OPINION

New US secretary of state has dealt with Greece, Turkey

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The United States’ next secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has been a close associate of President-elect Joe Biden for many years and is regarded as a foreign policy pro. He knows our region well as he has dealt with it as part of previous administrations.

Blinken served as deputy secretary of state to John Kerry in the last two years of Barack Obama’s administration and had also served two years as Obama’s deputy national security adviser prior to that. During the former Democratic president’s first four-year term, Blinken was national security adviser to Vice President Biden himself.

As a member of the national security council under President Bill Clinton, being responsible for strategic planning and later for European affairs, he was involved in managing developments that concerned Greece and its wider region.

He is among those American officials who have had a constant involvement in foreign policy on both a theoretical – he was also a member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) – and a practical level. As head of the State Department, he is expected to revive US support for democracy and human rights around the world, an approach that has special significance when it comes to relations with Turkey.

Apart from a career dedicated generally to international relations, he has a more personal knowledge of the European mind-set having lived in Paris from the age of 9 until he left for America as a student, studying at Harvard and Columbia.

Among the other recent announcements from the incoming administration was that Jake Sullivan – who had replaced Blinken as Biden’s national security adviser when the former moved to Obama’s team – will likely be appointed national security adviser to the White House.

Biden is evidently creating a close-knit team of people he has worked with for many years, as opposed to outgoing president Donald Trump, who made frequent changes to his staff and officials and often to policy itself.

The foreign policy machine will have experience and no one will need to tell them where Greece and Cyprus are located on the map, or what has happened in the region in the last 25 years. They have been witnesses to these developments, know the details and have managed them from positions of responsibility.

Given Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s aggressive behavior over the past few years, it remains to be seen how the new US foreign policy team in Washington will deal with this different, more expansionist Turkey. But also whether Erdogan, for his part, will make the tactical decision to change his attitude so as to avoid tension with the new American president and his administration.