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Arms Control & Nuclear Proliferation: People & Positions
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Arms Control & Nuclear Proliferation

The Biden Power Players

UPDATED August 19, 2021
  • Bonnie Jenkins

    Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security, U.S. Department of State

    Relevance to the Biden Agenda:

    The undersecretary of state for arms control and international security leads the Department of State’s interagency efforts on U.S. security policy on nonproliferation, arms control, regional security and defense relations, and arms transfers. Beyond focusing on nuclear proliferation, the role looks at a wide range of arms control issues, including proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, missiles, drones, and conventional weapons. The position also oversees the negotiation, implementation, and verification of arms control deals, making it critical in negotiating or enforcing new arms control agreements with states such as Iran, North Korea, or Russia, among others.


    Jenkins served as the U.S.’s first Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs from 2009 to 2017, where she managed the State Department’s Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs, including biological threat reduction, chemical security, the partnership for nuclear security, and science center programs. Jenkins has worked with NGOs and foreign governments to advance diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and has participated in strategic negotiations with foreign nations to plan successful denuclearization programs. Prior to the Obama administration, she worked as a legal advisor in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency where she s as an advisor to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

    Points of Interest and Notable Connections:

    In her confirmation hearing, Jenkins highlighted China, whose actions she labeled as “destabilizing,” Iran, and Russia as the most problematic forces challenging international standards and norms of weapons nonproliferation. Jenkins is a proponent of securing multilateral alliances to deter nuclear expansion by adversaries, particularly through U.S. partnerships in Europe and the Indo-Pacific regions which she says will contain Chinese and Russian nuclear expansion. She is also firmly committed to diplomacy, stating that the concept of mutually assured destruction failed in favor of international negotiations. Alongside Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Jenkins has already commenced negotiations with her Russian counterparts over the Strategic Stability Dialogue announced by President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin during their June 16, 2021 summit in Geneva.

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    • C. S. Eliot Kang

      Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State

    • Stephen LaMontagne

      Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State

    • Adam Scheinman

      Special Representative of the President for Nuclear Nonproliferation (Nominee), Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State

  • Robert Malley

    Special Envoy for Iran, U.S. Department of State

    Relevance to the Biden Agenda:

    As the leader of the State Department’s Iran Action Group formed in 2018, the special envoy to Iran directs, reviews, and coordinates all aspects of the State Department's Iran-related activity. In the Biden administration, the Special Envoy will be tasked with helping to oversee the revival of the JCPOA, while simultaneously crafting the U.S.’s response to Iran’s use of lethal force against U.S. troops in Iraq and navigating mounting tensions between Israel and Iran. The Special Envoy will play a critical role in determining the shape of U.S.-Iran relations moving forward, including negotiating potential prisoner swaps, and is a key player in achieving the Middle East-focused portions of Biden’s arms control agenda.


    Malley served on the National Security Council (NSC) during the Obama administration and was one of the chief negotiators for the Iran nuclear deal alongside Wendy Sherman. He has represented the U.S. in key foreign conflict resolution negotiations across multiple administrations. He participated in negotiations between Israel and Palestine at the 2000 Camp David Summit and was instrumental in crafting the Obama administration’s response to the growth of ISIS in the Middle East. Most recently, Malley led the International Crisis Group (ICG) as president and CEO and oversaw the ICG’s efforts to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after the U.S.’s withdrawal. Throughout this effort, Malley advocated against the Trump administration reimposing U.S. sanctions on Iran, arguing that sanctions would strengthen Iran’s incentive to advance its nuclear program.

    Points of Interest and Notable Connections:

    Malley has been involved in several sensitive international negotiations including between Israel and Palestine at Camp David, the JCPOA and with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Malley’s approach to negotiations has been at times met with controversy, as he was let go from Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign after reports that he met with the Palestinian militant group Hamas generated backlash. In the Obama administration, Malley served as the President’s senior advisor on countering ISIS and coordinated the White House response to the emerging ISIS threat. Malley’s response to ISIS was devised jointly with Commander Lloyd Austin’s military strategy to retake Iraq. Malley negotiated the JCPOA alongside Wendy Sherman, and both Sherman and Jake Sullivan later joined as trustees to the ICG. Malley has a close personal relationship with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, with whom he attended high school in Paris.

