President Bush announced today that he is nominating U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick to be the deputy to Condoleezza Rice when she takes over the State Department after confirmation hearings later this month.
Speaking briefly to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before leaving on a trip to Michigan, Bush said, "Condoleezza Rice and Bob Zoellick will form one of the really strong, capable foreign policy teams our country has ever had." Both Rice and Zoellick appeared with him.
Bush nominated Rice to succeed Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Zoellick, whose nomination also needs Senate confirmation, would replace Richard L. Armitage.
Zoellick, who served at the State Department as undersecretary for economic affairs and as counselor for then-Secretary of State James A. Baker III, has steered U.S. trade policy around the world over the past four years. Known as an experienced international strategist, he has worked closely with Rice during the current and former Bush administrations.
"He already knows the building and is widely respected in Washington and on the international stage for his strong intellect," an administration official familiar with staff plans said on the condition of anonymity before the appointment is announced. Both Rice and Zoellick are known as "hard chargers and perfectionists," he added.
Zoellick's expected appointment provides the first insight into the team Rice hopes to assemble at the State Department, which has often been a dissenting voice within the administration on Iraq and other key foreign policies. Powell and other State officials have promoted diplomacy and cooperation with the United Nations, clashing with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and administration neoconservatives who have often favored a more unilateral approach on foreign policy.
What is striking about Zoellick and others being talked about as candidates for top jobs at State, foreign policy analysts said, is that most of them are professional diplomats. Zoellick is considered an internationalist attuned to the need for building coalitions, which he has had to do as trade representative.
The roster of others officials have said are in the running for the new State Department team are NATO Ambassador Nicholas Burns, who worked with Rice at the National Security Council during the first Bush administration, and Philip D. Zelikow, director of the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs and co-author with Rice of "Germany Unified and Europe Transformed." Zelikow was also staff director of the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Both men are personal friends with whom Rice holds working dinners. As U.S. trade representative and NATO ambassador, Zoellick and Burns also come with expansive global contacts.
Another name touted for a senior position is the ambassador to Turkey, Eric S. Edelman, a career diplomat who was an assistant national security adviser to Vice President Cheney.
A graduate of Swarthmore College, Harvard Law School and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Zoellick had also been mentioned as a leading candidate for the presidency of either Fannie Mae or the World Bank after James Wolfensohn's term ends in the summer. Some foreign policy analysts were surprised Zoellick would give up the possibility of the World Bank job to become the United States' No. 2 diplomat, but State Department officials point out that the deputy secretary can be highly influential in shaping U.S. foreign policy.
Zoellick has played a major role in jump-starting stalled World Trade Organization talks to remove barriers to the free trade of goods, services and investment. But he has been criticized for focusing much of his energy on concluding relatively modest bilateral pacts with individual countries such as Morocco, Australia, Bahrain, Singapore and Central American nations.
During the first Bush administration, he took the lead for the State Department in talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement and in developing policy as the Cold War ended, particularly in talks on German unification -- an issue close to Rice's specialty as a Soviet expert.
"Policy differences aside, he is a serious and talented economic policymaker who certainly knows the bumps and bruises of wrestling with the world's most delicate and controversial economic issues," said Gene B. Sperling, national economic adviser to President Bill Clinton and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "Hopefully, he will use this position and his experience to highlight the importance of economic development, multilateral engagement and global poverty reduction as critical foreign policy imperatives."
Among the people being suggested to replace Zoellick are Josette Shiner, Zoellick's deputy; Gary Edson, former deputy national security adviser responsible for international economic affairs; Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.); Grant Aldonas, undersecretary of commerce for international trade; and Robert M. Kimmitt, a former colleague of Zoellick's at the State and Treasury departments and a former ambassador to Germany.
Several State officials also said yesterday that they believe John R. Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, would be replaced by Robert G. Joseph, his counterpart at the National Security Council. But in response to inquiries and news reports, State officials said Bolton has no plans to resign.
Bolton is known for taking a hard line on arms control, and is leading the administration's campaign to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapons capability. Joseph represented the administration in talks that led to Libya's disarmament decision in late 2003.
Staff writers Paul Blustein and Dafna Linzer contributed to this report.