President-elect Joe Biden has spent much of the last week unveiling his cabinet nominees and hires, including former Massacusetts Senator and former Secretary of State John Kerry, who will work as special presidential envoy for climate. GBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with Axios contributor Glen Johnson, who worked for Secretary Kerry as a senior communications strategist in the State Department and is the author of Window Seat on the World, to learn more about what could be in store for Biden and his envoys. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: So we're going from Donald Trump's America First approach to a foreign policy that I think we can say recalls the Obama administration, including many of the same names like John Kerry. Considering, Glen, what's happened with Russia, Ukraine, Israel [and] the Muslim world, where does the Biden administration begin here? I can only assume that Joe Biden's envoys will be traveling early and often.

Glen Johnson: Yeah, I think that what's been striking to me as I've looked back over my book is the staying power of many of the issues that I wrote about, which, of course, were issues that we dealt with between 2013 and 2017. So I think that the issue set is going to remain remarkably consistent. I think what's going to really change here is the approach, and I think that's where you're going to see the administration start. Tony Blinken was John Kerry's deputy; now he's nominated to be Secretary of State [and] it looks like he has a very strong chance of being confirmed. And so whether it's an ascendant China, a troublesome North Korea [or] an always fearsome Soviet Union now Russia, those things remain constant. But I think what you're going to try and see is the administration build from its ally base back out to try and reestablish some strength and some credibility not only with our allies, but also on a global stage.

Watch: Will John Kerry help reinvolve the U.S. in international agreements?

Mathieu: What's it going to be like for Blinken to have his old boss in the room when he's trying to negotiate for the first time?

Johnson: Yeah, his first cases of diplomacy will be within the Cabinet Room itself.

Mathieu: Wow. You mentioned China, Glen. You note in your book the challenges of working with China, particularly when it comes to climate issues, carbon emissions, [as] the biggest carbon polluter in the world. Some would say we're in a cold war with China after four years of Donald Trump. How do you start that conversation?

Johnson: It's a very difficult one. China was, in fact, a key ally in two critical things that occurred during the second half of President Obama's term. One was the Iran nuclear deal. It's a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and it assented to that deal and also helped in some ways negotiate it. And then two, President Xi worked very closely with President Obama — and Secretary Kerry laid the groundwork for that — for them to be big players in getting the Paris Climate Accord passed. Now, some of that's out of necessity; the Chinese people are very concerned and openly rebelling about the choking pollution throughout China — in particular in Beijing — so the government there had to do something about it. But it also saw this chance to cast itself as a global player by being a leader on that issue. So it's a difficult country to deal with, especially militarily. They've taken advantage of the pandemic to challenge India to regain control of Hong Kong [and] to rattle the saber with Taiwan. Going forward, it's going to be a very difficult challenge to negotiate with them. Stanley McChrystal told us this week in Axios that he feels it's almost too late to tame them as an Asian power, that we have to be very careful they don't try and assert themselves and take back over Taiwan, too.

Mathieu: All this said Glen, what kind of a relationship does John Kerry have with Joe Biden at the beginning of this very large project, if we can call it that? I know they belong to the same exclusive club for many years in the Senate, but are they friends?

Johnson: I think they're friends. I think there's a huge amount of mutual respect there. As I said earlier, when Joe Biden — who had been chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee — became vice president, John Kerry replaced him on that committee where, incidentally, they both served with Barack Obama. During the first half of the Obama administration, [when] they needed an unofficial emissary to do some foreign policy work, whether it was laying the groundwork for the Iran deal [or] getting the tail rotor back from the helicopter that crashed in Pakistan during the Bin Laden raid, it was John Kerry they sent to go do that. And so when John Kerry then was ultimately sworn in as Secretary of State, who administered the oath? Joe Biden. So I think the fact that John Kerry stood up for him early and when he really needed a friend in the primary process, the thanks for that is evident in the role that the president-elect has given him and also the stature that he's tried to afford that role by putting it in the cabinet and rolling it out with the rest of his national security team.

Mathieu: Unique perspective this morning from Glen Johnson, who worked with Kerry as Secretary of State and spent that time in the State Department after spending a lot of years as a political journalist. He's back to that world now with Axios. Glen, you're the force behind the Sneak Peek newsletter that comes out. How often?

Johnson: It just started as a nightly product Sunday through Thursdays. It's available at It doesn't cost anything, but it's an effort to try and consolidate some of the best of Axios' reporting, and particularly its scoops, as the last thing that you'll see every night before you go to bed, or perhaps the first thing you'll see when you wake up, Joe.

Mathieu: That's more like it. I'm glad you're writing, Glen, and we'd love to stay in touch with you and tap your expertize from time to time as this new administration takes form.