapore — described their approaches to investing in mitigation and adaptation technologies. These included clean fuels such as hydrogen, renewables such as offshore wind and geothermal energy, energy storage, clean desalination, carbon capture, advanced mobility, sustainable urban design, and monitoring technologies to verify emissions and stop deforestation. Leaders from the private sector, including from GE Renewables, Vattenfall, and X, as well as from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, focused on training the diverse innovators of the future and investing in technologies for digitalized, electrified, decarbonized, and resilient energy systems. Special Envoy Kerry closed by emphasizing that raising our innovation ambition enables us to raise the world’s climate ambition.
Several speakers made announcements during this Session: Denmark announced a technology mission under Mission Innovation to decarbonize the global shipping sector, in collaboration with the United States, and that it will build the world’s first energy islands to produce clean fuels and supply power to Europe. The United Arab Emirates launched the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate in partnership with the United States, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Israel, Singapore, and Uruguay. Bill Gates launched the Breakthrough Energy Catalyst to drive public, private, and philanthropic capital to scale up critical emerging technologies. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced the Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems to decarbonize urban systems. GE Renewable Energy announced that the GE Foundation is committing up to $100 million to increase the diversity of the next generation of engineers. And X, Alphabet’s Moonshot Factory, announced a Moonshot for the electric grid.
President Biden began Session 5 (“The Economic Opportunities of Climate Action”)by recognizing the opportunity that ambitious climate action presents to countries around the world to create good, high quality jobs. He noted that countries that prioritize policies that promote renewable energy deployment, electric vehicle manufacturing, methane abatement, and building retrofits, among other actions, would likely reap the rewards of job growth and economic prosperity in the years ahead. The U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Tai, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, and National Climate Advisor McCarthy underscored that the climate agenda could be a race to the top for countries that are pursuing the most ambitious methods to tackle the crisis, noting the American Jobs Plan that President Biden has proposed.
Participants echoed this vision and elaborated their own projects and programs to maximize the economic benefits of their climate actions. Leaders of countries recognized that the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for countries to build back better and invest in the industries of the future. Community, tribal, private sector, and labor leaders also weighed in on the opportunities that decarbonization provided. Panelists noted that climate action presents economic opportunities to all parts of society, from energy workers to vehicle manufacturers, from large businesses to small. In particular, there was general alignment among both country representatives and other participants that governments should promote equitable opportunities for workers and that labor unions can play a key role in promoting high quality employment opportunities for people around the world. To that end, Poland announced that they had just concluded negotiations with coal mine labor unions to ensure a just transition of workers as part of their coal-fired power phasedown. In response to the discussion, President Biden closed by emphasizing that climate action might represent the largest economic opportunity of this century and urging leaders to stay focused.
In between the five Sessions, several other speakers provided important perspectives. Youth speaker Xiye Bastida, declaring that climate justice is social justice, underlined that youth need to be a part of decision-making processes and called for a stop to fossil fuel subsidies and extraction. Current and future Conference of Parties Presidents Minister Carolina Schmidt (Chile) and MP Alok Sharma (UK) discussed the urgency of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Minister Schmidt noted that COP25 included, for the first time, a mandate to address the ocean-climate nexus, while MP Sharma noted that we must put the world on a path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 through long-term targets and aligned NDCs, as well as immediate action, such as phasing out coal. Pope Francis, who has been a climate leader for many years, underlined the need to “care for nature so that nature may care for us.” Chair Mallory of the White House Council on Environmental Quality highlighted the Biden Administration’s commitment to environmental justice and introduced Peggy Shepard, Co-Chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council; she underlined the need to build back better to lift up the communities struggling with climate impacts and environmental injustice. Michael Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, noted the key role of cities and businesses in tackling the climate crisis.
Alongside the Summit, Special Envoy Kerry hosted two Ministerial Roundtables to provide a broader group of countries an opportunity to contribute to the discussions. He heard from representatives of more than 60 countries from all over the world, reflecting a wide range of regions, geographic features, and national circumstances, and summarized their input for leaders on the second day of the Summit. Many Roundtable participants expressed concern about the inadequacy of global climate action to date and/or shared the unprecedented climate impacts they are experiencing. At the same time, participants enthusiastically reported on the significant, exciting efforts they are undertaking to confront the climate crisis, even while facing the global pandemic. Beyond many commitments to net zero emissions, enhanced NDCs, and innovative adaptation efforts, participants included a carbon-negative country, countries that have successfully decoupled economic growth from carbon emissions, leaders in carbon storage, countries with extensive forest cover, issuers of green bonds, and countries focusing on gender-responsive approaches and the participation of indigenous communities. It was notable that many of those passionately embracing climate solutions contribute far less than 1% of global emissions. The Roundtables contributed to the Summit’s sense of urgency as countries rally around increased ambition on the road to Glasgow.
Roundtable participants represented: Afghanistan, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, North Macedonia, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Republic of Congo, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, The Bahamas, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, and Zambia.
Today in Wilmington Delaware, President-Elect Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, presented his nominations and staff for critical foreign policy and national security positions in his administration. Collectively, they brought a sigh of relief – their professionalism, expertise, their values. For the first time in four years, you had a sense of a functioning government, working on behalf of its people and building upon its ideals and values. Here are highlights from their remarks:
President-Elect Joe Biden:
Today, I am pleased to announce nominations and staff for critical foreign policy and national security positions in my Administration.
It’s a team that will keep our country and our people safe and secure.
And it’s a team that reflects the fact that America is back.
Ready to lead the world, not retreat from it. Ready to confront our adversaries, not reject our allies. And ready to stand up for our values.
In fact, in calls from world leaders in the weeks since we won this election, I’ve been struck by how much they are looking forward to the United States reasserting its historic role as a global leader.
This team meets this moment.
They embody my core belief that America is strongest when it works with its allies.
Collectively, this team has secured some of the most defining national security and diplomatic achievements in recent memory — made possible through decades of experience working with our partners.
That’s how we truly keep America safe without engaging in needless military conflicts, and our adversaries in check and terrorists at bay.
It’s how we counter terrorism and extremism. Control this pandemic and future ones.
Deal with the climate crisis, nuclear proliferation, cyber threats and emerging technologies, the spread of authoritarianism, and so much more.
And while this team has unmatched experience and accomplishments, they also reflect the idea that we cannot meet these challenges with old thinking or unchanged habits.
For example, we are going to have the first woman lead the intelligence community, the first Latino and immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security, and a groundbreaking diplomat at the United Nations.
We are going to have a principal on the National Security Council whose full-time job is to fight climate change — for the first time ever.
And my national security team will be coordinated by one of the youngest national security advisors in decades.
Experience and leadership. Fresh thinking and perspective. And, an unrelenting belief in the promise of America
I’ve long said that America leads not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.
I am proud to put forward this incredible team that will lead by example.
As Secretary of State, I nominateTony Blinken.
There is no one better prepared for this job.
He will be a Secretary of State who previously served in top roles on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and in the State Department.
And he delivered for the American people in each place.
For example, leading our diplomatic efforts in the fight against ISIS. Strengthening America’s alliances and position in the Asia-Pacific. Guiding our response to the global refugee crisis with compassion and determination.
He will rebuild morale and trust in the State Department, where his career in government began. And he starts off with the kind of relationships around the world that many of his predecessors had to build over years.
I know. I’ve seen him in action. He is one of my closest and most trusted advisors.
And I know him, and his family — immigrants and refugees, a Holocaust survivor who taught him to never take for granted the very idea of America as a place of possibilities.
He is ready on Day One.
As Secretary of Homeland Security, I nominate Alejandro Mayorkas.
This is one of the hardest jobs in government. The DHS Secretary needs to keep us safe from threats at home and from abroad.
And it’s a job that plays a critical role in fixing our broken immigration system.
After years of chaos, dysfunction, and absolute cruelty at DHS, I am proud to nominate an experienced leader who has been hailed by both Democrats and Republicans.
Ali, as he goes by, is a former U.S Attorney. Former Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Former DHS Deputy Secretary.
Helped implement DACA. Prevented attacks on the homeland. Enhanced our cybersecurity. Helped communities recover from natural disasters. Combatted Ebola and Zika.
And while DHS affects everyone, given its critical role in immigration matters, I am proud that for the first time ever, the Department will be led by an immigrant, a Latino, who knows that we are a nation of laws and values.
And one more thing — today is his birthday.
Happy birthday, Ali.
As Director of National Intelligence, I nominate Avril Haines, the first woman in this post.
To lead our intelligence community, I did not pick a politician or a political figure.
I picked a professional.
She is eminently qualified: Former Deputy Director of the CIA. Former Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama.
A fierce advocate for telling the truth and levelling it with decision makers.
I know because I’ve worked with her for over a decade. Brilliant. Humble.
Can talk literature and theoretical physics, fixing cars, flying planes, and running a bookstore cafe, in a single conversation — because she’s done all of that.
Above all, if she gets word of a threat coming to our shores — like another pandemic or foreign interference in our elections — she will not stop raising the alarms until the right people take action.
People will be able to take her word, because she always calls it like she sees it.
We are safer with Avril on the watch.
As the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, I nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
A seasoned and distinguished diplomat with 35 years in the Foreign Service, who never forgot where she came from, growing up in segregated Louisiana.
The eldest of eight. Her Dad couldn’t read or write, but she says he was the smartest person she knew. First in her family to graduate from high school, then college, with the whole world literally ahead of her, as her Dad and Mom taught her to believe.
Posts in Switzerland, Pakistan, Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria, Jamaica, and Liberia — where she was known as “the People’s Ambassador.”
Willing to meet with anyone — an ambassador, a student, working people struggling to get by — and always treating them with the same level of dignity and respect.
She was our top State Department official in charge of Africa policy during the Ebola crisis.
She’s received overwhelming support from her fellow career Foreign Service Officers. And she will have cabinet status because I want to hear her voice on major foreign policy decisions.
As my National Security Advisor, I choose Jake Sullivan.
He’s a once-in-a-generation intellect with the experience and temperament for one of the toughest jobs in the world.
When I was Vice President, he served as my National Security Advisor.
He was a top advisor to Secretary of State Clinton. He helped lead the early negotiations that led to the Iran Nuclear Deal. Helped broker the Gaza ceasefire in 2012. Played a key role in the Asia-Pacific rebalance in our Administration.
And in this campaign for the presidency, he served as one of my most trusted advisors on both foreign and domestic policy, including helping me develop our COVID-19 strategy.
Jake understands my vision that economic security is national security.
He will help steer what I call a foreign policy for the Middle Class, for families like his growing up in Minnesota, where he was raised by parents who were educators and taught him the values of hard work, decency, service, and respect.
What that means is to win the competition for the future, we need to keep us safe and secure, and build back better than ever.
We need to invest in our people, sharpen our innovative edge, and unite the economic might of democracies around the world to grow the middle class and reduce inequality — and do things like counter the predatory trade practices of our competitors and adversaries.
And before I talk about the final person for today, let me talk about this new position.
For the first time ever, the United States will have a full-time climate leader who will participate in ministerial-level meetings — that’s a fancy way of saying they’ll have a seat at every table around the world.
For the first time ever, there will be a principal on the National Security Council who will make sure climate change is on the agenda in the Situation Room.
And for the first time ever, we will have a Presidential envoy on climate.
And he will be matched with a high-level White House Climate Policy Coordinator and policy-making structure — to be announced in December — that will lead efforts here in the U.S. to combat the climate crisis and mobilize action to meet this existential threat.
Let me be clear: I don’t for a minute underestimate the difficulties of meeting my bold commitments to fighting climate change.
