Working with other countries, Mr. Blinken said at the forum, could have the added benefit of confronting another top diplomatic challenge: competing with China by choosing multilateral efforts to advance trade, technology investments and human rights — instead of forcing individual nations to choose between the two superpowers’ economies.
That is likely to mean diplomatic time spent forging stronger ties with India and across the Indo-Pacific region, where 14 nations recently signed one of the world’s largest free trade agreements with China. It could also bring an effort to deepen engagement across Africa, where China has made inroads with technology and infrastructure investments, and recognize Europe as a partner of “first resort, not last resort, when it comes to contending with the challenges we face,” Mr. Blinken said at the forum.
In public statements and interviews in recent weeks, he has made no secret of other aspects of Mr. Biden’s — and his own — agenda for the first weeks of the new presidency.
He will have about 15 days after inauguration to extend for five years the last major arms control agreement with Russia, a step Mr. Trump initially refused to take because he insisted China be brought into the treaty as well. “Certainly we will want to engage China on arms control issues,” Mr. Blinken said recently, “but we can pursue strategic stability by extending the New START arms limitation agreement and seek to build on it” later.
Mr. Blinken has turned more hawkish on Russia as the extent of its interference in the 2016 election and throughout Europe has become clearer. In a recent interview, he suggested using Russia’s discomfort with its reliance on China, especially in technology, for leverage.
“There’s a flip side” to dealing with Moscow, Mr. Blinken said. President Vladimir V. Putin, he noted, is “looking to relieve Russia’s growing dependence on China,” which has left him in “not a very comfortable position.”
In taking the White House’s top national security job, Mr. Sullivan will be the youngest person to hold that position since the Eisenhower administration. Mr. Sullivan made his name in the Obama administration, finding admirers even among conservative Republicans in Congress while playing a key role in the negotiations leading to the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.