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    • Paul Watzlavick

      Director, Office of Analysis for Near Eastern Affairs, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. Department of State

  • Wendy Sherman

    Deputy Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State

    Relevance to the Biden Agenda:

    As the second most powerful position in the State Department, the deputy secretary of state role has broad responsibilities shaped by the priorities of the current administration and the individual holding the role. Sherman’s nomination to the position is particularly relevant for arms control issues due to her extensive past experience in nuclear weapons program negotiations with Iran and North Korea. Her appointment to the role serves as an affirmation of the Biden administration’s intent to resume nuclear negotiations, particularly in regard to rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. However, Sherman has stated that there cannot be a blanket return to 2015, as those conditions no longer exist. In her nomination hearing, she spoke about the U.S.’s needs to address Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, challenge China’s global ambitions, and combat Russia’s global attempts to undermine democracy. Despite her in-depth involvement in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiations, Sherman is not participating in the day-to-day negotiations. Rather, she is primarily focused on the U.S.-China relationship, using her skills as a negotiator to confront China on issues ranging from its incursion in the South China Sea to its treatment of ethnic minorities. Sherman has also been responsible for negotiating the Strategic Stability Dialogue, the bilateral arms reduction negotiations announced by President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Russia.


    During the Clinton administration, Sherman served as the State Department’s North Korea policy coordinator, where she participated in ultimately unsuccessful negotiations with North Korea to curtail Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for normalizing U.S. relations. In the Obama administration, Sherman served as the undersecretary of state for political affairs and was the U.S.’s chief negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal. Most recently, Sherman joined the Albright Stonebridge Group as a Senior Counselor advising on international corporate expansion.

    Points of Interest and Notable Connections:

    In her nearly 30 years of service in government, Sherman has high level State Department roles in every Democratic administration since Bill Clinton’s first term. She served as an advisor to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright from 1997 to 2001, and her relationship with Albright led her to join the Albright Stonebridge Group from 2009 to 2011 and 2016 to 2021, where she worked as a senior counselor along with Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Sherman served alongside Jake Sullivan as a top foreign-policy advisor to Senator Hilary Clinton during her first presidential campaign. In 2013, Sherman and Sullivan again worked together under former Secretary of State John Kerry negotiating the JCPOA, along with Robert Malley and Williams Burns, now the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Sherman later became a trustee at the International Crisis Group, where Malley served as president and CEO until his recent appointment in the Biden administration. Since her time serving in the Obama administration, Sherman has taught at the Harvard Kennedy School alongside Samantha Power and Nicholas Burns, the latter of whom she has worked alongside for decades.

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    • Jose Fernandez

      Undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment (Nominee), U.S. Department of State

    • Jessica Lewis

      Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, U.S. Department of State

    • Bruce Turner

      Senior Official, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, U.S. Department of State

  • Jake Sullivan

    White House National Security Advisor, National Security Council, Executive Office of the President

    Relevance to the Biden Agenda:

    Arms Control & Nuclear Proliferation:

    Sullivan’s previous experiences and his role as national security advisor position him to emerge as one of the most influential administration officials on a host of critical foreign policy issues, including international arms agreements. As the official who was responsible for backdoor discussions with Iran during the Obama administration, Sullivan is well known for his efforts negotiating the Iran nuclear deal. Under Biden’s direction, Sullivan, along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, will oversee the attempted revival of the deal. Although many expected the administration to return to the status quo––putting aside Iran’s malign behavior in the Middle East and its missile program in favor of a quick return to the deal’s original parameters––Sullivan and Blinken seek a broader deal to address Iran’s other activity, such as its missile program and support for proxy forces. Additionally, Sullivan favors a trilateral approach to addressing North Korea’s destabilizing behavior, meeting with partners in Japan and South Korea to formulate joint strategy. After serving as a top advisor on Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, Sullivan became hyper-focused on Russian hostility after the campaign was attacked by Russian operatives. Although he set up a presidential summit between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the administration will seek to constrain Putin’s new nuclear weapon called Poseidon, a potentially devastating “nuclear torpedo.”

