Secretary Antony J. Blinken signals total departure from past four years in first press briefing Updated for 2021

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Updated: February 28, 2021

It was almost as if the United States of America had gone to sleep for four years, and only now, was the country waking up, and was, once again, getting ready to play the global role it has been playing for the past 70 years.

In his first press briefing since he was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday, Secretary Antony J. Blinken signaled a total departure from the past hard four years. He took real questions from journalists and provided real answers without demonizing the members of the media.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks to the media at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on January 27, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain]
Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks to the media at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on January 27, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain]

Apart from officially killing “America First” doctrine of the Trump administration that often acted as a camouflage for “America Alone”, Secretary Blinken also restated that “a free press is a cornerstone of our democracy,” adding that “And this is a critical moment for protecting and defending democracy, including right here at home.”

Like President Joseph R. Biden Jr. who has said that he wants truth and transparency back in the White House briefing room, Mr. Blinken said the high standard “fully applies in this room as well.”

“And you’ll be seeing me with a little bit of frequency, too, including on our travels together when hopefully we can get back to those travels, just as you’ll have an opportunity to hear from many policy experts in this building,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks to the media at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on January 27, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain]
Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks to the media at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on January 27, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain]

Secretary Blinken outlined U.S. foreign policy, from Russia to Iran, China to Afghanistan and elsewhere.

From the first questions he took, Secretary Blinken signaled that the United States will stand for the rule of law, democracy, a free press, and will not hesitate to call out human rights violators.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks to the media at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on January 27, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain]
Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks to the media at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on January 27, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain]

“I’m particularly focused on the question of sanctions on the Houthis.  I think you all know very well that the Houthis committed an act of significant aggression in taking over Sana’a some years ago, moving through the country, committing acts of aggression against our partner, Saudi Arabia, committing human rights abuses and other atrocities, creating an environment in which we’ve seen extremist groups fill some of the vacuums that were created,” he said. “But at the same time, we’ve seen a campaign led by Saudi Arabia that has also contributed to what is by many estimates the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today, and that’s saying something.”

On relations with U.S. allies, Secretary Blinken said American allies cannot wait to have the United States back at the table.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks to the media at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on January 27, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain]
Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks to the media at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on January 27, 2021. [State Department Photo by Freddie Everett/ Public Domain]

“So one of the things I’ve done over the last 24 hours is I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone already with our – some of our closest allies and partners in various parts of the world, and that’s continuing.  And I can – what I’ve picked up from those conversations already is a very, very strong desire for the United States to be back in the room, back at the table, working with them on the many, many common challenges we face, and that was almost palpable in the conversations I’ve had to date.  And I expect to hear more of that in the days ahead,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks to employees at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 27, 2021. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]
Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks to employees at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 27, 2021. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

Blinken’s first full day at work was a complete departure from the previous administration when daily press briefings were canceled, foreign trips with the press suspended, questions not answered.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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