But at the same time, no one should underestimate for a minute my determination to do just that.
As for the man himself, if I had a former Secretary of State who helped negotiate the Paris Climate Agreement, or a former Presidential nominee, or a former leading Senator, or the head of a major climate organization for the job, it would show my commitment to this role.
The fact that I picked the one person who is all of these things speaks unambiguously.
The world will know that one of my closest friends — John Kerry — is speaking for America on one of the most pressing threats of our time.
To this team — thank you for accepting the call to serve.
And to your families, thank you for your sacrifice. We could not do this without you.
Together, these public servants will restore America’s global leadership and moral leadership.
They will ensure our service members, diplomats, and intelligence professionals can do their jobs free of politics.
They will not only repair, they will reimagine American foreign policy and national security for the next generation.
And they will tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know.
To the American people, this team will make us proud to be Americans.
And as more states certify the results of the election, there is progress to wrap up our victory.
I am pleased to have received ascertainment from GSA, to carry out a smooth and peaceful transition of power so our team can prepare to meet the challenges at hand — to control the pandemic, build back better, and protect the safety and security of the American people.
And to the United States Senate, I hope these outstanding nominees receive a prompt hearing, and that we can work across the aisle in good faith — move forward as a country.
Let’s begin the work to heal and unite America and the world.
Thank you. May God bless you. May God protect our troops.
I’ll now turn it over to the new team, starting with our next Secretary of State, Tony Blinken
Nominee for Secretary of State, Antony Blinken
That’s who we are.
That’s what America represents to the world, however imperfectly.
Now, we must proceed with equal measures of humility and confidence.
Humility because most of the world’s problems are not about us, even as they affect us. We cannot flip a switch to solve them. We need to partner with others.
But also, confidence, because America at its best still has a greater ability than any country on earth to bring others together to meet the challenges of our time.
That’s where the men and women of the State Department — foreign service officers and civil servants — come in. I’ve witnessed their passion, energy, and courage to keep us safe, secure, and prosperous. I’ve seen them bring luster to a word that deserves our support: diplomacy.
If confirmed, it will be the honor of my life to help lead them.
Nominee for Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro N. Mayorkas
The Department of Homeland Security has a noble mission: to help keep us safe and to advance our proud history as a country of welcome. There are more than 240,000 career employees who selflessly dedicate their talent and energy to this mission. Many risk their lives in doing so. I would be honored to return to the Department and support these dedicated public servants in fulfilling their responsibilities and realizing our country’s greatest hopes, all in partnership with the communities we serve.
Nominee for Director of National Intelligence, Ambassador Avril Haines
I know, Mr. President-elect and Madame Vice President-elect, that you have selected us not to serve you, but to work on behalf of the American people — to help advance our security, prosperity, and values. That, the call to service in this role, is what makes this nomination such a tremendous honor.
If afforded the opportunity to do so, I will never forget that my role on this team is unique. Rather than that of a policy advisor, I will represent to you, Congress, and the American public, the patriots who comprise our Intelligence Community. Mr. President-elect, you know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power, and that will be my charge as Director of National Intelligence. We have worked together for a long time, and I accept this nomination knowing that you would never want me to do otherwise — that you value the perspective of the Intelligence Community and that you will do so even when what I have to say may be inconvenient or difficult. I assure you there will be those times.
And, finally, to our intelligence professionals, the work you do — oftentimes under the most austere conditions imaginable — is indispensable. It will become even more complex because you will be critical to helping this administration position itself not only against threats such as cyber attacks, terrorism, and the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons but also those challenges that will define the next generation — from climate change, to pandemics, and corruption.
It would be the honor of a lifetime to be able to work alongside you once again to take on these challenges together.
Nominee for United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield
Mr. President-elect, I’ve often heard you say how all politics is personal. That’s how you build relationships of trust and bridge disagreements and find common ground.
In my thirty-five years in the Foreign Service across four continents, I put a Cajun spin on it. It’s called Gumbo diplomacy. Wherever I was posted around the world, I’d invite people of different backgrounds and beliefs to make a roux, chop onions for the holy trinity, and make homemade gumbo — my way to break down barriers, connect with people, and start to see each other on a human level: a bit of lagniappe as we say in Louisiana.
That’s the charge in front of us today. The challenges we face — a global pandemic, the global economy, the global climate crisis, mass migration and extreme poverty, social justice — are unrelenting and interconnected. But they’re not unsolvable if America is leading the way.
Appointment for National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan
I pledge to you and to the American people that I will work relentlessly in service of the mission you have given us: To keep our country and our people safe. To advance our national interests. And to defend our values.
I pledge to the exceptional national security team you have named today — and to the brilliant and diverse career professionals in national security across our government — that I will manage a humane and rigorous decision-making process that honors their work…
Sir, we will be vigilant in the face of enduring threats, from nuclear weapons to terrorism. But you have also tasked us with reimagining our national security for the unprecedented combination of crises we face at home and abroad: the pandemic, the economic crisis, the climate crisis, technological disruption, threats to democracy, racial injustice, and inequality in all forms. The work of the team before you today will contribute to progress across all of these fronts.
You have also tasked us with putting people at the center of our national security. The alliances we rebuild, the institutions we lead, the agreements we sign — all of them should be judged by a basic question: will this make life better, easier, safer, for working families across this country? Our foreign policy has to deliver for these families.
And you have tasked us with helping unite America through our work, to pull people together to tackle big challenges….
I promise an open door to those who disagree. Our whole team can learn from them and it will make us better.
To the American people, I had the honor of serving as Joe Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice president. I learned a lot about a lot. About diplomacy. About policy. Most importantly, about human nature. I watched him pair strength and resolve with humanity and empathy.
That is the person America elected. That is also America itself.
So Mr. President-elect, thank you for giving this kid from the heartland an extraordinary opportunity to serve the country I love so much.
Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, Former Secretary of State John Kerry
Mr. President-elect — you’ve put forward a bold, transformative climate plan that lives up to the moment. But you’ve also underscored that no country alone can solve this challenge. Even the United States, for all our economic might, is responsible for only 15% of global emissions. The world must come to this table to solve this problem.
You’re right to rejoin Paris on day one, and you’re right to recognize that Paris alone does not get the job done.
At the global meeting in Glasgow one year from now, all nations must raise ambition together – or we will all fail, together.
Failure is not an option.
Success means tapping into the best of American ingenuity, creativity, and diplomacy — from brainpower to alternative energy power — using every tool we have to get where we need to go.
No one should doubt the determination of the country that went to the moon, cured supposedly incurable diseases, and beat back global tyranny to win World War II. We will immediately, again, work with friends and partners to meet this challenge too.
The road ahead is exciting. It means creating millions of middle-class jobs. It means less pollution in our air and in our ocean. It means making life healthier for citizens across the world. And it means we will strengthen the security of every nation on earth.
In addressing the climate crisis, Joe Biden is determined to seize the future.
Fifty-seven years ago, this week, Joe Biden and I were college kids when we lost the president who inspired us both to try and make a difference, a president who reminded us that here on Earth, “God’s work must truly be our own.”
President Joe Biden will trust in God, and he will also trust in science to guide our work on earth to protect God’s creation.
Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris:
Congratulations Mr. President-elect on bringing together this extraordinary team.
I have always believed in the nobility of public service, and these Americans embody it.
Their lives and careers are a testament to the dedication, sacrifice, and commitment to civic responsibility that have strengthened our democracy — and kept America’s promise alive — for more than two hundred years.
President-elect Biden and I have long known that when we were elected, we would inherit a series of unprecedented challenges upon walking into the White House.
Addressing these challenges starts with getting this pandemic under control, opening our economy responsibly, and making sure it works for working people.
And we also know that overcoming our challenges here at home is a necessary foundation for restoring and advancing our leadership around the world.
And we are ready for that work.
We will need to reassemble and renew America’s alliances; rebuild and strengthen the national security and foreign policy institutions that keep us safe and advance our nation’s interests; and confront and combat the existential threat of climate change that endangers us all….
I can say with confidence that they are — to a person — the right women and men for these critical positions.
And I look forward to working alongside them on behalf of the American people — and on behalf of a President who will ask tough questions; demand that we be guided by facts; and expect our team to speak the truth. No matter what.
A President who will be focused on one thing and one thing only: doing what’s best for The People of the United States of America…
Today’s nominees and appointees come from different places. They bring a range of different life and professional experiences and perspectives. And they also share something else in common: an unwavering belief in America’s ideals.
An unshakeable commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
And they understand the indispensable role of America’s leadership in the world.
These women and men are patriots and public servants to their core, and they are the leaders we need to meet the challenges of this moment — and those that lie ahead.
Demonstrating once again a clear contrast between the failed leadership of a clueless Donald Trump, who only knows how to politicize, attack and destroy, Vice President Joe Biden is calling for the US to lift sanctions on Iran, which is undergoing one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. “America should lead. We should be the first to offer help to people who are hurting or in danger… To stop this pandemic effectively, every country on earth will need to work together.” Here is Biden’s statement: –Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com.
In times of global crisis, America should lead. We should be the first to offer help to people who are hurting or in danger. That’s who we are. That’s who we’ve always been. And, in the midst of this deadly pandemic that respects no borders, the United States should take steps to offer what relief we can to those nations hardest hit by this virus — including Iran — even as we prioritize the health of the American people.
Iran is struggling to contain one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. While the Iranian government has failed to respond effectively to this crisis, including lying and concealing the truth from its own people, and it continues to act provocatively in the region, the Iranian people are hurting desperately. It is bad enough that the Trump administration abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in favor of a “maximum pressure” strategy that has badly backfired, encouraging Iran to become even more aggressive and restart its nuclear program. It makes no sense, in a global health crisis, to compound that failure with cruelty by inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance. Whatever our profound differences with the Iranian government, we should support the Iranian people.
There are already humanitarian exceptions in place for sanctions, but in practice, most governments and organizations are too concerned about running afoul of U.S. sanctions to offer assistance. As a result, our sanctions are limiting Iran’s access to medical supplies and needed equipment. The Trump Administration should take immediate steps to address this problem and streamline channels for banking and public health assistance from other countries in response to the health emergency in Iran.
Specific steps should include: issuing broad licenses to pharmaceutical and medical device companies; creating a dedicated channel for international banks, transportation companies, insurers, and other service firms to help Iranians access life-saving medical treatment; issuing new sanctions guidance to these groups and international aid organizations to make it clear how they can immediately, directly, and legally respond to the tragedy in Iran, without fear of penalty; and, for entities already conducting enhanced due diligence, it should issue comfort letters to reassure them that they will not be subject to U.S. sanctions if they engage in humanitarian trade with Iran to support its COVID-19 response. The administration should also consider similar steps to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not inhibit live-saving medical assistance to other countries hard hit by the virus.
The administration’s offer of aid to Iran is insufficient if not backed by concrete steps to ensure the United States is not exacerbating this growing humanitarian crisis. Whatever our many, many disagreements with the Iranian government, it’s the right and the humane thing to do. And Iran also should make a humanitarian gesture and allow detained American citizens to return home.
To stop this pandemic effectively, every country on earth will need to work together. We must address COVID-19 outbreaks wherever they occur, because as long as this virus is spreading anywhere in the world, it is a danger to public health everywhere. Artificially limiting the flow of international humanitarian assistance to pursue a political point will not only allow the Iranian government to deflect responsibility for its own botched response, it will increase the threat this virus poses to the American people, now and in the future.