    Climate Change:

    Sullivan is playing a critical role in supporting the Biden administration’s climate agenda as President Biden has tasked him with compiling a report by August 2021 with “options for protection and resettlement of individuals displaced directly or indirectly from climate change.” In consultation with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power (whose primary focus is tackling climate-associated humanitarian emergencies), as well as other defense, foreign affairs, intelligence, and homeland security counterparts, Sullivan is responsible for developing the U.S. strategy to address the international security implications of climate-related migration and mechanisms for identifying climate migrants. In addition to balancing U.S. relations with nations affected by climate change, Sullivan must also work with domestic leaders to tackle the issue. At the administration’s climate summit in April 2021, mayors of a dozen major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, New York, and San Diego, asked the Biden team to consult them as the administration studies how to identify and resettle people displaced by drought, rising seas, and other effects of climate change. For Sullivan, new standards for tackling climate change must go beyond the 2015 Paris Agreement, and address the multifaceted threats posed by global warming by working with all stakeholders—domestic and foreign—to achieve global climate goals.

    Cyber & Tech:

    As national security advisor, Sullivan is attempting to restore the “regularity and rigor” of the foreign policy decision-making process, and tackle emerging, transnational threats such as newly weaponized technologies and cyber security. On the National Security Council (NSC), Sullivan is elevating cybersecurity to a critical priority for the administration through the establishment of the deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology position with Anne Neuberger who is tasked with managing the new directorate. Following the SolarWinds hack, Sullivan has asserted that the U.S. is considering “seen and unseen” responses, indicating that beyond sanctions, the U.S. response could include covert cyber retaliation against Russia. For Sullivan, the primary focus of the administration is remediating or addressing vulnerabilities of federal networks as well as tackling cybersecurity through multi-stakeholder collaboration. Sullivan has pointed to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue—known as the Quad (Australia, Japan, India, and the U.S.)—as a central vehicle for cooperation on cybersecurity. He stated that each country has suffered from recent cyberattacks, and that collectively they must take steps to remediate growing cyber threats.

    Economic Competitiveness:

    Sullivan is a strong believer that the international system, from international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) to global supply chains, are all interconnected. As a champion of the Trans-Atlantic Partnership (TPP), Sullivan views trade agreements as an essential mechanism to counter China and provide a foundation to U.S. relations with the Asia-Pacific but notes that such international agreements must critically address the potential negative impact on American workers. He has pointed to= the recent semiconductor and medical supply shortages as examples of urgent economic and national security priorities. In partnership with Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Sullivan will address supply chain vulnerabilities by ramping up the federal government’s policy toward building up the country’s domestic capacity through direct investments, tax incentives for private-sector investments, and removal of regulatory barriers.

    Forever Wars & the Middle East:  

    Sullivan has already begun to significantly shape the U.S.’s role in Middle East wars. Although at the Department of State he advocated for proxy intervention in the civil war in Syria and direct U.S. invention in Libya, Sullivan is now a proponent of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. He does not view the withdrawal as abandonment but rather a shift in U.S. strategy­––potentially to ongoing involvement in a lower-profile war on terror. Alongside Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Sullivan has implemented policies to continue providing financial backing to Afghanistan’s own military and humanitarian needs, advocated for inter-Afghan negotiations, and employed economic and diplomatic strategies to avoid the Taliban’s political re-emergence. Much to the chagrin of military and intelligence officials, Sullivan is also seeking a congressional repeal of the 2001 Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which began the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, he is advocating for Congress to authorize a new AUMF following Sullivan’s order to review current U.S. counterterrorism policies and Austin’s global defense posture review. Likewise, Sullivan is implementing an end to U.S. support for the Saudi military campaign against rebels in Yemen. However, he was also among the U.S. senior officials—alongside Austin, Blinken, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley —to meet with senior Saudi defense official Khalid Bin Salman in his July 2021 visit to Washington, D.C.

