Foreign Policy

Blinken stands earlier than the barbecue on the listening to for the affirmation of the Senate

Here is today's foreign policy mandate: Biden's cabinet candidate Face confirmation hearings, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte Heads for a decisive vote in the Senate, and Offices of the Ugandan opposition party are ambushed after the presidential election.

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Biden's candidates stand before the Senate

Most of the national security cabinet selection of President-elect Joe Biden is being conducted in front of the U.S. Senate committees today to hold confirmation hearings the day before Biden is sworn in – and a controversial impeachment process begins.

Antony Blinken, Biden's candidate for foreign ministerial office, faces a heated confirmation hearing. He is expected to face pressure from Democratic and Republican lawmakers on a wide variety of foreign policy issues, including Iran, China, North Korea and the United States' global response to the coronavirus pandemic. (However, it is unlikely that there will be time to ask about his musical skills.)

WestExec questions. Blinken is sure to have questions about WestExec Advisors, an international consulting firm that he co-founded in 2017. The company and its clients, which include foreign governments, have been under scrutiny over the past few months as it is expected how many members of the consulting firm are expected to join the Biden administration.

“With blinking, the committee needs clear visibility of potential conflicts of interest to ensure that the committee can fulfill its State Department oversight duties and how US foreign policy decisions can be made. Blinken was asked to provide additional clarifying information about his role at WestExec and the countries in which he and his organization have advised their clients, ”an adviser to the Republican Senate told Foreign Policy.

Senate assistants on both sides of the aisle have told FP that Blinken's previous business relationships are unlikely to be a deal breaker, but they expect him to provide clear answers on how to stave off potential conflicts of interest. "Even with a Democratic majority in a 50:50 Senate, Biden's candidates will need Republican support," the aide said.

As the inauguration approaches … Foreign Policy's dedicated blog provides an up-to-date analysis of all new hires and policy plans for the Biden transition.

On Wednesday January 20th Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States.

The second impeachment trial against President Trump is expected to begin.

On Thursday January 21st Johnson & Johnson will publish the first results of its COVID-19 vaccine study.

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing to grant a waiver that will allow General Lloyd Austin III to serve as civilian leader in the role of Secretary of Defense.

On Friday January 22nd In a postal vote, Armin Laschet was confirmed as the next party leader of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany.

The United Nations Security Council held an informal meeting to discuss the situation in Belarus, with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya briefing the participants.

On Sunday January 24th Voters in Portugal vote in a presidential election. The incumbent President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is aiming for a second term of five years against the socialist Ana Gomes and the right-wing extremist candidate André Ventura.

What we are following today

Conte is about to vote in the Senate. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte faces a decisive vote in the Senate today as he calls on lawmakers to endorse his term in office following Matteo Renzi's Italia Viva leaving his ruling coalition. Conte survived a vote of confidence in the House of Commons by a margin of 321 to 259, which was above expectations. Conte has promised a cabinet reshuffle and a new political agenda if he can continue to be prime minister.

Ambushed opposition offices in Uganda. Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine said his political party's headquarters had been raided by government forces as he prepared to question the results of last Thursday's election. Uganda's electoral commission reported a landslide victory for President Yoweri Museveni on Saturday, declaring him the winner with 58.6 percent of the vote, compared with just 34.8 percent of voters who support Wine. Museveni has denied fraud allegations, predicting the election would be the "most fraud-free" election in Uganda's history.

Navalny arrested. Russian dissident Alexei Navalny was arrested almost immediately after returning to Moscow after spending months in Germany recovering from a poison attack. According to his spokesman, he is being held for 30 days. Prosecutors accuse Navalny of violating a 2014 suspended sentence and urge Navalny to serve his three-and-a-half year prison sentence. Navalny denies the embezzlement allegations on which the judgment is based, arguing that time has run out.

Trump's last day. U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to announce a final wave of pardons when he enters the last full day of his presidency. The pardons reportedly include those close to the president, as well as commutations for some drug offenders who are serving long sentences.

Keep an eye out

Facebook should follow the new Turkish law. Facebook has announced it will comply with a new Turkish social media law by appointing a local legal representative to deal with complaints about the content of its services. The law holds social media companies accountable for handling complaints within 48 hours and fines those who fail to comply. User data is also legally stored in Turkey, raising privacy and freedom of speech concerns. In a statement, Facebook said it was ready to withdraw its agent if it faced pressure that violated its internal standards.

The WHO is issuing further warnings about vaccine hoarding. The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanonom Ghebreysus, has warned of a "catastrophic moral failure" if vaccines are not made more easily available to poor countries. Highlighting the gap between rich and poor, Tedros pointed out that to date, high-income countries had distributed around 39 million doses of vaccine, while low-income countries had distributed only 25 total.

North Korean missiles. North Korea may be planning a new missile launch to coincide with Joe Biden's inauguration, according to analysis of satellite imagery near previous tests. Analysts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies identified a barge that had been used for previous testing and was likely modified for a fresh start. After the ruling party's convention earlier this month, a North Korean military parade demonstrated what looked like a new submarine missile.

Climate problems. For the third year in a row, extreme weather and climate failures have been identified as the top two risks to the world, according to a survey conducted by the World Economic Forum of world leaders. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, respondents said livelihood crises are the most critical short-term threat to the world in 2021.

bits and pieces

The Afghan transport authorities should stop issuing license plates with the number 39 in order to curb bribery. The figure is seen as shameful to Afghans for being associated with pimping and prostitution – a notorious pimp in the city of Herat is believed to have driven a car with the number – which prompted car owners to go to great lengths to address the Avoid taboo combination. Announcing the move, Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh said drivers had spent up to $ 300 to convince traffic officials to give them a cheaper license plate.

Abdul Qader Samoonwal, an official with the traffic and license registration department in Kabul, suggested a more nefarious motive for dislike number 39 in an interview with NPR in 2011. "Car dealerships and those who work for the Mafia started the rumors that 39 could buy 39-plate cars cheaper and sell them back at higher prices after changing their plates," he said.

That's it for today.

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Photo credit: Samuel Corum / Getty Images

Foreign affairs diplomatic and national security reporter Robbie Gramer contributed to today's letter.

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