Call it the Nancy Pelosi Legacy Tour.
The House Speaker has spent much of this year — which many expect she will be the last at the top of the Democratic Party — traveling the world, visiting war zones and other hotspots. politicians on a circuit that has drawn new attention to old conflicts, diplomatic disputes and human rights atrocities, past and present.
In the process, Pelosi (D-California) made history, sparked controversy and raised many questions about whether her world tour is pure diplomacy, power politics or a swan song. historic president who may be preparing an exit from the American Parliament.
“It’s a combination of all three,” said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), a 24-year veteran and former member of Pelosi’s management team.
Larson hailed Pelosi’s aggressive foray into the international arena, saying it’s both a clear assertion of Congress’s authority to influence US foreign policy — a function typically left to the executive branch. – and a testament to the powerful role women can play in world affairs.
“She has asserted herself as Speaker of the House, and I think that’s a good thing, always. And I think part of that is his legacy,” Larson said.
“And that’s partly for the rest of the world to see a woman of her age, her stature, her maturity and what she’s been able to accomplish,” he continued. “She is a great representative of opportunity for women in democracies around the world.”
Pelosi is no stranger to overseas travel. As leader of the Democrats for nearly two decades, she frequently leads congressional lawmakers on official trips to advance international relations and guide U.S. foreign policy.
But this year, Pelosi has gone out of her way to visit some particularly volatile places: Ukraine, at war with Russia; Taiwan, faced with threats of reprisals from China; and more recently Armenia, where it has taken a clear stand in a long-running conflict with Azerbaijan that the Biden administration has tackled far more delicately.
The high-profile trips are part of a much longer arc for Pelosi, 82, whose congressional career has been marked by a record confrontation with authoritarianism, particularly in China. Indeed, her visit to Tiananmen Square in 1991, just two years after Beijing’s deadly crackdown on democracy advocates, made international headlines and infuriated diplomats at home – a dynamic that has also accompanied some of his travels this year.
Rep. Tom Malinowski (DN.J.), who has worked both as a State Department official and as an advocate for the nonprofit organization Human Rights Watch, which monitors global conflict, said that being given Pelosi’s history, his recent travels to contested regions should come as no surprise.
“The first time I saw her take a stand on an issue was when she visited China in the 1990s after Tiananmen Square. And when I worked for Human Rights Watch, I frequently spoke with her and her office of international human rights issues, particularly as they relate to China,” Malinowski said.
“As Speaker of the House, she obviously has to — like all of us — focus on America first,” he added. “But it has always been a passion for her.”
Julian Zelizer, congressional historian at Princeton University, said Pelosi’s choice of destinations also represents an effort to distance US foreign policy from the abrasive and unconventional approach taken by President Biden’s predecessor, the former President Trump. With an ally now in the White House — and with Democrats in charge of the House and Senate — the window has opened for such an opportunity.
“As she reaches the final phase of her congressional career, I think there is a part of Pelosi that wants to move forward on initiatives, both at home and abroad, that have been important to her over the decades,” Zelizer said in an email. .
“The last presidency was a disastrous time for Democrats,” he added. “There is a part of the president that feels the party needs to move forward on all fronts during this moment of power, especially with the uncertainty of what will happen after November.”
Pelosi may have an ally in Biden, but his recent excursions haven’t always been a welcome development in the eyes of the administration.
When news broke that the president was planning a visit to Taiwan in August, for example, Biden revealed that the Pentagon was opposed to the idea, concerned about Beijing’s potential return. Yet the president has never voiced his own criticism, and when Pelosi stepped off the plane in Taipei on August 2, she became the highest-ranking US official to visit the disputed territory in 25 years.
Through it all, Pelosi has offered no apologies, using the international stage to draw attention to China’s long history of human rights abuses, including Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs, a Muslim minority. from the far northwest of China. Pelosi called it genocide.
“I’ve said it over and over again: if we don’t stand up for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights anywhere in the world.” , Pelosi said last month in Tokyo, just after the visit to Taiwan.
Controversy also surrounded Pelosi’s visit this month to Armenia, where a decades-old feud with neighboring Azerbaijan has erupted violently in recent weeks, prompting a flimsy intervention by top State Department officials demanding a ceasefire. -fire.
Pelosi, the most senior US official to visit Armenia since it split from the Soviet Union 30 years ago, was more laconic, blaming Azerbaijan squarely.
“It was initiated by Azeris,” she told reporters during the visit. “There has to be a recognition of that.”
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a close Pelosi ally who joined her on the trip, hailed the president’s decision to defend Armenia, even though it went against the larger approach. diplomatic administration.
“She uses her power in a way that I find very effective,” Speier said. “Armenia – most people wouldn’t know where to find it on a map. They couldn’t have found Ukraine on a map. So I think that elevates Armenia, its problems and its legitimacy to keep democracy in a bad neighborhood.
Malinowski, a former diplomat, also played down any tension between Pelosi and the Biden administration related to her recent travels, suggesting there are political benefits to these public disagreements.
“Sometimes the executive branch is okay with the tension — behind the scenes — because it helps them get Congress to play the bad cop,” he said. “It then allows them to play good cop and say, ‘Wouldn’t you rather be dealing with us than with these people in Congress who are going to do anything?’ ”