While most Americans give little consideration to foreign policy credentials of their candidates for president, over the “kitchen table” issues such as health care, education, taxes, foreign policy should loom largely over the 2020 election as Americans are waking up to the fact that while a president is for the most part constrained by the legislative branch (Congress) on what can be accomplished domestically (recall how Republicans obstructed Obama on health care, immigration reform, gun safety, climate action and infrastructure and why Medicare for All, a wealth tax may still be a pipe dream), a president is virtually unrestrained in making foreign policy at a time when the world is smaller and more globally interdependent, such as addressing climate change.
And while the Constitution theoretically gives Congress the power to declare war, presidents have found loopholes in addressing “imminent threats.” Trump has gone so much further in pulling out of treaties (the Iran nuclear deal), trade agreements and mutual assistance pacts like the Paris Climate Accord, while taking actions to weaken NATO alliance. The way he has dealt with North Korea has only made the world less safe and the list goes on: Iraq, Syria and ISIS, Turkey and the Kurds, Yemen, Venezuela, Australia.
Of the Democratic candidates for president, Vice President Joe Biden is hoping that voters will appreciate his vast experience (which Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg try to diminish because of his vote, along with just about every other Senator, to give George Bush power to address what they were told (lied) was an imminent threat of Saddam Hussein’s use of Weapons of Mass Destruction).
Now there are a few Democrats, like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who are introducing legislation to rescind the 2002 AUMF and require the President to get Congress’ authorization for use of military force, make it specific and require reauthorization after a period of time. But that is already in the Constitution and they are faced with a president who has demonstrated over and over he does not respect the bounds or oversight on him by the Constitution, with Congress apparently unwilling to do anything about it.
Vice President returned to New York to speak again on foreign policy and the unfolding situation in Iran, drawing a contrast to how Trump has mishandled the situation. These are his prepared remarks:
Six months ago, here in New York City, I made the case that Donald Trump was “dangerously incompetent and incapable … of world leadership.”
In the past few days, in the wake of the killing of Iranian General Soleimani, Donald Trump has proven it beyond dispute.
The haphazard decision-making process that led up to it, the failure to consult our allies or Congress, and the reckless disregard for the consequences that would surely follow — was dangerously incompetent.
In the wake of such an enormous escalation that has exploded geo-politics in the region and put the United States and Iran on a collision course, what would we expect of an American President – and what have we heard from President Trump?
We have not heard a sober-minded explanation to reassure the American people about his decision and its consequences.
Not level-headed words meant to dial down tensions and take us off the path of conflict.
No press conference or consultation with Congress.
No — all we have heard from this president is tweets. Threats. Tantrums.
And all we have heard from his administration are shifting explanations, evasive answers, and repeated assertions of an imminent threat, without the necessary evidence to support that conclusion.
And since this is a president with a history of lying about everything — who has destroyed his own credibility, and that of the United States on the global stage — neither the American people, nor our allies, are inclined to take his word for it.
If there was an imminent threat that required extraordinary action, then we are owed that explanation — and the facts to back it up.
These are matters of deadly import, so let me be unmistakably clear: Donald Trump does not have the authority to go to war with Iran without Congressional authorization.
Working with Congress is not an optional part of the job. Presidential notification to Congress about the need to exercise war powers cannot be satisfied in 280 characters or less.
And no president should ever take the United States to war without securing the informed consent of the American people.
So — because he refuses to level with the American people about the danger in which he has placed American troops and our diplomatic personnel and civilians, as well as our partners and allies, or to demonstrate even a modicum of presidential gravitas — I will.
That starts with an honest accounting of how we got here.
Make no mistake: this outcome of strategic setbacks, heightened threats, chants of “death to America” once more echoing across the Middle East, Iran and its allies vowing revenge. This was avoidable.
The seeds of these dangers were planted by Donald Trump himself on May 8, 2018 — the day he tore up the Iran nuclear deal, against the advice of his own top national security advisors. The day he turned his back on our closest European allies, and decided it was more important to him to destroy any progress made by the Obama-Biden Administration than build on it to create a better, safer world.
When we had the Iran Deal, we had verifiably cut off every one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. International inspectors repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance, as did our intelligence agencies. One of the greatest threats to stability in the region and global security was off the table.
And when the Iran Deal was in force, we did not have this dangerous cycle of tit-for-tat provocation and response.
There was a united front of allies and partners to address Iran’s other destabilizing actions throughout the region.
The Iran Deal was not only accomplishing the critical mission it was designed for, it created an environment where diplomacy was possible.
But Trump walked away — not Iran.
Trump made the United States the international outlier.
Trump re-imposed significant sanctions designed to exert “maximum pressure” on the regime, with claims that it would deter Iranian aggression and return Iran to the negotiating table to secure a much-promised “better deal.” And on both fronts, as many anticipated at the time, Trump’s promises were empty, baseless, and naïve.
And since then, all that has materialized is an utterly predictable cycle of escalating conflict with Iran.
Of course Iran would seek to demonstrate that the pressure we were exerting was not cost free – that it could take actions to make life more difficult for us, as well.
So Iran began again to enrich uranium beyond the limits allowed under the Iran deal. Iran attacked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone.
Yet the administration had no plan to prevent, mitigate, or appropriately respond to these provocations. Instead, Trump acted erratically and impulsively. He ordered a retaliatory strike, then called it off at the last minute — feeding Iran’s sense of impunity.
Then, the administration imposed more sanctions, shot down an Iranian drone, issued a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker.
Before long, Iran attacked Saudi oil facilities and Iranian-backed militia in Iraq restarted rocket attacks against our bases. Until one of those attacks, against our base in Kirkuk, killed a U.S. citizen and wounded others. It was a tragic loss of life, and an act condemned by all Americans.
In response, Trump bombed five sites in Iraq and Syria tied to the militia group, killing at least 25.
Iraqi protestors, organized by Iranian-backed militia, assaulted our Embassy in Baghdad and breached the outer wall. No injuries were reported, but Trump was embarrassed by the images of a burnt-out reception area.
He ordered a drone strike to kill Soleimani — perhaps the second most important official in Iran — near the Baghdad airport. And rushed thousands more troops to the region to deal with the fallout.
Action and reaction. Provocation and response. All predictable — and, indeed, all predicted.
A president who says he wants to end endless war in the Middle East is bringing us dangerously close to starting a new one.
A president who says he wants out of the region sends more than 18,000 additional troops to deal with a crisis of his own making.
And an administration that claims its actions have made Americans safer in the same breath urges our citizens to leave Iraq and puts Americans throughout the region on notice because of the increased danger.
I have no illusions about Iran. The regime has long sponsored terrorism and threatened our interests. It continues to detain American citizens. They’ve ruthlessly killed hundreds of protesters, and they should be held accountable for their actions.
But there is a smart way to counter them — and a self-defeating way. Trump’s approach is demonstrably the latter.
Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops and thousands of innocent lives throughout the region. He was the mastermind, but he was not the whole of the regime or its capacity to strike back.
So the question is: was the reward of removing a bad actor worth the risk of what comes next?
We don’t have any evidence to suggest that Trump or anyone around him thought seriously about that calculus. It’s been reported that the Pentagon — which has long warned against taking a shot like this — was shocked that Trump would take such a risk.
This is not just a question of whether Iran will retaliate — it almost certainly will — but what it will mean for our troops and our personnel throughout the region. What it will mean for our allies and partners who also have troops in harm’s way that are impacted by this decision. What it will mean for our long-term mission to counter Iran and prevent ISIS from bouncing back, and our ability to pursue our broader strategic aims in the region.
Already, we are seeing the fall out.
Iran has declared it will no longer abide by any of the constraints set up under the nuclear deal — putting it back on track to obtaining material for a nuclear weapon, and pushing the region closer to a nuclear crisis.
Our forces in Iraq and Syria are now focused on protecting themselves and preparing to leave — putting the counter-ISIS mission on hold, and allowing a deadly terrorist organization the room to regroup and reactivate.
The Iraqi parliament has voted to eject all American and coalition forces from the country. And however you may feel about an American military presence in the Middle East, there is a right way and a wrong way to draw down our troop presence. Getting unceremoniously kicked out is unequivocally the wrong way. And if we do end up having to leave, that would be another boon to Iran — tipping the balance of power in the region.
Where, just weeks ago, there were spontaneous protests across Iran against the regime, the killing of Soleimani has taken that pressure off the regime.
Trump’s impulsive decision may well do more to strengthen Iran’s position in the region, than any of Soleimani’s plots could have ever accomplished.
Whether or not we see more loss of life, more threats against American interests and assets — this is already a debacle.
And at what is possibly the most dangerous time in recent American history — at precisely the moment when we should be rallying our allies to stand beside us and hold the line against threats — Donald Trump’s short-sighted “America First” dogmatism has come home to roost.
Our closest allies are calling for restraint and de-escalation — on both sides. Making a moral equivalence between us and Iran.
Russia and China are quietly reveling in the prospect that the United States may once more be bogged down in another major conflict in the Middle East. They would love nothing more than to be able to pursue their own interests, and carve out their own spheres of influence, without the United States challenging them on human rights, on abusive trade practices, or on meddling in other nations’ democracies — because we are too busy fighting Iran.
We are alone. And we alone will have to bear the costs of Donald Trump’s folly.
This is also the moment when we most feel the lack of a functioning national security process or any investment in diplomacy.
After three years of hollowing out the State Department; disrespecting and dismissing our intelligence community; destroying the relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill; throwing out the deliberate policy making process that has served Republican and Democratic administrations for decades; corroding the value of the word of the United States; abusing our allies; embracing dictators; creating, not solving, foreign policy crises on the international stage — we are in a much worse position to meet the demands of this crisis than we were when President Obama and I left office.
President Trump has no strategy here. No endgame. And here’s the hardest truth of all: His constant mistakes and poor decision making have left us with a severely limited slate of options for how to move forward — and most of the options are bad.
But there are some key steps that any responsible commander in chief would take. And, while I don’t expect Donald Trump will listen to me, I hope he listens to those around him who understand the gravity of the threats we now face.
He should take all necessary steps to protect our forces and ensure the security of our diplomats, civilians, and overseas facilities — not just in the Middle East, but anywhere that Iran might strike back.
He should ensure that federal authorities are working with states, local governments, and private institutions to guard against the heightened risk of cyber attacks.
He should stop tweeting so he doesn’t box us in with his threats, such that the only options left to us or Iran are increasingly damaging strikes and counterstrikes.
And he should immediately reach out to our European partners and others to send private signals of deterrence and de-escalation to Iran and find a way to avoid the onrush of war.
The best way to do that, of course, would be for President Trump, to rejoin the Iran Deal and build on it — if Iran also moves back into compliance with its obligations — and re-establish international consensus about how to confront the threats from Iran.
The only way out of this crisis is through diplomacy — clear-eyed, hard-nosed diplomacy grounded in strategy, that’s not about one-off decisions or one-upsmanship. Diplomacy that is designed to de-escalate the crisis, protect our people, and secure our regional interests — including our counter-ISIS campaign.
No one wants war. But it’s going to take hard work to make sure we don’t end up there by accident.
Finally, and this one’s not optional, Mr. President, you have to explain your decisions and your strategy to the American people.
That is your job as President — Not Dear Leader, not Supreme Leader.
Democracy runs on accountability. And nowhere is that more important than in the power to make war and bring peace. You are required to work with Congress. You are required to abide by the War Powers Resolution. You cannot pursue a war with Iran absent Congressional authority. The existing AUMFs — the Congressional Authorizations for the Use of Military Force — do not apply.
The American people do not want, and our Constitution will not abide, a president who rules by fiat and demands obedience.