    Immigration & Asylum:

    The slow rollback of the Trump administration’s immigration policies will be handed over to Vice President Kamala Harris, who is replacing the current White House coordinator at the end of April 2021. Harris will work with Sullivan, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power, and the U.S. representative to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, among other top officials, to lead U.S. immigration strategy ahead of the Vice President’s June visit to the Northern Triangle. Their collective mission will be to help bolster Latin American economies, perhaps through conditional cash transfers, to address the root causes of the influx of immigrants to the U.S., such as climate change, poverty, and crime. Sullivan and Thomas-Greenfield aim to accomplish the mission in cooperation with U.S. allies, soliciting wealthier, Western countries to contribute more economic aid to the region. Sullivan is already in contact with counterparts in such places as Mexico and Guatemala, as the administration tries to decide how to undo Trump-era programs limiting refugees or holding them in third-party countries while they await resolution of their U.S. claims.

    Pandemic Response:

    As the U.S. looks to support its partners and allies in their pandemic responses, Sullivan is supporting the Biden team’s efforts to ensure the safe and equitable global distribution of vaccines. In April 2021, he vowed to identify sources of specific raw materials urgently required for Indian manufacturers to produce the COVID-19 vaccine. The U.S., under Sullivan’s leadership, is planning to identify supplies of therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE), and options to provide oxygen generation and related supplies to India. As the U.S. battles COVID-19, it must also ensure capacity and financing for health security globally. As such, Sullivan has directed that U.S. leadership in health security and global health be prioritized and strengthened, calling on U.S. leaders and the scientific community to ensure a robust global response. To that end, he has also engaged with developing nations such as Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to convey the U.S.’s willingness to work with governments of affected countries, and neighboring countries whose citizens would be at risk of outbreaks such as Ebola. Sullivan has emphasized the administration’s commitment to strengthen global health security and create better systems for preventing, detecting, and responding to health emergencies.


    Sullivan was a chief advisor to former Secretary of State Clinton and later Vice President Biden during the Obama administration. While at the Department of State, he focused on U.S. policy toward Libya and Syria during the civil wars in those countries, and shaped normalization of U.S.-Myanmar relations. In 2013, Sullivan was instrumental in opening a channel of negotiation with Iran over its nuclear program, setting in motion the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Sullivan previously clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and had been Senator Amy Klobuchar's chief counsel. Following his government service, Sullivan advised a number of technology companies, including Microsoft and Uber.

    Points of Interests and Notable Connections:

    Sullivan’s approach to foreign policy is focused on the country’s domestic renewal. Sullivan does not seek to separate U.S. foreign policy actions from domestic policies, instead wanting to align national security, economic, and domestic interests together. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sullivan share similar world views regarding the U.S.’s approach to foreign affairs, and they recognize that there is little domestic appetite for an approach in which the U.S. attempts tries to solve every global problem. With Great Power competition increasingly defining the international system, emerging cyber and technology security threats, in addition to global public health concerns and the climate crisis, Sullivan has advocated for a new rules-based order where outdated institutions are replaced with new ones that critically consider modern-day threats. Sullivan believes that alliances are a source of strength, and throughout the Trump administration, he criticized former President Trump’s approach to U.S. foreign policy, arguing that U.S. cooperation and leadership cannot be viewed as either a burden or a bargaining chip.

