FROM THE DESK OF Secretary Antony J. Blinken, U.S. DEPARTMENT of STATE.
This week, I delivered a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) on the Biden Administration’s view of the power and purpose of American diplomacy at this historic inflection point – the end of the post-Cold War era and the early days of fierce competition to define what comes next.
We find ourselves at another hinge moment in history – grappling with the fundamental question of strategy: “How do we get from where we are to where we want to be, without being struck by disaster along the way?”
What I want to do is set out the Biden administration’s answer to that profound and vital question.
So let’s start with where we are.
The end of the Cold War brought with it the promise of an inexorable march toward greater peace and stability, international cooperation, economic interdependence, political liberalization, human rights. And indeed, the post-Cold War era ushered in remarkable progress. More than a billion people lifted from poverty. Historic lows in conflicts between states. Deadly diseases diminished – even eradicated.
However, decades of relative geopolitical stability have given way to an intensifying competition with authoritarian powers, revisionist powers. Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine is the most immediate, the most acute threat to the international order enshrined in the UN charter and its core principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence for nations, and universal indivisible human rights for individuals.
Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of China poses the most significant long-term challenge because it not only aspires to reshape the international order, it increasingly has the economic, the diplomatic, the military, the technological power to do just that.
Forging international cooperation has gotten more complex. Not only because of rising geopolitical tensions, but also because of the mammoth scale of global problems like the climate crisis, food insecurity, mass migration and displacement.
So we find ourselves at what President Biden calls an inflection point. One era is ending, a new one is beginning, and the decisions that we make now will shape the future for decades to come.
The United States is leading in this pivotal period from a position of strength. Strength grounded in both our humility and our confidence.
Humility because we face challenges that no one country can address alone. Because we know we will have to earn the trust of a number of countries and citizens for whom the old order failed to deliver on many of its promises. Because we recognize that leadership starts with listening, and understanding shared problems from the perspective of others, so that we can find common ground. And because we face profound challenges at home, which we must overcome if we are going to lead abroad.
But confidence – confidence – because we’ve proven time and again that when America comes together, we can do anything. Because no nation on Earth has a greater capacity to mobilize others in common cause. Because our ongoing endeavor to form a more perfect union allows us to fix our flaws and renew our democracy from within. And because our vision for the future – a world that is open, free, prosperous, and secure – that vision is not America’s alone, but the enduring aspiration of people in every nation on every continent.
Now, our competitors have a fundamentally different vision. They see a world defined by a single imperative: regime preservation and enrichment. A world where authoritarians are free to control, coerce, and crush their people, their neighbors, and anyone else standing in the way of this all-consuming goal.
The contrast between these two visions could not be clearer. And the stakes of the competition we face could not be higher – for the world, and for the American people.
At the core of our strategy is re-engaging, revitalizing, reimagining our greatest strategic asset: America’s alliances and partnerships.
We’re working with purpose and urgency to deepen, broaden, and align our friends in new ways so that we can meet the three defining tests of this emerging era: a fierce and lasting strategic competition; global challenges that pose existential threats to lives and livelihoods everywhere; and the urgent need to rebalance our technological future and our economic future, so our interdependence is a source of strength – not vulnerability.
We’re doing this through what I like to call diplomatic variable geometry. We start with the problem that we need to solve and we work back from there – assembling the group of partners that’s the right size and the right shape to address it. We’re intentional about determining the combination that’s truly fit for purpose.
So, we’re determined to work with any country – including those with whom we disagree on important issues – so long as they want to deliver for their citizens, contribute to solving shared challenges, and uphold the international norms that we built together. This involves more than just partnering with national governments – but also local governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, and citizens, especially young leaders.
This is the heart of our strategy to get from where we are to where we need to be. And we’re pursuing it in four principal ways.
First, we’re renewing and deepening our alliances and partnerships, and forging new ones.
Today, the NATO Alliance is bigger, stronger, more united than ever.
We’re transforming the G7 into the steering committee for the world’s most advanced democracies.
And we’ve raised the level of ambition in our relationship with the European Union.
Second, we’re weaving together our alliances and partnerships in innovative and mutually reinforcing ways – across issues and across continents.
Just consider for a minute all of the ways that we’ve rallied different combinations of allies and partners to support Ukraine in the face of Russia’s full-scale aggression.
Some once saw threats to the international order as confined to one region or another. Not anymore. Russia’s invasion has made clear an attack on the international order anywhere will hurt people everywhere. We’ve seized on this recognition to bring our transatlantic and Indo‑Pacific allies closer together in defending our shared security, prosperity, and freedom.
Third, we’re building new coalitions to tackle the toughest shared challenges of our time.
We’re working with our G7 partners to deliver $600 billion in new infrastructure investment by 2027 through the Partnership of Global Infrastructure and Investment, or PGI. And we’re focusing our government support on areas where reducing risks will unlock hundreds of billions more in private sector investment.
And we’re leading by the power of our own example.
The United States is the largest donor to the UN World Food Programme – we provide about 50 percent of its annual budget. Russia and China? Less than 1 percent each.
Since 2021, the United States has also provided more than $17.5 billion to address food insecurity and its root causes.
The more countries can feed their own people, the more prosperous and more stable partners they’ll be; the less they can be victimized by countries willing to cut off food and fertilizer; the less support they will need from international donors; the more abundant the global food supply will be, lowering prices in markets everywhere, including in the United States.
The more we bring together allies and partners to make real progress on critical issues like infrastructure, like food security, like AI, like synthetic drugs, like conflicts new and old, the more we demonstrate the strength of our offer.
At this critical inflection point, we’re showing countries who we are. So are our competitors.
Finally, we’re bringing our old and new coalitions together to strengthen the international institutions that are vital to tackling global challenges.
When we strengthen international institutions – and when they deliver on their core promises to ensure security, to expand opportunity, to protect rights – we build a broader coalition of citizens and countries who see the international order as something that improves their lives in real ways and deserves to be upheld and defended.
When our fellow Americans ask what we are getting in return for our investments abroad, we can point to tangible benefits for American families and communities, even as we spend less than one percent of our federal budget on diplomacy and global development.
Those benefits include more markets for American workers and businesses; more affordable goods for American consumers; more reliable food and energy supplies for American households, leading to lower prices at the pump and the dinner table; more robust health systems that can arrest and roll back deadly disease before it spreads to the United States; more allies and partners who are more effective in deterring aggression and addressing, with us, global challenges.
I’m convinced that, decades from now, when the history of this period is written it will show that the way we acted – decisively, strategically, with humility and confidence to reimagine the power and purpose of U.S. diplomacy – we secured America’s future, we delivered for our people, we laid the foundation for a more free, a more open, a more prosperous era – for the American people and for people around the world.
I appreciate those who have taken the time to write to me in the past several months. To share your thoughts, please write to me and my team at EmailTeam@State.gov.
Secretary Antony J. Blinken