Person

Antony Blinken

Born:

April 16, 1962

Political Party:

Democrat

Organization:

U.S. Department of State

Antony Blinken is a Democratic foreign-policy operative and U.S. Secretary of State in the Biden administration. [1] He started his career in 1993 in the U.S. Department of State during the Clinton administration. For the next 25 years, Secretary Blinken held a variety of positions in the State Department and the U.S. Senate.

After the election of former President Donald Trump, Secretary Blinken entered the private sector for the first time, founding the political consulting firm WestExec Advisors and becoming a partner in the private equity firm Pine Island Capital Partners. In 2021, Secretary Blinken was nominated and confirmed as U.S. Secretary of State under President Joe Biden. [2]

Secretary Blinken is considered a moderate interventionist. He has worked with President Biden since 2002 and has been highly influential on his foreign policy views. One former State Department official has said of President Biden and Secretary Blinken that “it’s difficult to know where one person’s policy vision ends and the other’s begins.” [3]

Many of Secretary Blinken’s family members have worked in government. Secretary Blinken, his wife, his father, his uncle, and his half-sister all worked in the Clinton administration simultaneously. Secretary Blinken is married to Evan Ryan, the White House Cabinet Secretary under President Biden.

Family

Secretary Blinken was born in Yonkers, New York to Jewish parents. His father, Donald M. Blinken, was a banker who later served serve as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary during the Clinton administration. Secretary Blinken’s grandfather, Samuel Pisar, was a Holocaust survivor, well-known lawyer, and former Kennedy administration staff member. Secretary Blinken’s half-sister, Leah Pisar, worked as a communications director in the State Department under former President Bill Clinton. Secretary Blinken’s uncle, Alan Blinken, was the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium during the Clinton administration. [4]

Secretary Blinken is married to Evan Ryan, who works under President Biden as White House Cabinet Secretary. After graduating from Boston College and Johns Hopkins University, Ryan worked as Deputy Director of Scheduling for then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. At the time, Secretary Blinken was on President Clinton’s National Security Council. The two met while working in the White House in 1995 and married in 2001. [5] Hillary Clinton attended their wedding. [6]

In 2000, Ryan left the White House to work as Director of Scheduling on Hillary Clinton campaign for U.S. Senate in New York. In 2003, Ryan joined then-U.S. Senator John Kerry’s (D-MA) presidential campaign. In 2005, she became deputy chair for the governance track of the Clinton Global Initiative. From 2008 to 2013, Ryan was a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. [7]

In 2009, Ryan returned to the White House to become an assistant to Vice President Joe Biden and Special Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement in the Obama administration. In 2013, she became Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. In 2017, she left the White House again to become executive vice president of the news website Axios. [8][9]

After President Biden’s election, Ryan became a senior advisor for the Biden-Harris transition team before becoming White House Cabinet Secretary. [10] [11]

Education

Secretary Blinken attended the private Dalton School in New York City until he moved to Paris, France with his mother at age nine. He attended the bilingual Ecole Jeannine Manuel where he learned French. [12][13]

In 1980, Secretary Blinken attended Harvard University to major in social studies. He wrote for the Harvard Crimson and got an internship at the left-of-center New Republic. In 1985, Secretary Blinken began attending Columbia Law School, where he earned his law degree. [14][15]

Career

In 1988, while still in law school, Secretary Blinken and his father worked on fundraising for former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis’s presidential campaign. [16]

In 1993, Secretary Blinken began his career as a special assistant to the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs at the U.S. State Department under President Bill Clinton. Within the Clinton administration, Secretary Blinken also worked as a member of the National Security Council staff, where he led the Council’s strategic planning team. Secretary Blinken also worked as Senior Director of European Affairs and as Chief Foreign Policy Speechwriter. [17]

In 2002, Secretary Blinken first began working with future President Joe Biden as staff director of the Senate Foreign Policy Committee. [18] In 2008, Secretary Blinken left the U.S. Senate to work on then-U.S. Senator Biden’s presidential campaign. [19] The following year, Secretary Blinken was on the Obama-Biden Presidential transition team. [20]

From 2009 until 2013, Secretary Blinken served as Deputy Assistant to then-President Barack Obama and as National Security Advisor to then-Vice President Biden. In 2014, Secretary Blinken was nominated and confirmed as Deputy Secretary of State under former Secretary of State John Kerry. Secretary Blinken played a key role in guiding President Obama’s foreign policy, particularly his strategy in the Middle East and response to the Russian annexation of Ukraine. [21][22][23]

In 2017, Secretary Blinken entered the private sector for the first time. With Michele Flournoy, who worked in the U.S. Department of Defense under Presidents Clinton and Obama; Sergio Aguirre; and Nitin Chadda, Secretary Blinken founded the political consulting firm WestExec Advisors. The company specialized in getting U.S. Department of Defense contracts for Silicon Valley firms. [24]