    Prior to his role as national security advisor, Senator Amy Klobuchar, for whom he worked as chief counsel, introduced Sullivan to then Senator Hillary Clinton. After advising on Clinton’s failed 2008 run for president, Sullivan joined the Clinton State Department as a close advisor to the secretary. He was crucial in formulating Secretary Clinton’s thinking on most matters of foreign policy, including the 2011 military campaign in Libya, where Sullivan sided with his boss, Samantha Power, and then U.S. representative to the U.N. Susan Rice in favor of strong U.S. intervention. Sullivan also played a significant role in the U.S. normalization of relations with Myanmar. In 2012, he was instrumental in opening a channel of negotiation with Iran over its nuclear program. It was then handed over to Wendy Sherman, Robert Malley, and John Kerry to conduct formal talks. Although Sullivan had been a loyal member of the Clinton campaign, he found favor with the Obama stalwarts, including Power and Rice. (Power gave a wedding toast at Sullivan’s rehearsal dinner.) As a result, Sullivan was drafted by former President Obama to serve as then Vice President Biden’s national security advisor, taking over the role from Antony Blinken, despite differences with Biden on the need for U.S. military involvement in, for example, Libya and the Osama bin Laden raid. After leaving the Obama administration to teach at Yale Law School, Sullivan was paid to advise Microsoft.

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    • Ariana Berengaut

      Senior Advisor to the National Security Advisor, National Security Council, Executive Office of the President

    • Kurt Campbell

      Deputy Assistant to the President and Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs, National Security Council, Executive Office of the President

    • Jonathan Finer

      Principal Deputy National Security Advisor, Executive Office of the President

    • Deborah Rosenblum

      Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense, U.S. Department of Defense

  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield

    U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, U.S. Department of State

    Relevance to the Biden Agenda:

    Arms Control & Nuclear Proliferation:

    As U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N., where she served as chair of the U.N. Security Council for March 2021, Thomas-Greenfield will be one of the U.S.’s most prominent spokespeople and negotiators on the world stage. While Biden officials such as Robert Malley seek to resurrect the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna, Thomas-Greenfield says she will work with her U.N. counterparts, even those from Russia and China, to force Iran “back into strict compliance” with the 2015 agreement. Thomas-Greenfield has pledged support to Israel at the U.N., including in the joint objective of guaranteeing Tehran’s inability to obtain nuclear weapons––even as the Israeli government advocates against a return to the Iran deal. Despite her aims of cooperation and resolution, Thomas-Greenfield will also lend U.S. legitimacy and backing to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as it continues to investigate Iranian violations of the nuclear agreement. She is set to play a pivotal role in other arms arenas as well, by pushing for the U.N. to further constrain and condemn North Korea’s missile capabilities.

    Climate Change:

    As the Biden administration looks to elevate countries’ climate ambitions, Thomas-Greenfield is playing a critical role in shaping a multilateral framework for climate change. One key concern for the ambassador is climate-induced migration, which has an outsized impact on the most fragile states and regions––the same ones that are also the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. At President Biden’s climate summit, Thomas-Greenfield, alongside Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, highlighted the necessity for countries to bolster their diplomatic efforts on climate change by building resilience and generating economic opportunities in emerging green technology. Since taking office, the U.S. has joined the U.N.’s Group of Friends on Climate and Security, which aims to integrate the climate-security nexus throughout the U.S.’s work at the U.N. Thomas-Greenfield has also pointed to China and India as key opportunities for U.S. collaboration on the issue as the top emitters of carbon gases next to the U.S.  Thomas-Greenfield, who served as assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs from 2013 to 2017 at the Department of State, also has been particularly vocal about the negative impacts of climate change in Africa, where extreme weather is damaging local agriculture and the continent’s economy.