I served in the executive branch of our government for eight years, but I served in the legislative branch for 36 prior to that, and I understand better than anyone that the system will not hold unless we find ways to work together to advance our national interests — not the political interests of one person or one party.
We need to restore the balance of powers between the branches of government.
We need checks and balances that actually serve to check and balance the worst impulses of our leaders — in any branch.
We need to use our system to bring us together as a nation — not abuse it to rip us apart.
That’s not a naïve or outdated way of thinking. That’s the genius and timelessness of our democratic system, which has, for more than 240 years, allowed us to remake ourselves, reckon with our shortcomings, and move ever forward.
That’s what we owe to those brave men and women who step forward to wear the uniform of these United States; who dedicate their lives to diplomatic service; who choose to join the Peace Corps or to work in development; who represent the best of our country all around the world — and who are, today, doing so at greater risk because of the actions of our president.
Thank you — and in these dangerous times — may God protect our troops.
At a fundraiser before his speech, he told the gathering:
“Did you ever think you’d see the time when we would be engaged in potential conflict and our NATO allies would be applying a moral equivalence between what we do and what the Iranians do? I never thought I see that day I spent my entire professional career dealing with NATO and dealing with foreign policy…Now the president says he did this to make us safer. Make Americans safer. Yet, we’re surging another roughly 18,000 forces in the region. And we find ourselves in position where there’s no evidence that they thought through how to protect our diplomats and our military personnel.”
Mr. Biden used the Iran situation to argue “the next president better be able to on day one, know how to begin to bring things together.”
Later in the day, at another fundraising event, news of an Iranian air strike on a US military base in Iraq started breaking. Without more details about the event, Biden said he would only speak briefly and generally about what happened:
“What’s happening in Iraq and Iran today was predictable – not exactly what’s happening but the chaos that’s ensuing,” he said, faulting Trump for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and the recent order of a missile strike killing a high ranking Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, according to the pool report by Julia Terruso of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Some of the things he’s done and said in the meantime have been close to ludicrous, including threatening to bomb holy sites…And I just pray to God as he goes through what’s happening, as we speak, that he’s listening to his military commanders for the first time because so far that has not been the case.”
As Donald Trump departed the White House to attend the G7 after
a day in which he attacked Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell as a “worse
enemy” than China’s Chairman Xi and ordered US companies to leave China, a day
in which the Dow plummeted 600 points, a day after he referred to himself as the
“Chosen One” as he looked to the heavens and demanded that Russia be invited
back into the G8, Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic
nomination for president, issued this statement:
“This week, in the lead-up to the G7 in
France, President Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating
campaign to make America less secure and less respected in the world. He
has insulted our closest partners and denigrated one of our most capable
allies, Denmark—a country that has repeatedly fought and sacrificed alongside
our troops. He issued yet another attack on NATO, reiterating his belief that
NATO is an American-run protection racket where our allies better pay up, or
else. And he advocated for Russia’s return to the G7, despite Vladimir Putin’s
long and growing record of aggressive behavior and provocations against the
United States and our allies in Europe.
“Trump’s actions and words are not just embarrassing—they are making the
American people less safe. Every incident further isolates us on the global
stage, reinforcing that his version of “America First” means America alone. For
the first time in its history, the G7 will not even issue a joint communique,
because President Trump refuses to cooperate with our partners on the pressing
issues of our time, including climate change, China’s predatory trade
practices, Russian attacks on western democracies, and nuclear proliferation.
No country, even one as powerful as ours, can go it alone against 21st century
challenges that respect no borders and cannot be contained by walls.
“NATO, the most powerful alliance in history, is the bulwark of America’s
national security and the free world’s first line of defense. It’s how we
amplify our own strength, maintain our presence around the globe, and magnify
our impact – while sharing the burden among willing partners. NATO is an
alliance built first and foremost on shared democratic values, which makes it
more durable and more reliable than partnerships built on coercion or cash. But
it is not indestructible, and Trump has taken a battering ram to our most
important strategic alliance.
“More than two-and-a-half years into his presidency, the pattern of
Trump’s conduct and character is clear. He never misses a chance to lavish
praise on dictators like Putin and Kim Jong Un, and takes every opportunity to
bash our closest democratic allies. Instead of leading alongside fellow
democracies, he seems to be on the other team. His incompetence threatens to
permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring
together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am
president. We will restore the soul of this nation. And we will once again lead
the international community in a way that is consistent with our most cherished
values, standing with—not against—the rest of the free world.”
Biden laid out his foreign
policy vision for America to restore dignified leadership at
home and respected leadership on the world stage. Arguing that our policies at
home and abroad are deeply connected, Joe Biden announced that, as president, he
will advance the security, prosperity, and values of the United States by
taking immediate steps to renew our own democracy and alliances, protect our
economic future, and once more place America at the head of the table, leading
the world to address the most urgent global challenges.
In a Biden administration, America will lead by example and rally the world to
meet our common challenges that no one nation can face on its own, from climate
change to nuclear proliferation, from great power aggression to transnational
terrorism, from cyberwarfare to mass migration. Donald Trump’s erratic policies
and failure to uphold basic democratic principles have surrendered our position
in the world, undermined our democratic alliances, weakened our ability to mobilize
others to meet these challenges, and threatened our security and our future.
In a speech at The Graduate Center at CUNY in New York, Joe Biden laid out his
blueprint to repair the damage wrought by President Trump and chart a
fundamentally different course for American foreign policy for the world as we
find it today—and as we anticipate it will be tomorrow. Biden will continue to
build on this vision over the course of the campaign.
I. Reinvigorate our Own Democracy &
Strengthen the Coalition of Democracies that Stand With Us
Democracy is the root of our society, the wellspring of our power, and the
source of our renewal. It strengthens and amplifies our leadership to keep us
safe in the world. It is the engine of our ingenuity that drives our economic
prosperity. It is the heart of who we are and how we see the world—and how the
world sees us. That is why America’s ability to be a force for progress in the
world and to mobilize collective action starts at home. The United States must lead not just with the example of power,
but the power of our example.
Among his early actions as
president, Joe Biden will:
Reform our criminal justice system to eliminate inequitable disparities;
Restore the Voting Rights Act;
Seek greater transparency in our campaign finance system so money, foreign and domestic, won’t pollute our politics;
Dedicate greater resources, including cyber resources, to defending our election systems.
End the practice of anonymous shell companies;
Institute strict conflict-of-interest and anti-corruption policies for every member of the Biden administration so there will be no more self-dealing;
Immediately return to daily press briefings at the White House, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Department of Defense. Our foreign policy relies on the informed consent of the American people. That is not possible when our government refuses to communicate with the public.
Restore our Moral Leadership
Immediately end the horrific practice of separating families at our border and holding immigrant children in for-profit prisons. Abandoning our deepest-held values does nothing to increase security at our border—and everything to diminish our standing in the world. At the same time, as president, Biden will establish sensible policies that improve screening procedures at our legal ports of entry and make smart investments in border technology, in cooperation with Canada and Mexico.
Protect undocumented members of our armed services, veterans, and their spouses from deportation because if you are willing to risk your life for this country, you and your family have earned the chance to live safe, healthy, and productive lives in America;
Order a review of Temporary Protected Status to vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in countries ripped apart by violence or disaster, including for Venezuelans and Haitians.
Terminate the travel ban against people from Muslim-majority countries;
Reverse Trump’s detrimental asylum policies and raise our target for refugee admissions to a level commensurate with our responsibility and unprecedented global need;
End the Global Gag Rule, which prevents money from going to international NGOs that even talk about abortion;
Return to a government-wide focus of uplifting the rights of women and girls at home and around the world, including by focusing on measures to address gender-based violence internationally.
Reaffirm the ban on torture and restore greater transparency in our military operations, including policies instituted during the Obama-Biden administration to reduce civilian casualties;
Restore a commitment to science and truth in government, including bringing back the words “climate change”;
Return the phrase “nation of immigrants” to the mission statement of our Citizenship and Immigration Services, because that is who we are.
Revitalize our national commitment to advancing human rights and democracy around the world.
Having taken these essential steps to reinforce the democratic
foundation of our country and inspire action in others, President Biden will
organize and host a global Summit for Democracy to renew the spirit and shared
purpose of the nations of the Free World. During his
first year in office, President Biden will bring together the world’s
democracies to strengthen our democratic institutions, honestly confront the
challenge of nations that are backsliding, and forge a common agenda to address
threats to our common values.
The Summit will prioritize results by galvanizing significant new country commitments in three areas: (1) fighting corruption; (2) defending against authoritarianism, including election security; (3) advancing human rights in their own nations and abroad.
The Summit will include civil society organizations from around the world that stand on the frontlines in defense of our democracies.
The Summit will also issue a Call to Action for the private sector, including technology corporations and social media giants, to make their own commitments, recognizing their responsibilities and their overwhelming interest in preserving open, democratic societies and protecting free speech. For example, technology companies—which benefit from the fruits of democracy—should make concrete pledges for how they can ensure their algorithms and platforms are not empowering the surveillance state, facilitating repression in China and elsewhere, spreading hate, spurring people to violence, and remaining susceptible to misuse.
As an example
of the concrete action our world needs, Joe Biden served as a founding member
of a Trans-Atlantic Commission on Election Integrity—to fight back against
Russia’s attacks on Western democracies. The Commission asked politicians
across Europe to sign a pledge committing to transparency in campaign finance
and to reject the use of fabricated or hacked material. Now that he is a
candidate for office, Biden has signed that pledge and is calling on every
person running for president to do the same.
II. Equip our People to Succeed in a Global Economy
with a Foreign Policy for the Middle Class
Joe Biden believes that economic security is national security. That is why, as
president, Biden will pursue a foreign policy for the middle class. To win the
competition for the future against China or anyone else, we must sharpen our
innovative edge and unite the economic might of democracies around the world to
counter abusive economic practices.
Rebuild the Middle Class, the Backbone of the
Country: Give every student the skills they need to obtain a good 21st
century job; make sure every single American has access to quality, affordable
healthcare; invest in infrastructure; raise the minimum wage to $15; and lead
revolution to create 10 million new jobs in the United
Invest in Our Innovative Edge: Unleash
our nation’s full potential—which includes unrivaled research universities,
unparalleled venture capital, and our citizens’ unmatched spirit of
entrepreneurship and commitment to hard work—with investments in research and
development to spur advances in clean energy, quantum computing, artificial
intelligence, 5G, and high-speed rail. We must ensure the technologies of the
future like AI are bound by laws and ethics and promote greater shared
prosperity and democracy. A Biden administration will join together with our
democratic allies to develop secure, private sector-led 5G networks, leaving no
community—rural or low-income—behind.
Ensure the Rules of Road Benefit our Workers and our
Communities: There is no going back to business as usual on trade. And he
will ensure we negotiate from the strongest possible position. Joining with our
fellow democracies, we represent about one-half of global GDP. As president,
Biden will use this substantial leverage to shape the future rules of the road
on everything from the environment to labor to trade to transparency, non-proliferation
to cyber theft, and data privacy to artificial intelligence, so they continue
to reflect democratic interests and values—America’s interests and
III. Renew American Leadership to Mobilize Global
Action on Global Threats
The world does not organize itself. American leadership, backed by clear goals
and sound strategies, is necessary to effectively address the defining global
challenges of our time. In order to lead again, we must restore our credibility
and influence. From day one of a Biden administration, other countries will
once again have reason to trust and respect the word of an American president.