Also in 2017, Secretary Blinken had a position at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy, a think tank based out of the University of Pennsylvania and named after President Biden. [25]

In 2018, Secretary Blinken and Flournoy became partners at the newly founded private equity firm Pine Island Capital Partners. The co-founders and other partners of the firm were executives from CIT Group, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Coca-Cola. As of 2020, Pine Island had purchased two companies which were heavily dependent on government contracts. [26]

In 2020, Secretary Blinken briefly worked as a senior foreign policy advisor on President Biden’s presidential campaign. [27]

U.S. Secretary of State

Shortly after his election, President-elect Joe Biden nominated Secretary Blinken to serve as U.S. Secretary of State. [28]

In November 2020, the New York Times and Politico questioned the connections between WestExec, Pine Island Capital Partners, and the incoming Biden administration. The firms were considered examples of “revolving doors,” in which political insiders use their relationships to enrich private interests. With Secretary Blinken expected to return to the White House at the start of President Biden’s term, his presence in the companies posed potential ethical violations. WestExec in particular was criticized for not publicly disclosing its client list. The New York Times asked WestExec for a list of its clients, but the company refused. [29][30]

In January 2021, Politico published a list of Secretary Blinken’s clients at WestExec, including SoftBank, Uber, Microsoft, and Lazard. He may have also advised LinkedIn, Blackstone, and Gilead. For his work, WestExec paid Secretary Blinken $1.2 million over two years. [31]

In response to public pressure regarding his connections to WestExec, Secretary Blinken sold his shares of the company for $500,000. Avril Haines, President Biden’s choice for Director of National Intelligence, had also worked as a consultant for WestExec, earning $55,000. David Cohen, President Biden’s Deputy Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was also a WestExec employee. [32]

Foreign Policy Views

Secretary Blinken’s foreign policy views tend towards interventionism, internationalism, and diplomatic cooperation between Western nations. Ben Rhodes, a former foreign policy advisor to President Barack Obama, has called Secretary Blinken a “pragmatist” and “consensus-builder,” rather than an ideologue. [33] Secretary Blinken is a strong supporter of alliances with Europe and has a particularly close relationship with the French government. The New York Times has characterized Secretary Blinken’s diplomatic priorities in the Biden administration as rebuilding alliances allegedly eroded by former President Donald Trump and positioning global alliances against the rising power of China. [34][35]

In 2003, Secretary Blinken supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein and advised then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) to vote in support of the operation. [36] Secretary Blinken later helped then-Senator Biden to craft a plan to divide Iraq into three autonomous regions, based on majority Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish populations, under the national government. Both Congress and the Iraqi government rejected the plan. [37]

In 2011, Secretary Blinken supported the Obama administration’s intervention in Libya in which armed rebels overthrew Muammar Ghaddafi. [38] Secretary Blinken supported the similar but unsuccessful initiative to arm rebels in Syria to oppose Bashar al-Assad. [39] Years later, Secretary Blinken defended American airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which was partially armed and funded by the U.S. government. [40] In 2015, Secretary Blinken spoke out in support of efforts by Saudi Arabia to intervene in the Yemeni Civil War. [41]

Secretary Blinken supported President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and was involved in international negotiations surrounding the deal. Under President Biden, it has been assumed that Secretary Blinken will likely aim to reestablish some form of President Obama’s proposal after President Trump ended the agreement. [42]

Secretary Blinken favors a more adversarial stance against Russia. In 2014, he said in an interview that the United States should cooperate with Europe to isolate Russia. Newsweek has speculated that pressuring Russia will be another foreign policy goal of the Biden administration. [43]

Secretary Blinken advocates for the denuclearization of North Korea, though he has acknowledged that arms control is a more plausible goal. [44]

Secretary Blinken has advocated for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria but has criticized former President Trump’s withdrawal as too fast and reckless. [45]

Secretary Blinken is considered a more moderate supporter of Israel than most mainstream American foreign policy advisors, particularly due to his support for a nuclear deal with Iran. In May 2020, Secretary Blinken attended an online meeting with Democratic Majority for Israel where he acknowledged many political disagreements with the state of Israel, including advocating restoring U.S. support for Palestinian governing authority parallel to Israel. [46]

Political Donations

Secretary Blinken has made 42 donations to political candidates and PACs since 1993. All donations have gone to Democratic politicians and organizations. The largest recipient is President Joe Biden, to whom Secretary Blinken gave $5,400 through the Democratic primary and general presidential election in 2020. [47]