    Immigration & Asylum:

    As U.S. representative to the U.N., Thomas-Greenfield will be one of the U.S.’s most prominent spokespeople and negotiators on the world stage. With her decades of background in U.S. policy in sub-Saharan Africa, including as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, she is acutely aware of how spiraling crises can spur global migration. She recently said as much regarding the 2021 Ethiopian conflict, expressing the need to implement a diplomatic solution to avoid massive population displacement. Unsurprisingly, Thomas-Greenfield has pledged U.S. support to refugees, despite the Biden administration’s April 2021 refugee cap announcement which, was criticized by progressives domestically. (The administration later reversed course.) At the U.N., Thomas-Greenfield has already announced over half a billion dollars in aid to struggling populations, such those in Syria and Iraq, and has committed to assisting countries that bear the bulk of refugees from the long-running wars. Lastly, Thomas-Greenfield is intent on combating the root causes of population displacement, such as insecurity and the lack of economic opportunity in the Northern Triangle or the Myanmar military’s destabilizing and violent activity, including its persecution of Rohingya Muslims and its February 2021 coup. Thomas-Greenfield will play a critical role alongside National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and head of the U.S. Agency on International Development (USAID) Samantha Power in getting U.S. allies to increase their contributions to destabilized regions.

    Pandemic Response:

    In addition to reaffirming U.S. support and leadership in the World Health Organization (WHO), Thomas-Greenfield and head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power are leading efforts to support the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and to restore international confidence in the U.S.’s expertise and competence, which Thomas-Greenfield argues was undermined by the former administration’s mishandling of the pandemic in the U.S. In April 2021, at the monthly UN Security Council Mideast meeting, Thomas-Greenfield announced plans for the U.S. to provide $1 million to vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic––a reversal from the former administration, which cut off almost all aid to the Palestinians. With the U.S. now chairing the U.N. Security Council, Thomas-Greenfield will also be leading discussion on public health responses writ large, with plans to pass resolutions––similar to those seen in the 2014 resolutions that sought to coordinate the international response to Ebola––with measures aimed at helping nations to cope with the current pandemic and prepare for future biological events.


    From 2013 to 2017, Thomas-Greenfield served in the Department of State as the assistant secretary of state for African affairs. In that position, she was responsible for the implementation of U.S. policy in sub-Saharan Africa, working to enforce human rights and to combat terrorism. During that time, she concurrently served as director general of the Foreign Service. Prior to her role as assistant secretary, Thomas-Greenfield served for four years as U.S. ambassador to Liberia. After being dismissed from the Trump administration, Thomas-Greenfield joined the Albright Stonebridge group, a global business strategy firm established by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, where Thomas-Greenfield led the organization’s Africa practice.

    Points of Interests and Notable Connections:

    As a long-time State Department employee––a career civil servant until her dismissal by former President Trump in 2017––Thomas-Greenfield has been under the radar for most of her public life. From 2013 to 2017, she served under former Secretary of State John Kerry as the assistant secretary in the Bureau of African Affairs. In that role, she worked with then U.S. Representative to the UN Samantha Power on conflicts roiling sub-Saharan Africa, including in the Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan. The pair also addressed the Ebola crisis when it hit West Africa from 2013 to 2015. After her firing from the Trump administration, Thomas-Greenfield joined the global business strategy firm Albright Stonebridge Group, where Power also worked, as the head of the organization’s Africa practice.

    As the U.S. takes over the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council, Thomas-Greenfield’s philosophy is grounded in what she calls “gumbo diplomacy,” which is driven by relationships and requires talking about various topics while “chopping onions for gumbo sauce” to break barriers and foster success. In her role, Thomas-Greenfield will play a critical part in the Biden administration’s efforts to redirect U.S. foreign policy from the former administration’s “America First” to one that works with U.S. allies with goals of re-invigorating U.S. leadership in the U.N. Given her experience in Africa and African development, she is also uniquely positioned to address growing Chinese and Russian influence in the region. While at Albright Stonebridge, Thomas-Greenfield was highly critical of the Department of State’s record on diversity and gutting the career diplomatic corps under the former administration. She believes that, under President Trump’s leadership, career diplomats had been systemically sidelined and excluded from senior jobs on an unprecedented scale, and she stated that the “wreckage at the State Department runs deep.” As a result, Thomas-Greenfield is notably staffing a team of foreign policy veterans with extensive experience in U.N. affairs, a departure from the Trump administration, which staffed the U.S. mission largely with political appointees.