Working together, democracies can and must confront the rise of populists,
nationalists, and demagogues; the growing strength of autocratic powers and
their efforts to divide and manipulate democracies; and the threats unique to
our time, including the renewed threat of nuclear war, mass migration, the
disruptive impact of new technologies, and climate change.
Defend our Vital Interests: As president,
Biden will never hesitate to protect the American people, including when
necessary, by using force. We have the strongest military in the world—and as
president, Biden will ensure it stays that way. The Biden administration will
make the investments necessary to equip our troops for the challenges of the
next century, not the last one. But the use of force should be our last resort,
not our first—used only to defend our vital interests, when the objective is
clear and achievable, and with the informed consent of the American
End Forever Wars: Biden will end
the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, which have cost us untold
blood and treasure. As he has long argued, Biden will bring the vast majority
of our troops home from Afghanistan and narrowly focus our mission on Al-Qaeda
and ISIS. And he will end our support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Staying
entrenched in unwinnable conflicts only drains our capacity to lead on other
issues that require our attention, and it prevents us from rebuilding the other
instruments of American power.
Elevate Diplomacy: As president,
Biden will elevate diplomacy as the premier tool of our global engagement. He
will rebuild a modern, agile U.S. Department of State—investing in and re-empowering
the finest diplomatic corps in the world and leveraging the full talent and
richness of America’s diversity. Working cooperatively with other nations makes
us more secure and more successful. For example, as president, Biden will
launch a top-to-bottom review of our funding to Central America to determine
how we can build on a successful initiative from the Obama-Biden administration
that secured concrete commitments from the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala,
and Honduras to take on the corruption, violence, and endemic poverty that
Restore and Reimagine Partnerships: A Biden
administration will do more than restore our historic partnerships; it will
lead the effort to reimagine them for the future. This means keeping NATO’s military
capabilities sharp, while also expanding our capacity to take on new,
non-traditional threats like weaponized corruption, cyber theft, and new
challenges in space and on the high seas; calling on all NATO nations to
recommit to their responsibilities as members of a democratic alliance; and
strengthening cooperation with democratic partners beyond North America and
Europe by reaching out to our partners in Asia to fortify our collective
capabilities and integrating our friends in Latin America and Africa. When the
United States hosts the next Summit of the Americas in 2021, President Biden
will harness this opportunity to rebuild strong hemispheric ties based on
respect for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We will also
strengthen our alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and other Asian
democracies, while sustaining an ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.
Renew our Commitment to Arms Control for a New
The historic Iran nuclear deal, negotiated by the Obama-Biden administration alongside our allies and other world powers, blocked Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Yet Trump decided to cast it aside, prompting Iran to restart its nuclear program and become more provocative, bringing the region to the cusp of another disastrous war. If Tehran returns to compliance with the deal, President Biden would re-enter the agreement, using hard-nosed diplomacy and support from our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities.
In North Korea, President Biden will empower our negotiators and jump start a sustained, coordinated campaign with our allies and others, including China, to advance our shared objective of a denuclearized North Korea.
As president, Biden will pursue an extension of the New START Treaty, an anchor of strategic stability between the United States and Russia, and use that as a foundation for new arms control arrangements.
President Biden would take other steps to demonstrate our commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons. As he said in 2017, Biden believes the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring—and if necessary, retaliating against—a nuclear attack. As president, he will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with our allies and military.
Rally the World to Address Existential Climate Crisis: The Biden
administration will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord on day one and lead a major
diplomatic push to raise the ambitions of countries’ climate targets. To
catalyze this effort and demonstrate concrete actions at home to achieve a
clean-energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050, President Biden –
in his comprehensive plan – will in his first 100 days in
Convene a climate world summit to directly engage the leaders of the major carbon-emitting nations of the world to persuade them to join the United States in making more ambitious national pledges, above and beyond the commitments they have already made.
Lock in enforceable commitments that will reduce emissions in global shipping and aviation—and pursue strong measures to make sure other nations can’t undercut us economically as we meet our own commitments. This includes pressuring China—the world’s largest emitter of carbon—to stop subsidizing coal exports and outsourcing their pollution to other countries by financing billions of dollars of dirty fossil-fuel energy projects through their Belt and Road Initiative.
Foreign policy is Joe Biden’s forte. It
is a lane he can travel relatively apart from the two dozen others vying for
the Democratic nomination for President, and also is the starkest contrast to
Trump. It is also gets to the heart of everyday Americans’ most horrific
anxieties – living with the fear of nuclear war, climate catastrophe, trade
wars that upend businesses and household budgets – and where a president has
the most unconstrained power. The proverbial finger on the nuclear button.
Biden alluded to the fact US administrations have not been infallible regarding foreign policy. And though Bernie Sanders (and others) will use his vote as a Senator for the Iraq War as a cudgel as he and Obama did against Hillary Clinton, that vote only confirms one of Biden’s most crucial arguments to replace Trump: a President must be credible. Iraq was a product of Bush/Cheney administration lies – about Weapons of Mass Destruction, about Saddam Hussein’s culpability for 9/11, about what the Senate “authorization” actually authorized.
speech Biden delivered at the NYU Graduate Center on Fifth Avenue in New York
City on July 11 summed up in the clearest terms the former Vice President’s
rationale to be President – as he summed it up, “In
2019, foreign policy is domestic policy, and domestic policy is foreign policy.”
He delivered the speech in moderated, controlled tones. It was workmanlike, but, as he would say, “deadly serious.” Here is a highlighted transcript – Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features
Ladies and Gentlemen, political wisdom holds that the American public doesn’t vote on foreign policy – but that’s an old way of thinking.
In 2019, foreign policy is domestic policy, and domestic policy is foreign policy.
They are a deeply connected set of choices we make about how to advance the American way of life and our vision for the future.
And, like everything about this election, the threat Donald Trump poses to our national security, and to who we are as a country, is so extreme, we cannot afford to ignore it. His erratic policies and failures to uphold basic democratic principles have muddied our reputation, our place in the world, and our ability to lead it.
So let me start today, by reminding everyone about what’s been lost amid the chest-thumping, the self-inflicted setbacks, and the manufactured crises of this administration.
American foreign policy must be purposeful and inspiring, based on clear goals and driven by sound strategies – not Twitter-tantrums.
And the overarching purpose of our foreign policy must be to defend and advance the security, prosperity, and democratic values of the United States.
Every President in modern history prior to Donald Trump, Democrat and Republican alike, has understood and carried out this basic directive – often imperfectly – but never before has it been so thoroughly abandoned.
I knew when I saw how Donald Trump responded to the events in Charlottesville – assigning a moral equivalence between those who promote hate, and those who oppose it – that the threat to our democracy was unlike any in my lifetime.
Less than a year later, Trump again stood before the press – this time on foreign soil, in Helsinki – and repeatedly deferred to Vladimir Putin – over American interests, the American intelligence community, and, I would argue, the American people. It was one of the weakest, most shameful performances by a U.S. president in modern history – perhaps ever.
And one we saw repeated just last month at the G-20 summit, where Trump smirked along with Putin – making a joke out of Russia’s very real, very dangerous assault on our institutions.
Trump debases our cherished democratic values every time he plays sycophant to strongmen. When he refuses to condemn Saudi Arabia for the gruesome murder of a journalist and American resident. Or when he “falls in love” with a murderous dictator in North Korea.
He undermines our democratic alliances, while embracing dictators who appeal to his vanity. And make no mistake, the world sees Trump clearly for what he is – Corrupt, insecure, ill-informed, impulsive. Dangerously incompetent and incapable of leadership.
It’s why we’ve seen such a precarious drop in how the rest of the world views the United States. One recent poll found America’s leadership is now less respected than China’s and on par with Russia.
If we give Donald Trump four more years – we may never recover America’s standing in the world or our capacity to bring nations together. And that would be catastrophic for our security and our future.
We can’t let that happen. As President, I will remind the world who we are. The United States of America does not coddle dictators. The United States of America gives hate no safe harbor.
There will be no more Charlottesvilles. No more Helsinkis.
The challenge of following this disastrous presidency, however, will not be to just restore our reputation and credibility.
We must enact a forward-looking foreign policy for the world as we find it today – and as we anticipate it will be tomorrow.
Much has shifted in the past few years. The international landscape is more crowded, competitive and complicated.
And when we look at what’s different today, two key points stand out, one is that the speed and intensity of our gravest challenges means that the fates of nations are more intertwined than ever before.
Climate change, nuclear proliferation, great power aggression, transnational terrorism, cyberwarfare, disruptive new technologies, mass migration – none of them can be resolved by the United States, or any nation, acting alone. America’s security, prosperity and way of life require the strongest possible network of partners and allies working alongside us.
Yet Donald Trump’s brand of America First has too often left America alone, making it that much harder to mobilize others to address threats to our common well-being.
The second is the rapid advance of authoritarianism, nationalism, and illiberal tendencies around the world – not just in Russia and China, but also among our allies, places like Turkey, the Philippines, Hungary.
In every part of the world, technology and instant information are driving change at an unprecedented pace and scope, causing many to feel confused and vulnerable.
Democratic governments – paralyzed by hyper-partisanship, hobbled by corruption – are having a harder time delivering for their people. Trust in our institutions is down. Fear of the “other” is up.
Together, these forces have driven a dangerous resurgence of extreme nationalism and illiberalism, of protectionism and xenophobia.
And Donald Trump and demagogues around the world are leaning into these forces for their own personal and political gain.
But this is not a moment for fear.
This is the time for us to tap the strength and the audacity that took us to victory in two world wars and brought down the Iron Curtain. That triumph of democracy and liberalism over fascism and autocracy is what created the Free World. And this contest won’t just define our past – It will define our future as well.
Today, democracy is under more pressure than at any time since the 1930s.
Freedom House has reported that, of the 41 countries consistently ranked “free” from 1985 to 2005, 22 have registered net declines in freedom in the last five years.
Yet, when the world’s democracies look to America to stand for the values that unite us – to truly lead the Free World – Donald Trump seems to be on the other team. When those living under oppression, yearning for freedom, look to the United States for hope – Trump has nothing to offer.
We cannot forget that democracy is the root of our society, the wellspring of our power, the source of our renewal. It strengthens and amplifies our leadership to keep us safe in the world. It’s the engine of our ingenuity that drives our economic prosperity. It’s the heart of who we are and how we see the world – and how the world sees us.
As president, I will ensure that democracy is once more the watchword of U.S. foreign policy – not to launch some moral crusade, but because it is in our enlightened self-interest.
We must restore our ability to rally the Free World – so we can once more make our stand upon new fields of action and together face new challenges.
We only have one opportunity to reset our democracy. After Trump, we have to be prepared to make the most of it.
So, what does that mean in practice?
First, it means repairing and reinvigorating our own democracy, even as we strengthen the coalition of democracies that stand with us on every continent.
I will start by putting our own house in order – remaking our education system so that a child’s opportunity in life isn’t determined by their zip code or race; reforming our criminal justice system to eliminate inequitable disparities; putting the teeth back in the Voting Rights Act.
I will seek greater transparency in our Campaign Finance System. We need to get big money out altogether, and ensure that foreign dark money doesn’t continue to pollute our politics.
We need to dedicate greater resources, including cyber resources, to defending our elections.
I served as a founding member of a Trans-Atlantic Commission on Election Integrity to fight back against Russia’s attacks on Western democracies. We asked candidates across Europe and North America to sign a pledge, committing to transparency in campaign finances and to reject the use of fabricated or hacked materials. Now that I am a candidate for office – I have signed that pledge, and I urge everyone running for president to do the same. It’s the right thing to do.
