U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor: What Allies and Partners Need to Know - January 7
Welcome to the U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor where every week we track the “who,” “what,” and “so what” for the new U.S. administration and Congress.
We are back after a brief end-of-year break, but not quite back to normal. In light of the shocking events on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, we are bringing you a shorter newsletter this week. Sign up here to receive every Friday in your inbox.
With Congress certifying the results, the 2020 presidential election is finally over, yet it feels anything but. Nobody in Washington has any clear idea how the crisis will develop, and if we can get through the next 13 days and the inauguration of President-elect Biden without further violence. Voices such as former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen warned that Trump was not in a position to lead the next 13 days, and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has already called for invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump from office. More is bound to happen before this lands in your inbox.
The mayhem in Washington has overshadowed important electoral victories for the Democrats in Georgia’s run-off-election and sapped all attention from the transition. President-elect Joe Biden condemned the violence, labeling it “not a protest – it's insurrection.” He stressed the importance of reestablishing order, stating that “the work of the moment and the work of the next four years must be the restoration of democracy, of decency, of honor, of respect, the rule of law.” Though everyone in DC is still reeling and consumed by open questions about what happens next: we nonetheless bring you insights into key nominations and a list of thought pieces that preceded the Capitol riot.
Who to Watch
Wendy Sherman is the presumptive nominee to serve as deputy secretary of state. She is currently a senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group, and a very familiar foreign policy figure. Prior to that, she served as under secretary of state for political affairs during the Obama administration. During this period, she led the U.S. negotiating team in dealing with Iran and the P5+1, which resulted in the Iran Nuclear Deal. While dealing with the Iranians, she benefitted from experience during the Clinton administration as part of the team negotiating with North Korea in an effort to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. She also served as counselor to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, initially joining the Clinton administration as assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs. A Baltimore native, Sherman began her career as a social worker, assisting battered women and the urban poor.
- Sherman summarizes her experience during the Iran Nuclear Negotiations in this video from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.
- In this video, Wendy Sherman and her former boss, Secretary Albright, discuss their views on the future of diplomacy.
- Check out this 2011 recording of Wendy Sherman’s confirmation hearing to serve as under secretary of state for political affairs.
President-elect Biden recently nominated Colin Kahl to serve as under secretary of defense for policy. A professor at Stanford University, Kahl currently co-directs the school’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. Kahl previously worked as national security advisor to then-Vice President Biden. Initially joining government as an action officer in the Department of Defense, Kahl also served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East during the Obama administration.
- Kahl co-wrote a book with Brookings scholar Thomas Wright about the geopolitical impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Pre-order your copy, here.
- This video provides a better idea of Kahl’s views on U.S. policy towards Iran, an issue he will grapple with if confirmed as under secretary of defense for policy.
What to Read
PEOPLE AND THE TRANSITION:
The Biden Presidency Now Stands a Chance, Russel Berman, The Atlantic.
“Biden is poised to begin his presidency with a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress and a freer hand to install his government and pursue—if not necessarily enact—an expansive legislative agenda….If Democrats are able to capture Georgia’s two Senate seats as projected, come January 20 they will be able to dislodge Mitch McConnell as the majority leader, removing the party’s most formidable congressional foe from a post where he could have blocked Biden at nearly every turn.”
For Pentagon, Biden Picks Two Obama-era Policy Veterans to Help Austin, Patrick Tucker and Marcus Weisgerber, Defense One.
“President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Kathleen Hicks to become the Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian official, and Colin Kahl as undersecretary for policy, signals a coming shift in U.S. military priorities that likely include fewer warships and nuclear weapons, and a change in how the United States engages with allies.”
Biden to tap more Obama vets to fill key national security roles, Natasha Bertrand, Tyler Pager and Lara Seligman, Politico.
“President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team have begun to fill out top positions on the incoming National Security Council and at the State Department, with key roles like deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of State going to veterans of the Obama administration.”
‘Break up the groupthink’: Democrats press Biden to diversify his tech picks, Christiano Lima, Politico.
"Democrats for years have pressured Silicon Valley companies to address their poor track records on workforce diversity. Now they’re calling on President-elect Joe Biden to do the same for federal agencies that oversee the tech industry.”
The Finance 202: Biden team extends welcome olive branch to K Street, Tory Newmyer, The Washington Post.
"The incoming Biden team is quietly contacting business leaders and their Washington lobbyists, soliciting their input as they fill out personnel and policy plans and signaling they intend to keep open lines of communication once they take power….[Lobbyists] say it signals both that top Biden officials will solicit private-sector views and that the administration will restore an orderly policymaking process after four years of Trump-fueled chaos.”
How Biden Can Rebuild a Divided and Distrustful Nation, Isabel Sawhill, Foreign Affairs.
“The time has come to consider eliminating many federal programs, especially those that are small and overly prescriptive, and replace them with a major investment in those same general activities at the state and local levels, tailored to local needs and preferences. The federal government can pay for these through the kind of general revenue sharing that existed between 1972 and 1986—a system that also reduced place-based inequalities by tilting dollars to poorer states and communities.”
Getting to Less: The Truth About Defense Spending, Kathleen Hicks, Foreign Affairs.
“The closer one looks at the details of military spending, the clearer it becomes that although radical defense cuts would require dangerous shifts in strategy, there are savings to be had. Getting them, however, would require making politically tough choices, embracing innovative thinking, and asking the armed forces to do less than they have in the past. The end result would be a less militarized yet more globally competitive United States.”
How the Department of Defense could help win the war on climate change, Eric Wolff, Politico.
“The Pentagon has long been a crucial customer for clean energy technologies, driving the country's adoption of solar power and the rollout of mobile batteries. Now, its $700 billion budget may offer an opportunity for the Biden administration to help scale-up industries such as those producing electric vehicles and advanced batteries.”
A China Strategy to Reunite America’s Allies, Charles A. Kupchan and Peter Trubowitz, Project Syndicate.
“Pragmatic realism, not bombast, should guide US strategy toward China… [The] US and China should aim for shared leadership in the region – a strategic objective that would enjoy ample support among US allies already fearful of the escalating Sino-American rivalry.”
Biden and Erdogan Are Trapped in a Double Fantasy, Asli Aydintaşbaş and Jeremy Shapiro, Foreign Policy.
“Both America and Turkey have changed greatly since [the Cold War], but their image of one other have not. Turkey continues to see America as seeking to control its domestic politics and play the role of kingmaker. America continues to see Turkey as a tool in its larger geopolitical struggle rather than an international actor in its own right.”
What’s Happening @GMF
- Quick Wins for the Biden Administration on Climate Cooperation with the EU by Douglas Hengel (Article)
- Three Takeaways for Defending Against Foreign Interference from the SolarWinds Hacks by Joseph Bodnar and Bradley Hanlon (Article)
- Treasury’s War on Corruption by Josh Rudolph (Article)
- Our Experts’ 2021 Foreign Interference Policy Wishlist by Alliance for Securing Democracy (Article)
- Less Ambiguous Italian-U.S. Relations during the Biden Administration? By Dario Cristiani (Article)
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.