References

  1. Meyer, Theodoric; Thompson, Alex. “Inside Secretary Blinken’s corporate work.” Politico. January 4, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/transition-playbook/2021/01/04/inside-Secretary Blinkens-corporate-work-792563. ^
  2. Meyer, Theodoric; Thompson, Alex. “Inside Secretary Blinken’s corporate work.” Politico. January 4, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/transition-playbook/2021/01/04/inside-Secretary Blinkens-corporate-work-792563. ^
  3. Gaouette, Nicole; Hansler, Jennifer; Atwood, Kylie. “Biden picks loyal lieutenant to lead mission to restore US reputation on world stage.” CNN Politics. November 24, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/23/politics/Secretary Blinken-biden-secstate-candidate/index.html. ^
  4. Herszenhorn, David M.; Momtaz, Rym. “9 things to know about Antony Secretary Blinken, the next US secretary of state.” Politico. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.eu/article/nine-things-to-think-about-antony-Secretary Blinken/. ^
  5. Laviola, Erin. “Evan Ryan, Tony Secretary Blinken’s Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.” Heavy. February 1, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://heavy.com/news/evan-ryan-tony-Secretary Blinken-wife/. ^
  6. Herszenhorn, David M.; Momtaz, Rym. “9 things to know about Antony Secretary Blinken, the next US secretary of state.” Politico. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.eu/article/nine-things-to-think-about-antony-Secretary Blinken/. ^
  7. “Evan Ryan.” U.S. Department of State. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://2009-2017.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/215124.htm ^
  8. Laviola, Erin. “Evan Ryan, Tony Secretary Blinken’s Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.” Heavy. February 1, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://heavy.com/news/evan-ryan-tony-Secretary Blinken-wife/. ^
  9. “Evan Ryan.” U.S. Department of State. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://2009-2017.state.gov/r/pa/ei/biog/215124.htm ^
  10. Thompson, Alex; Meyer, Theodoric. “Biden rewards loyalty.” Politico. November 20, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/transition-playbook/2020/11/20/biden-rewards-loyalty-791808. ^
  11. “Evan Ryan Named As Biden’s Cabinet Secretary.” RTT News. January 6, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.rttnews.com/3158184/evan-ryan-named-as-biden-s-cabinet-secretary.aspx. ^
  12. “Antony “Tony” Secretary Blinken.” Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/tony-Secretary Blinken. ^
  13. Herszenhorn, David M.; Momtaz, Rym. “9 things to know about Antony Secretary Blinken, the next US secretary of state.” Politico. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.eu/article/nine-things-to-think-about-antony-Secretary Blinken/. ^
  14. “Antony “Tony” Secretary Blinken.” Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/tony-Secretary Blinken. ^
  15. Herszenhorn, David M.; Momtaz, Rym. “9 things to know about Antony Secretary Blinken, the next US secretary of state.” Politico. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.eu/article/nine-things-to-think-about-antony-Secretary Blinken/. ^
  16. Gaouette, Nicole; Hansler, Jennifer; Atwood, Kylie. “Biden picks loyal lieutenant to lead mission to restore US reputation on world stage.” CNN Politics. November 24, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. ^
  17. “Secretary Antony J. Blinken.” U.S. Department of State. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.state.gov/biographies/antony-j-Secretary Blinken/. ^
  18. Gaouette, Nicole; Hansler, Jennifer; Atwood, Kylie. “Biden picks loyal lieutenant to lead mission to restore US reputation on world stage.” CNN Politics. November 24, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. ^
  19. Thomas, Ken. “Joe Biden Picks Antony Secretary Blinken for Secretary of State.” November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/joe-biden-picks-antony-Secretary Blinken-for-secretary-of-state-11606100542. ^
  20. LaMonica, Gabe. “Secretary Blinken confirmed by Senate as Kerry’s deputy at state.” CNN. December 17, 2014. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2014/12/17/politics/Secretary Blinken-senate-confirmation/. ^
  21. Gramer, Robbie; Detsch, Jack. “Biden’s Secretary of State Pick Bodes Return to Normalcy for Weary Diplomats.” Foreign Policy. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/11/23/biden-Secretary Blinken-transition-state-department/. ^
  22. Allen, Jonathan. “Tony Secretary Blinken’s star turn.” Politico. September 16, 2013. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/tony-Secretary Blinkens-star-turn-096847. ^
  23. Herszenhorn, David M.; Momtaz, Rym. “9 things to know about Antony Secretary Blinken, the next US secretary of state.” Politico. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.eu/article/nine-things-to-think-about-antony-Secretary Blinken/. ^
  24. Fang, Lee. “Former Obama Officials Help Silicon Valley Pitch The Pentagon For Lucrative Defense Contracts.” Intercept. July 22, 2018. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://theintercept.com/2018/07/22/google-westexec-pentagon-defense-contracts/. ^