As individuals, and as a nation, we have to prove to the world that the United States is prepared to lead – not just with the example of our power, but the power of our example.
To that end, as president, I will take decisive steps to renew our core American values and return transparency to our government.
We believe in freedom of religion, which is why I will end the Muslim ban.
We believe in free speech, which is why I will end the Global Gag Rule that prevents money from going to international NGOs that even talk about family planning.
We believe in the power of a free press, which is why I will immediately return to daily press briefings at the White House, State Department, and Department of Defense.
We are a nation of immigrants. President Trump took those words out of the mission statement of our citizenship and immigration services. I will restore them.
Our Statue of Liberty invites in the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I will reverse Trump’s detrimental asylum policies and raise our target for refugee admissions to a level commensurate with our responsibility and the unprecedented global need.
A Biden administration would immediately end the horrific practice of separating families at our border and holding children in for-profit detention centers.
And I would order a review of Temporary Protected Status to vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in their countries ripped apart by violence or disaster – including Venezuelans and Haitians.
We’ve always been a nation that chooses science over fiction – and from climate change to standards for harmful environmental toxins to global health policy. We’re going to return facts to our policy making.
Renew a government-wide focus on uplifting the rights of women and girls, at home and abroad. And revitalize our national commitment to advancing human rights and democracy around the world.
These changes – and many more, which I’ve released on our website – are just a start – a day-one down payment on our commitment to living our democratic values at home.
And then, I will invite my fellow democratic leaders to put strengthening democracy back on the global agenda.
We will organize and host in the United States, during the first year of my administration, a global Summit for Democracy to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the Free World.
Building off the successful model we instituted during the Obama-Biden administration with the Nuclear Security Summit – leaders who attend must come prepared with concrete commitments to take on corruption, counter authoritarianism, and advance human rights in their own nations.
We have to be honest about our friends that are falling short and forge a common agenda for action to address the greatest threats to our shared values. We’ll include civil society organizations from around the world that stand on the frontlines in defense of our democracies.
And we’ll challenge the private sector, including tech corporations and social media giants, to make their own commitments.
America’s openness fueled their success. Now I believe they have a duty to make sure their algorithms and platforms are not misused to sow division at home, or to empower the surveillance state, facilitate repression and censorship in China and elsewhere, spread hate, or spur people to violence.
Second, we will equip our people to succeed in the global economy with a foreign policy for the middle class. To win the competition for the future, we must double down on sharpening our innovative edge and uniting the economic might of our friends to counter abusive economic practices.
We know that economic security is national security. But there are a lot of communities across this country that are hurting because we’ve neglected the basics.
Our trade policy has to start at home, by strengthening our greatest asset – our middle class.
We have to take care of everything I’ve talked about on the campaign trail – giving every student the skills or training they need to obtain a good21st century job; making sure every single American has access to quality, affordable healthcare; investing in rebuilding our bridges and roads, modernizing our airports and trains; making sure Americans have access to broadband networks; reforming our taxes to reward work, not just wealth; leading the clean-economy revolution to create 10 million new jobs right here in the United States.
I will make investment in research and development a cornerstone of my presidency so that the United States is leading the charge with innovation. There’s no reason we should be falling behind China or anyone else when it comes to clean energy, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, 5G, and high-speed rail. And there’s no reason that we cannot ensure that our people are ready – for the transition that will inevitably accompany this new technology.
Ladies and Gentlemen – we have the greatest research universities in the world. The most agile system of venture capital. We’re virtually energy independent. We have a strong tradition of the rule of law. And most important, we have an extraordinary population of workers and innovators who have never let our country down.
A foreign policy for the middle class will also work to make sure the rules of the international economy are not rigged against us. Because when American businesses compete on a fair playing field – we win.
President Trump may think he’s being tough on China, but all he has delivered is more pain for American farmers, manufacturers, and consumers. His economic decision making is as short-sighted as the rest of his foreign policy. China is playing the long-game – extending its global reach and investing in the technologies of the future – while Trump is designating our closest allies – from Canada to the European Union – as National Security Threats in order to impose damaging and pointless tariffs.
By cutting us off from the economic clout of our partners, he knee-caps our capacity to take on the real economic threat.
We do need to get tough with China. If China has its way, it will keep robbing the U.S. of our technology and intellectual property, or forcing American companies to give it away in order to do business in China.
And the most effective way to meet that challenge is to build a united front of friends and partners to challenge China’s abusive behavior – even as we seek to deepen cooperation on issues where our interests converge, like climate change and preventing nuclear proliferation.
There’s no going back to business as usual on trade. We need new rules, and a new process that has the voices of all stakeholders at the table – including leaders representing labor and the environment.
We must negotiate from the strongest possible position. On our own, we represent about one-quarter of global GDP. When we join together with fellow democracies, that number doubles. China can’t afford to ignore half the global economy. That gives us substantial leverage to shape the future rules of the road on everything from the environment to labor, trade, technology and transparency so they continue to reflect democratic interests and values – America’s interests and values.
Not China’s. Not Russia’s.
The world does not organize itself. If we do not shape the norms and institutions that govern relations among nations, rest assure – that some other nation will step into the vacuum, OR – no one will – and chaos will result.
Which brings me to my final point.
The Biden foreign policy agenda will place America back at the head of the table, working with our allies and partners – to mobilize global action on global threats, especially those unique to our Century.
American leadership is not infallible. We have made missteps and mistakes.
Too often we have relied solely on the might of our military instead of drawing on our full array of strengths.
Let me be clear – I will never hesitate to protect the American people Including, when necessary, by using force.
As Vice President, I worked with President Obama to craft the military and diplomatic campaign that ultimately defeated ISIS. In fact, it turned out Trump’s secret plan to destroy the so-called caliphate was to continue the plan we put in place.
We have the strongest military in the world – I would argue in the history of the world. As President, I will ensure it stays that way. I will make the investments necessary – to equip our troops for the challenges of the next century, not the last one.
But the use of force should be our last resort, not our first. Used only to defend our vital interests, when the objective is clear and achievable, and with the informed consent of the American people.
It’s past time to end the Forever Wars, which have cost us untold blood and treasure.
As I have long argued, we should bring the vast majority of our troops home – from the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and narrowly focus our mission on Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
And we should end our support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. [This prompted applause.]
Staying entrenched – in unwinnable conflicts – drains our capacity to lead on other issues that require our attention, and it prevents us from rebuilding the other instruments of American power.
So I will make it my mission – to restore American leadership – and elevate diplomacy as our principal tool of foreign policy.
I will reinvest in The Diplomatic Corps that this administration has hollowed out – and put our diplomacy back in the hands of genuine professionals.
Above all, diplomacy requires credibility.And Donald Trump has absolutely corroded our country’s credibility.
In the conduct of American foreign policy – and especially in times of crisis – a President’s word – is his or her most valuable asset.
But by pulling out of treaty after treaty, reneging on policy after policy – walking away from America’s responsibilities, and lying – about matters big and small – Trump has bankrupted America’s word in the world.
And he has alienated us from the very democratic allies we need most.
Trump has taken a battering ram to our NATO alliance – he treats it like an American-run protection racket.
He just doesn’t get it.
NATO is at the very heart of America’s national security. And more than that, it’s the bulwark of the liberal democratic ideal. It is an alliance – first and foremost – of values.
That makes it far more durable, reliable, and powerful than partnerships built by coercion or cash.
The same is true of our core alliances in Asia.
And let’s be clear: working cooperatively with other nations that share our values and goals doesn’t make America a sucker – it makes us more secure and more successful.
We amplify our own strength, extend our presence around the globe, and magnify our impact – while sharing the burden among willing partners.
No country, even one as powerful as ours, can go it alone against challenges that respect no borders and cannot be contained by walls.
As president, I will do more than just restore our historic partnershipsI’ll lead the effort to reimagine them – to better meet the challenges we’re grappling with today.
To keep NATO’s military capabilities sharp, while also expanding our capacity – to take on non-traditional threats like weaponized corruption, cyber theft, and new challenges in space and on the high seas. And, by the way, the increase in NATO defense spending started under the Obama-Biden administration.
We need to look for opportunities to strengthen cooperation with democratic friends – beyond North America and beyond Europe – reaching out to our partners in Asia, including Japan, South Korea, Australia, and India to fortify our collective capabilities.
Sustaining our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.
Integrating our friends in Latin America and Africa and seizing opportunities throughout the broader network of democracies.
And in order to regain the confidence of the world – we’re going to have to prove that America says what it means, and means what it says.
Especially when it comes to the challenges that will define our time: the renewed threat of nuclear war, mass migration, disruptive technology, and climate change.
We cannot be a credible voice on non-proliferation and nuclear security while we are abandoning the deals we negotiated.
From North Korea to Iran, Russia to Saudi Arabia, Trump has made the prospect of nuclear proliferation, a new nuclear arms race, and even the use of nuclear weapons more likely.
I’ve worked on these issues my entire adult life. I understand what’s at stake and I understand the consequences of failing to act. That is why, as President, I would renew our commitment to arms control for a new era.
The historic Iran nuclear deal we negotiated blocked Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Yet Trump cast it aside, prompting Iran to restart its nuclear program and become more provocative – raising the risk of another disastrous war in the region.
If Tehran returns to compliance with the deal, I would re-join the agreement and work with our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities.
In North Korea, I will empower our negotiators and jumpstart a sustained, coordinated campaign with our allies and others – including China – to advance our shared objective of a denuclearized North Korea.
I will pursue an extension of the New START Treaty, an anchor of strategic stability between the United States and Russia, and use that as a foundation for new arms control arrangements.
And I would take other steps to demonstrate our commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons.
As I said in 2017, I believe the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring – and if necessary, retaliating against a nuclear attack. As president, I will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with our Allies and our military.
By the same measure, we cannot push nations to meet their humanitarian obligations to address the biggest refugee and migration crisis since World War II if we are not living our democratic values and firmly rejecting Trump’s nativist rhetoric.
It shames our nation when a father and his baby daughter drown seeking our shores, when children are locked away in overcrowded detention centers – denied even the most basic necessities – when families are ripped apart.
Abandoning our deepest-held values does nothing to increase security at our border – and everything to diminish our standing in the world.
We need sensible policies that improve screening procedures at our legal ports of entry and make smart investments in border technology.
We need to work again with Canada and Mexico as neighbors – not adversaries. And we need to focus on the root causes driving migrants to our border.
As Vice President, I secured commitments from the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to take on the corruption, violence, and endemic poverty in their countries that are driving people to leave their homes. Then I worked with a Republican Congress to approve a $750 million aid package to help support those reforms.
And guess what – it worked. Security improved and migration flows began to decrease in countries like El Salvador.
Trump announced an end to our aid – to Central America – via tweet, with no understanding of the consequences.
If elected President, I will relaunch that initiative, with a top-to-bottom review of our funding to the region to determine how we can continue to drive reforms that deliver results.
When it comes to the technologies of the future – like 5-G and Artificial Intelligence – other nations are devoting national resources to dominating their development and determining how they are used.
We have to ensure that 21st century technologies are used to promote greater democracy and shared prosperity– not to curb – freedom and opportunity at home and abroad.
As new technologies reshape our economy and society, we must ensure that these engines for progress are bound by laws and ethics as we’ve done at every technological turning point in history.
A Biden administration will join together with our democratic allies to develop secure, private-sector led 5-G networks, leaving no community – rural or low income – behind.
And the last example I’ll end on today is how the United States must lead the world to take on the existential threat we face – climate change. If we don’t get this right, nothing else matters.
I’ll put us on track to achieve a clean-energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050.