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    • Christopher Lu

      U.S. Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, U.S. Department of State

    • Richard Mills

      U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, U.S. Department of State

    • Joseph Manso

      U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, U.S. Department of State

    • Jeffrey Prescott

      Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, U.S. Department of State

Other Key Players

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  • Lloyd Austin

    Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense

    Austin was head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) from 2013 to 2016. As commander, he helped coordinate the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. Austin left the military in 2016 and joined the boards of several private companies, including Raytheon, a multi-billion-dollar defense contracting firm, Nucor, the nation’s largest steel producer, and Tenet Healthcare, an international healthcare services provider. Read more about Austin’s role in the Biden administration here.

  • Antony Blinken

    Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State

    Blinken played a key role in negotiating the JCPOA during the Obama administration and will now work alongside Robert Malley and others to revive the agreement. His role in the negotiations will focus on selling the terms of any renewed agreement to wary U.S. regional allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. Read more about Blinken’s role in the Biden administration here.

  • Joyce Connery

    Chair, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board

    Prior to her nomination as chair, Connery served as director for nuclear energy policy at the National Security Council’s Office of International Economics. She is an expert in the field of nuclear policy, including safety management, nonproliferation, and use as energy.

  • Jill Hruby

    Undersecretary for Nuclear Security (Nominee), National Nuclear Security Agency, U.S. Department of Energy

    Hruby worked for the Department of Energy on nuclear security issues in different capacities from 2003 to 2017. Before joining the Biden administration, she served as the president of the Sandia National Laboratories under the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy, where she oversaw research on nuclear technologies, weapons production, maintenance of the national nuclear weapon stockpile, and the climate and geological impacts of nuclear energy.

  • Brian Nelson

    Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (Nominee), Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, U.S. Department of the Treasury

    Nelson previously served as a special assistant and chief aide to Kamala Harris from 2011 to 2014, during her first term as California’s attorney general. Nelson will work with Elizabeth Rosenberg to cripple international financial networks used for money laundering, terrorist financing, weapons proliferation, and other illicit activity.

  • Elizabeth Rosenberg

    Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing (Nominee), Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, U.S. Department of the Treasury

    Rosenberg previously served as a senior advisor in the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes from 2009 to 2013, where she helped implement wide-ranging U.S. sanctions on Burma, Iran, Libya, and Syria. After leaving the Treasury Department, Rosenberg joined the Center for New American Security (CNAS) as the director of the Energy, Economics, and Security Program.

  • Mallory Stewart

    Senior Director for Arms Control, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation, National Security Council

    From 2015 to 2017, Stewart was the deputy assistant secretary of state for emerging security in the Bureau of Arms Control. As a legal expert, her career has concerned the law’s application in all aspects of biological and nuclear weapons nonproliferation.

  • Robert Wood

    U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament and U.S. Special Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC) Issues, U.S. Department of State

    Prior to his confirmation as U.S. permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament in 2014, Wood was part of the leadership in the U.S. Mission to the European Union as its deputy chief. In that role, he worked to strengthen the U.S. relationship not only with the EU but also with U.N. multilateral agencies.

  • Janet Yellen

    Secretary of the Treasury, U.S. Department of the Treasury

    As Secretary of the Treasury, Yellen will be responsible for broad nonproliferation sanctions as well as specific sanctions targeting North Korea and Iran’s nuclear programs. Read more about Yellen’s role in the Biden administration here.

Read the Full Policy Priority Briefing ➞

The Biden Plan for Arms Control in the Era of Great Power Competition

Key challenges:

  • Iran has been moving forward with its nuclear program, and the U.S. faces a difficult negotiation process in re-entering the JCPOA with Iran.
  • North Korea has largely ignored U.S. sanctions and continues to move forward with its nuclear program.
  • Great Powers are refurbishing nuclear arsenals after decades of decline.