WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Antony Blinken began his first full day as U.S. secretary of state Wednesday, promising to repair ties with global partners and show the world that America can lead, while tackling climate change, the erosion of democracies and other complex issues.
Greeted in the lobby and outside by a crowd of State Department employees limited by coronavirus measures, Blinken, who served as No. 2 at the State Department under former President Barack Obama, was greeted with applause.
“The world is watching us intently right now,” Blinken said. “They want to know if we can heal our nation. They want to see whether we will lead with the power of our example and if we will put a premium on diplomacy with our allies and partners to meet the great challenges of our time — like the pandemic, climate change, the economic crisis, threats to democracies, fights for racial justice and the danger to our security and global stability posed by our rivals and adversaries.”
Blinken said on Wednesday that the United States is “deeply concerned” about detained Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and was considering actions in response to his detention in Russia.
Blinken said at his first press briefing after being sworn in that the Biden administration was reviewing how to respond to actions by Russia, including the alleged use of chemical weapons in an attack on Navalny, the Solar Winds cyber attack, reports of bounties on American forces and interference in U.S. elections.
“We have a deep concern for Mr. Navalny’s safety and security and the larger point is that his voice is the voice of many, many, many Russians and it should be heard, not muzzled,” said Blinken, adding that he was not ruling out any specific actions the United States might take in response.
Blinken said the State Department must also work to establish a united front with allies to counter challenges.
“I know that the State Department I’m walking into today is not the same one I left four years ago,” Blinken said. “A lot has changed. The world has changed. The Department has changed.”
Shortly after being sworn in late Tuesday, Blinken hit the ground running, making his first series of calls to foreign minister counterparts in allied countries: Canada, Mexico, Japan and South Korea.
“America’s leadership is needed around the world, and we will provide it, because the world is far more likely to solve problems and meet challenges when the United States is there,” he said. “America at its best still has a greater capacity than any other country on earth to mobilize others for the greater good.”
Blinken, a 58-year-old longtime President Joe Biden confidant, was confirmed as the 71st secretary of state by the Senate on Tuesday in a 78-22 vote. The position is the most senior Cabinet post, with the secretary fourth in the line of presidential succession. Blinken has promised to work on a bipartisan basis in formulating policy.
Blinken told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing that he agreed with many of former President Donald Trump’s foreign policy initiatives, despite the Biden administration’s departure from Trump’s “America First” doctrine. Blinken backed the so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, and a tough stance on China over human rights and its assertiveness in the South China Sea.
He did, however, signal that the Biden administration is interested in bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.