And, equally important because the United States is only 15 percent of global emissions, I’ll leverage our economic and our moral authority to push the world to urgent action.
I will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and convene a summit of the world’s largest carbon emitters, rallying nations to raise their ambitions and push our progress further – faster.
We’ll lock in enforceable commitments that will reduce emissions in global shipping and aviation – and we’ll pursue strong measures to make sure other nations can’t undercut us economically as we meet our own commitments.
That includes insisting that China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon, stops subsidizing coal exports and outsourcing pollution to other countries by financing billions of dollars of dirty fossil-fuel energy projects through their Belt and Road Initiative.
These are ambitious goals and we won’t accomplish any of them without the United States – flanked by our fellow democracies – leading the way.
We are facing enemies – both without and within – hoping to exploit the fissures in our society, undermine our democracy, break up our alliances, and return us to an international system where might determines right.
The answer to this threat is more openness – not less. More friendships, more cooperation, more alliances. More democracy.
Vladimir Putin wants to tell himself and anyone he can dupe into believing him that the liberal idea is “obsolete” – because he’s afraid of its power.
No army on earth can match – how the Electric Idea of Liberty – passes freely from person to person, jumps borders, transcends languages and cultures – how it can supercharge communities of ordinary citizens into activists and organizers and change agents.
We must once more harness that power and rally the Free World to meet the challenges facing our world today. And it falls to the United States of America to lead the way.
No other nation has the capacity. No other nation is built on that idea – that promise.
And it’s in our self-interest.
We have to champion liberty and democracy. We have to reclaim our credibility. We have to look with unrelenting optimism and determination toward the future.
Thank you, and God protect our troops.
See more detail on Biden’s foreign policy platform:
To hear Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, preview US priorities for the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week which gets underway Monday September 24, the United Nations is merely a stage and the rest of the world’s ministers mere players for American interests, otherwise the US doesn’t want to take part, asserting its “sovereignty.” While the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made strengthening “multilateralism” a key objective this year (which includes addressing climate change, refugees, nuclear nonproliferation, and financing and mobilizing private investment for sustainable developing economies “without which, sustainable goals are not feasible”), in the US definition, “multilateralism” is getting other countries to do America’s bidding – whether sanctioning North Korea or Iran – but nothing that “mandates” the United States to do what it doesn’t want to do.
“We’ve said from very beginning almost two years ago when we came in that we were going to try and see what we make out of the United Nations,” Haley said at a press “stakeout” on Thursday, September 20. Issues like the Global Migration Compact, the Paris Climate Accord, “all these things that we felt were mandating things on the US, those aren’t things we want to be involved in…We really value sovereignty. We think every country should. That’s the conversation we want.
“We’re not saying that multilateralism can’t work but sovereignty is above all of that.”
Add to that list the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted at the United Nations on July 7, 2017, with 122 states voting in favor (but with none of the nine nuclear powers, including the United States, as signatories) and opened for signature by the Secretary-General of the United Nations exactly a year ago. The nuclear weapons prohibition would become international law once 50 nations ratify the treaty. (Commemoration and promotion of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will take place on Wednesday, September 26, the same day as Trump chairs the Security Council meeting.)
The focus next week, when some 84 heads of state will be in New York, she said, “will be very much on the United States, what our role is in the world, the relationships we want to continue to build and what we can do about that. I think the goal we all have in this administration: how to make the American people proud and what actions we can show that make us proud.” (Sounds like a campaign rally for the midterms, more than taking advantage of face-to-face meetings with the heads of state to address issues of war and peace, life and death.)
“The US presidency has been one that has been full of substance, full of issues,” she said. “We are very proud of what we have done. We raised alarm bells on Venezuela, Nicaragua, how the international community must pay more attention. We held the first-ever discussion in front of the Security Council on corruption and how corruption relates to conflict. [We focused on] accountability – a good next step forward on what we’re trying to do on peacekeeping.
“We held multiple meetings on applying pressure on the crisis we hope doesn’t happen in Idlib and the humanitarian situation that can happen. And we are meeting to intensify the need for enforcement of sanctions on North Korea – reminding Security Council members we are all responsible making sure those are enforced properly.”
Last year, Trump’s big initiative in the United Nations General Assembly was about “reform” – as in getting other nations to pay what he considers their fair share, as he did at NATO. This year, the US big initiative is “a global call to action on the global drug problem. We already have 124 countries signed up and the number is growing. It shows that the world drug problem affects so many countries. The focus is on reducing use of illicit drugs, on cutting supply off, expanding treatment, and more than that, international cooperation… I look forward to more signatories.” Apparently, the US is okay with “multilaternalism” when it comes to curbing the drug problem.
There was no mention of the United States withdrawing from the Human Rights Council (ostensibly over perceived bias over Israel but likely also in protest over a report that pointed to 40% of Americans living in poverty, and perhaps to avoid condemnation over its inhumane, even criminal treatment of separating children as young as infants from their parents at the southern border), or its defiance of the International Criminal Court (to which the US has never joined). Instead of mobilizing private investment for sustainable development, the United States is focused on scoring foreign policy successes through tightening screws with sanctions and slashing foreign aid.
Haley said that Donald Trump’s speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, will focus on “the foreign policy successes the US has had over the past year – protecting US sovereignty – and continue to build relationships with those that share those values.”
The America First policy – really a way of reducing issues to dollars and cents – extends to foreign aid: Haley said the United States’ “generosity” will be confined to those who do what the US wants.
“We will lay down a marker that while the US is generous, we are generous to those who share our values, who want to work with us, and not those who want to stop the US or say ‘death to America’.”
That has already been made clear in the US action to shut down aid to Palestinians– nearly $200 million – prompting members of the Security Council to raise alarms over a looming humanitarian crisis there. The action coincided with the administration shutting the Palestine Liberation Office in Washington DC.
With the US chairing the Security Council this year, Trump will chair the Security Council meeting on Wednesday. “That will be the most watched Security council meeting ever,” Haley quipped.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will take over the chair to lead a Security Council meeting on North Korea.
“The importance is the fact that every single foreign minister will be attending this Security Council meeting. It is a conversation we think needs to be had, chance for us to look at what we’ve achieved, in progress in North Korea – progress – chance to look at commitment to peace, but also to have conversation that if we don’t enforce sanctions, all this can go away.”
The US will also be focusing international attention on Iran – both from the point of nonproliferation, and as a destabilizing force in the Middle East – as Haley did during a Security Council meeting that was 99% devoted to bashing Israel over settlements and “disproportionate” reaction to Palestinian protests and rocket attacks on Israel, and its plans to demolish a Bedouin village. She, instead, devoted her comments to Iran, and not on salvaging the nuclear agreement, but in trying to amass international support for renewed sanctions.
“Iran continues to be a problem – every dangerous spot, Iran seems to have their fingerprints in it. … their proxies, what they doing to destabilize the Middle East.” But she was vague in terms of whether Trump would agree to meet with Iran President Hassan Rouhani, who reportedly requested a meeting.
“Certainly if Rouhani requested a meeting, that would be for the president to decide.”
She said that Trump has scheduled bilats with South Korea, Egypt, France, Israel, Japan, and the United Kingdom but “others could come up.” She held out the possibility he might agree to meet with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“If Erdogan requests a meeting… next week not set in stone. Certainly a head of state could request a meeting and the president would have prerogative” to accept.
The plight of the Myanmar Rohingya is also of concern, she said. “That is a hot topic now. We have to figure out how we going to bring Rohingyans back to Burma in a way it’s safe. I have expressed my view that I don’t think the government has done enough, I don’t think the military has accepted responsibility, Myanmar leader] Aung San Suu Kyi basically acknowledged the fact the reporters were right to be detained and imprisoned, is a real problem. What they’re saying, we’re not understanding and what we’re saying they are not hearing..and at some point the international community ahs to speak with one voice. It’s not okay with them just being in Bangladesh.”
Among the administration officials who will be coming to the United Nations and participating in meetings: Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary Pompeo, Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US Trade Representative Robert Emmet Lighthizer, USAID Administrator Mark Green, and special adviser Ivanka Trump.
“This is week we all wait for, where we can really put American interests in the spotlight, make it a really prominent thing –with all the administration coming in, they will come in and do their thing. All try to get some good peace and security.”
Interestingly, there was no mention of taking up the issue of one nation’s (Russia) interference in the elections of another (United States), which is a direct attack on sovereignty.
Haley’s remarks, which preceded a Security council meeting devoted to the Middle East, were followed by representatives of France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (EU member countries with a seat on the Council); Belgium and Germany (incoming Council members in 2019) and Italy (a Council member until last year) who issued a joint statement urging Israeli authorities to reconsider its decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, a Palestinian village in the West Bank, which, they said not only created a humanitarian crisis but exacerbated the conflict and further eroded the possibility of a two-state solution.
They were followed by Arab State representatives, including the representative from Palestine, who expressed gratitude to the Europeans, but said that the proposed resolution censuring Israel would likely be blocked by the United States.
In contrast to Haley’s declaration of “sovereignty”, Secretary-General António Guterres, in his press conference earlier that day, said, “I will use my meetings and other opportunities next week to press for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order and to the United Nations. The United Nations is the world’s indispensable forum for international cooperation. The presence of 84 Heads of State and 44 Heads of Government is eloquent proof of the confidence of the international community in the United Nations.”
Asked whether the Secretary General considers Trump “a threat to multilateralism,” he replied, “First, I don’t like to personalize things. I think we are facing a situation in which, in different areas and for different reasons, the trust of people in their political establishments, the trust of states among each other, the trust of many people in international organizations has been eroded and that multilateralism has been in the fire. And so, this is a concern, and that is the reason I said today and I will say it again in the General Assembly, that it’s essential to preserve multilateralism.”
The question that wasn’t asked of Ambassador Haley or Secretary General António Guterres was this: if the US were not (temporarily at least) the largest economy in the world and the UN’s biggest donor (temporarily at least), would the various UN councils and committees prosecute or seek sanctions for: unleashing climate catastrophes by reversing course of spewing heat-trapping gas emissions at five times the proportion of population (the US has 5% of the world’s population but accounts for 25% of carbon emissions)? For unleashing economy-crippling tariffs on countries in defiance of existing treaties in the absence of a true “national security” issue, while bestowing $12 billion in subsidies to farmers, in violation of World Trade Organization rules? For violating the Global Compact on Migration by shutting down virtually all access to refugees and asylum seekers? For violating human rights of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America by taking away children as young as infants and incarcerating parents and children for an indeterminate time without hearing, and deporting parents leaving children orphans in custody in the US?
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, spoke about “America Needs a Future: What A Sound Foreign Policy Would Look Like,” in March at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island. Wilkerson began his remarks challenging the United States to acknowledge and make reparations for its commission of torture in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
His remarks are especially timely in light of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s confirmation hearings underway for Gina Haspel to become CIA Director. Haspel’s confirmation is controversial because she has been associated with running a rendition site in Thailand in 2002 and three years later, ordering the destruction of videos purportedly showing CIA officers using “enhanced interrogation techniques” which now are acknowledged to be torture. Haspel has refused to state unequivocally that torture is immoral, that it was wrong, only pledging not to restart an enhanced interrogation program again. But she sidestepped direct questions as to whether she would authorize torture if ordered to do so by the President – not a hypothetical question given Donald Trump’s repeated declarations that not only would he condone waterboarding, but waterboarding did not go far enough; Trump even proposed assassinating a suspected terrorist’s family as a method of discouraging recruitment.
