Blinken seeks to reassure US allies after Biden’s debate performance

The United States’ chief diplomat defended President Joe Biden’s standing on the world stage on Monday, saying that his shaky performance at last week’s debate does not erase three and a half years of diplomatic achievements and that the U.S. president is very much fit to lead.

The comments by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, one of Biden’s closest aides, echoed a line that has been frequently used by Biden allies since Thursday night as they have sought to dismiss the president’s disastrous debate performance: It was just one bad night.

“If you look at surveys around the world — for what they’re worth — you see again and again and again that confidence in American leadership has gone up dramatically over the last three and a half years,” Blinken said. “That doesn’t just happen. It’s the product of choices, it’s the product of policies that we pursue, it’s the product of our engagement.”

“They see President Biden having led the way in all of those different areas,” he added.

Blinken’s comments during a Brookings Institution event seemed aimed at foreign leaders who are concerned about Biden’s ability to serve as a global leader for the next four years.

Blinken usually refrains from commenting on domestic U.S. politics, but the fallout from the debate became impossible for him to ignore, especially as it heightened anxieties among U.S. allies who worry about the return of Donald Trump.

While global flashpoints came up in the debate — from the war in Ukraine to the American withdrawal from Afghanistan — there was little actual discussion of policy. Trump only shrugged when asked about his commitment to NATO.

And in the hours and days following the debate, Western allies have joined American voters in mostly focusing their concern on Biden’s poor showing on stage.

Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski appeared to draw a parallel between Biden’s debate performance and the end of the Roman Empire in a cryptic post on X early Friday morning, hours after the debate.

“Marcus Aurelius was a great emperor but he screwed up his succession by passing the baton to his feckless son Commodus,” Sikorski wrote. “It’s important to manage one’s ride into the sunset.”

During the event, Blinken was asked about the future of the transatlantic alliance after France’s far-right National Rally earned a decisive victory in the first-round of voting of the country’s parliamentary election.

Marine Le Pen, who leads the far-right alliance, previously vowed to take France out of NATO’s military wing if elected president, though her party has softened its stance on NATO in more recent years.

Without specifically discussing France, Blinken insisted that he was not worried about the future of the transatlantic alliance.

“The alliance is moving to make sure that we have the right defenses across the alliance where they’re needed,” Blinken said. “This has been a clear trajectory for the last three and a half years. I don’t actually see that changing, irrespective of the politics of the moment in Europe.”

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