  25. “Donor Lookup: Antony Secretary Blinken.” Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=antony+Secretary Blinken&order=desc&sort=D. ^
  26. Primack, Dan. “What to know about the private equity firm linked to Tony Secretary Blinken.” Axios. November 30, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.axios.com/pine-island-private-equity-Secretary Blinken-biden-06f8dd00-7ada-4a81-acd9-56801ea81b97.html. ^
  27. “Secretary Blinken, Antony.” Open Secrets. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/revolving/rev_summary.php?id=82550. ^
  28. Meyer, Theodoric; Thompson, Alex. “Inside Secretary Blinken’s corporate work.” Politico. January 4, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/transition-playbook/2021/01/04/inside-Secretary Blinkens-corporate-work-792563. ^
  29. Bender, Bryan; Meyer, Theodoric. “The secretive consulting firm that’s become Biden’s Cabinet in waiting.” Politico. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/23/westexec-advisors-biden-cabinet-440072. ^
  30. Lipton, Eric; Vogel, Kenneth P.” Biden Aides’ Ties to Consulting and Investment Firms Pose Ethics Test.” New York Times. November 28, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/28/us/politics/biden-westexec.html ^
  31. Meyer, Theodoric; Thompson, Alex. “Inside Secretary Blinken’s corporate work.” Politico. January 4, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/transition-playbook/2021/01/04/inside-Secretary Blinkens-corporate-work-792563. ^
  32. Meyer, Theodoric; Thompson, Alex. “Inside Secretary Blinken’s corporate work.” Politico. January 4, 2021. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/transition-playbook/2021/01/04/inside-Secretary Blinkens-corporate-work-792563. ^
  33. Allen, Jonathan. “Tony Secretary Blinken’s star turn.” Politico. September 16, 2013. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/tony-Secretary Blinkens-star-turn-096847. ^
  34. Jakes, Lara; Crowley, Michael; Sanger, David E. “Biden Chooses Antony Secretary Blinken, Defender of Global Alliances, as Secretary of State.” New York Times. November 22, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/22/us/politics/biden-antony-Secretary Blinken-secretary-of-state.html. ^
  35. Herszenhorn, David M.; Momtaz, Rym. “9 things to know about Antony Secretary Blinken, the next US secretary of state.” Politico. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.eu/article/nine-things-to-think-about-antony-Secretary Blinken/. ^
  36. Fordham, Evie. “Biden secretary of state pick Secretary Blinken criticized over Iraq War, consulting work.” Fox News. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/biden-secretary-of-state-Secretary Blinken-iraq-war-criticism. ^
  37. Jakes, Lara; Crowley, Michael; Sanger, David E. “Biden Chooses Antony Secretary Blinken, Defender of Global Alliances, as Secretary of State.” New York Times. November 22, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/22/us/politics/biden-antony-Secretary Blinken-secretary-of-state.html. ^
  38. Allen, Jonathan. “Tony Secretary Blinken’s star turn.” Politico. September 16, 2013. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/tony-Secretary Blinkens-star-turn-096847. ^
  39. “W.H. defends plan to arm Syrian rebels.” CNN. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://edition.cnn.com/videos/bestoftv/2014/09/18/house-approves-aid-to-syrian-rebels-Secretary Blinken-interview-newday.cnn. ^
  40. Mroue, Bassem. “U.S. official: Airstrikes killed 10,000 Islamic State fighters.” USA Today. June 3, 2015. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/06/03/islamic-state-death-toll/28415743/. ^
  41. “UN steps up arms for Saudi campaign in Yemen.” Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/4/8/us-steps-up-arms-for-saudi-campaign-in-yemen. ^
  42. Brennan, David. “What Antony Secretary Blinken Has Said About Key Foreign Policy Issues.” Newsweek. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.newsweek.com/what-antony-Secretary Blinken-said-about-key-foreign-policy-issues-1549404. ^
  43. Brennan, David. “What Antony Secretary Blinken Has Said About Key Foreign Policy Issues.” Newsweek. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.newsweek.com/what-antony-Secretary Blinken-said-about-key-foreign-policy-issues-1549404. ^
  44. Brennan, David. “What Antony Secretary Blinken Has Said About Key Foreign Policy Issues.” Newsweek. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.newsweek.com/what-antony-Secretary Blinken-said-about-key-foreign-policy-issues-1549404. ^
  45. Brennan, David. “What Antony Secretary Blinken Has Said About Key Foreign Policy Issues.” Newsweek. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.newsweek.com/what-antony-Secretary Blinken-said-about-key-foreign-policy-issues-1549404. ^
  46. Brennan, David. “What Antony Secretary Blinken Has Said About Key Foreign Policy Issues.” Newsweek. November 23, 2020. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.newsweek.com/what-antony-Secretary Blinken-said-about-key-foreign-policy-issues-1549404. ^
  47. “Donor Lookup: Antony Secretary Blinken.” Accessed April 27, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/donor-lookup/results?name=antony+Secretary Blinken&order=desc&sort=D. ^
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