Several Senators, including Senator John McCain – the only person in Congress who knows firsthand about being tortured as a Prisoner of War – have said they would not support Haspel’s confirmation because of her refusal to own up to her responsibility and condemn the use of torture.
In contrast, Wilkerson (not Haspel) stated that critical to a positive way forward in American foreign policy is to “right that wrong – and right it in the world’s eyes—opening up the courts, the legal system. Reparations are due. An apology is due. And a pledge we will never do that again.”
Here is an edited transcript of Lawrence Wilkerson’s remarks, which were delivered before Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Agreement, before he threatened to unleash a trade war against China.- Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Usually with enlightenment, there is strength. It is difficult to be enlightened today, to feel the world is sane, sober, bent toward peace rather than war –
At a press conference on November 7, 2005, the question of torture was raised. “We do not torture,” George W. Bush stated. The president was lying. Presidents have lied since time immemorial.
There are 119 people –that we know of – who have been tortured at the hands of the United States – documented in a 6000 page report (under the control of Senator Burr who chairs the Intelligence Committee). Failing to destroy the report, distribution is restricted; there are only 6 copies left.
One thing Trump is correct about: under the Constitution, the president is responsible for foreign policy in conjunction with Congress. Presidents forget that: both bodies are entrusted with foreign policy. From time to time, [a president’s unilateral action] is challenged: like Iran-Contra (Reagan). They almost impeached Reagan, had it not been for his incredible communicative skills.
When we destroyed the report, we have lost the accountability for 119 people, at minimum (about 30 had coroners write off their deaths as murder). Murder is ultimate torture.
There are 3-5 billion people in world, many in countries that are signatory allies, who think the number one security threat to their life is the United States. You won’t find MSNBC CNN, Fox, or New York Times, Washington Post reporting on this. They won’t report on Yemen we are so horribly, brutally involved in, at the behest of greatest (terrorist) in the world, Saudi Arabia – It’s against the War Powers act [to conduct war without Congressional authorization. This is illegal participation in a Saudi war, yet Congress does nothing.
I would erase this incredible blot on reputation by not only releasing that [torture] report, but by recognizing those who we improperly treated – in violation of war crimes; pay reparations and make apologies. Canada and France have done so; we are the only ones who haven’t.
It is so egregious because the rest of world knows, knows we captured one individual and tortured him for 5 months simply because his name was the same as one on the watch list but was not the same person. Then, after we kept him in prison, tortured him for almost half year, we put him in a helicopter, flew him to a mountain in Albania in his underwear and dumped him and said nothing to him or his family.
We should right that wrong – and right it in the world’s eyes—opening up the courts, the legal system – reparations are due, apology is due – and a pledge we will never do that again.
We were the country who led the world, some kicking and screaming – like the king in Saudi Arabia – to the United Nations convention against torture. We were the ones who wrote most of that, ratified that – made domestic law conform – that under no circumstances, even extreme circumstances (national security) will we torture. Yet we did.
Part of our very real power in the world is our myth. Myth is not all bad – humanity, in many respects is based on myth – that is, partly true, partly hyperbole, in middle is true. There is the myth of the United States being Exceptional Nation, but it helps us maintain our cohesiveness – which we would register as part of that exceptionalism.
The myth that we are the number one protector of dignity and human rights in the world has as much truth as hyperbole. We violate it a lot, but it is a real part of our power in the world.
[In past diplomatic dealings] our first talking point was human rights, freedom of religion – that’s real power. We’ve diminished that. Now we’re just another big bully in the world.
[We must] change that image right away – before anything else.
In America, domestic politics has as much to do with national security as anything…People make these decisions – to go to war, to mount a covert operation and overthrow another country’s leader – usually from the perspective of bad decisions – we pick the least bad one. That’s the nature of power, but even with that comprehension of power, you can back away in foreign policy in both image and reality, in order to give image more robustness.
The Powerful Rule; those without power get ruled.
‘Because I can’ – that’s power.
How do you take that kind of power, which the US has had possession of since World War II, and make it work on your behalf and a much as possible on others?
Consider: the Number Oneworld power is not us but China – economically, in terms of potential. [China is undertaking] two Marshall plans, and contemplating a third – Chinese money outstrips American spending in constant dollars by 15 to 16 to 1 – China’s initiative through central Asia, $2 trillion, initiative in South China Sea, around India, to Iran and pipelines up into Europe from Iran – one of richest gas countries in world. Those are two initiatives. The third they are thinking about: eliminating Russia as a possible threat to China.
Two possibilities, good or bad: if smartly carried out and others cooperative, these initiatives could lift more people out of poverty, could do more good than probably anything going. But how do you get that to happen and make sure what the Chinese are doing with their vast amount of money is beneficial, rather than detrimental? We have got to cooperate. We have to recognize world is changing, power is changing, shifting under our feet so fast. There are other templates at work in the world.
[Which is why Trump’s foreign policy, trying to make America and the world of the 1950s, is to destructive as it is absurd.]
The Chinese are already at purchasing power parity with the United States and in 10-15 years time, will be bigger than us in GDP.
The first foreign policy initiative [should be to] establish some understanding of how we will help them and how they will help us help them, so those major initiatives – the major initiatives in the world today, affecting far more than anyone else is doing, including us (we’re probably killing far more people than the Chinese) – prosperity to as many as you can.
That’s the number one foreign policy for the US – beyond shadow of doubt – because if not handled properly, things could go to hell in a handbag so fast and take so many – think World War I, World War II.
What we are doing is very dangerous. Trump said he would elevate the rank level, therefore the recognition diplomatically, of visitors to Taiwan. This is a red line to China. There are generals salivating at sinking a US carrier, so let’s continue encouraging Taiwan to take advantage of our support and extend middle finger to Beijing.
We should be joining things like Asia Development Bank, not spurning, so we could have our influence at work at various problems the Chinese could bring – don’t care if enlightened self-interest, as long as managed to help more than harms.
I haven’t seen China invade a country, fly drones, kill people in conjunction with Saudi Arabia. This is something that must happen if the world is to prosper and do relatively well, as it has since 1950.
Second: We need diplomats with finesse, extraordinary capabilities – like John Quincy Adams as a young man in Catherine the Great’s court, then as James Madison was as a diplomat to Russia. Adams was so smart and adept at reporting back to his president about what was going on in Europe (Napoleon), at a time when we still had 3 empires that would have loved to sever us – Spain, France, Britain.
Russia. Here’s where that framework comes back to play. What is preventing us from dealing with Moscow as we should – domestic politics. Even if we hate our president – despise, think he’s crazy – he can’t deal with Moscow as he should because of domestic politics.
One of the bloodiest conflicts on the face of earth is in Syria. What does it take to fix? The answer is simple, but complex: We need exquisite, capable diplomats, for Russia to bring pressure on Damascas, Tehran, Ankara.
[But Putin’s interest is not the greater good of Russia or the world, but a return to a Soviet Empire; his tactic is to sow chaos among the Western democracies, including the United States and he sees Syria as providing Russia with a base in the Middle East. Putin has no interest in solving the problem for the United States.]
If Russia and Washington make their mind up – Russia has a foothold in Mideast – will stay there as great power umbrella over Assad, and Assad will stay there – killing people just because we’re mad, is stupid..That’s the only way to bring requisite power on all the capitals concerned and stop the bloody civil war in Syria – threatening Israel, threatening Turkey in NATO, threatening western Asia.
The Chinese figure that’s their number one region. That’s why China building what they are: Djibouti, critically strategic, is occupied by as many Chinese troops as Americans. The leader there is counting renminbi dollars – playing both sides. There is no more intense example of the competition – other than the Taiwan Strait. Chinese are there to “help” – plowing in $600 million with no strings while we give $50 million with [requirements of ] human rights, rule of law. We have to face reality: whose country leaders are we most likely to deal with?
That’s why [we should] talk about cooperation between world’s preeminent power: Russia– 10 time zones, enormous debt, and strategic problems with China.
If you’re going to deal with the energy needs of the globe – 9.5-10 billion people by mid-century – you have to cooperate, you have to get that energy delivered in a way that doesn’t cause conflict – you have to have Russia.
All Russia is today is a gas station – a lot of gas and oil. Those are the number one priorities in my foreign policy book.
[Shouldn’t the priority be to transition away from dependence on fossil fuels, therefore less dependence on Middle East, Russia, and toward self-sufficiency in decentralized, renewable, clean energy?]
The next country in the world we have to think about is Japan. What they doing under Prime Minister Abe – contemplating the loss of US [relationship], the untrustworthiness of the United States, contemplating what we just did with TPP [Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal which Trump pulled out of]; the arms market.
Of the 2017-18 Arms Merchants of the Year, US is so far in front, Russia just behind [recall that the big trade deal Trump returned from Saudi Arabia with was a deal for billions in arms]. … Between Russia and us, over $200 billion worth. But Japan could be the 2nd or 3rd biggest arms merchant – manufacturing submarines, fighter jets, ships. If you are Prime Minister Abe, Article 9 in Constitution (dating from Douglas MacArthur), the prohibition against nuclear weapons is a real inhibition. Japan probably has a latent capability that would allow it to become full nuclear power within 6-18 months. [And Trump has suggested that he would like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Japan to get nuclear weapons; he probably has already teed up sales, as Michael Flynn was doing, making deals for nuclear plants in the Mideast by cell phone during Trump’s inauguration.]
Korean Peninsula: The number one strategic objective of [North Korea’s] Kim dynasty for 40 years has been to sit down with the president of the United States and talk and begin the process of dividing the US from South Korea. Recognizing that they are a state to be reckoned with, we should begin a dialogue that would lead to a peace treaty. (The Korean War began in 1950, we never had a peace treaty.)
Does that mean the foreign policy developing now. [Trump is scheduled to go to meet with Kim Jong-Un in Singapore on June 12]– is a riveting change that might bring enormous success to this administration? Not necessarily. This is the number one objective of Kim dynasty: to be recognized.
At the end of Clinton’s administration, the foreign policy of US was about to do the same thing; Madeleine Albright went to Pyongyang [in 2000] and danced with Kim. Clinton had every intention when Al Gore would be president of making a visit himself in January – the promise was almost in the air. It didn’t come about principally because Clinton got cold feet – given circumstances- George w. Bush was president, and the policy changed. But we were very close in 1999-2000. There was an agreed framework, negotiated, North Korea froze the only nuclear program they had – plutonium – were on a good trajectory to check their nuclear program, make sure inspectors on board, and have increasingly normal relationship – not like Trump just pulled out of head of Zeus – this is where we were. But how many Americans know that? We don’t do history in America. But this is very different moment than is anticipated by Trump.
It takes very detailed, exquisite, sophisticated diplomatic plan to do this right – there are so many holes you can fall in, not the least of which is alienating your South Korea ally – President Moon, disposed to be more liberal minded, is the right person to get on wrong foot.
We don’t know if [South Korea’s] national security minister reported accurately to Trump.
There could be some confusion – I wouldn’t put it past the White House to amplify confusion as long as it is positive for them with their base – because it’s really all about domestic politics, not about foreign policy or security policy.
To sum up: Don’t be an imperial hegemon, even if you are. Don’t be arrogant, Cheney-ish about it – be Dwight Eisenhower, Lincoln, George Washington about it. Know what the heck you are doing; have humility; use your bureaucracy [the career diplomats] they are not Deep State, they do more than issue visas and protect US citizens overseas, much more.
Recognize where the power is. That doesn’t mean you take away humanitarian efforts –economic, financial, but concentrate critical analytical thinking on where the real power problems are.
Be humble. Be magnanimous. Lose every now and again.
[Exactly the opposite of Trump’s foreign policy approach.]