Today's speaker was Ambasssador Robert E. Whitehead, a career diplomat who was called back into service after retiring.   Most of his overseas posts were in Africa.
Ambassador Whitehead began with a summary of the changes in American diplomacy that occurred over the last four years.  President Trump brought in a number of people from outside the government, including Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.  For the State Departrment the result was chaos and an exodus of the best and brightest of the diplomatic corps.  Ambassador Whitehead says when current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves, more experienced professionals like former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns will return (Burns as head of the C.I.A.).
In general terms President Trump has pursued a unilateral/bilateral approach for the country, withdrawing the U.S. from a number of multi-party obligations, including the Paris agreement on climate change, the Pacific Trade Partnership and the agreement with Iran.  Ambassador Whitehead says President Biden will take a more multilateral approach. Thus while President Trump threatened to pull out of NATO (among other international bodies), President Biden will seek to strengthen our position in NATO as well as our support for UNESCO and other U.N. agencies where U.S. funding has been cut.
Ambasssador Whitehead then considered how the change in administrations will affect specific countries.  He sees no big changes with respect to Canada and Mexico.  Relations with Canada may be a little warmer and the wall project at the Mexican border may be scrapped, but we will continue to get along well with these countries.  The same is true with Brazil, which has become a major trading partner despite environmental issues.
The ambassador described the situation in Cuba as interesting.  He believes that the sanctions recently reimposed by Secretary of State Pompeo will be removed, with a return to President Obama's efforts to encourage trade and tourism.  Venezuela has been a pain for the last three administrations and will probably continue to be so.
With respect to Europe the U.S. will continue to pursue trade deals with the U.K. and should be more open in dealing with the E.U.  Things should improve with Germany--back to business as usual.  Likewise with France, where anti-terror efforts will continue.  Russia will be most difficult, with President Biden taking a somewhat harder line and things becoming "rancorous."
In Asia we are getting along well with India, although human rights should become more important.  Our relationship with South Korea should remain the same. North Korea has been a problem for the last five administrations; no one has found an answer so far.  China presents the most complex situation, with environmental issues among others.  Ambassador Whitehead expects President Biden to lower the volume somewhat with regard to China.
Ambassador Whitehead expects the new administration to continue recent steps of the Trump administration with regard to Israel, but noted that there are hard feelings between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Biden.  Saudi Arabia is something of a questionmark, particularly with its human rights issues.
Iran continues to be a very difficult subject, and it is unclear whether the U.S. can resuscitate the old deal.  Iraq and Afghanistan have been problems for the last three administrations, and it remains to be seen what President Biden will do there.
Finally Ambassador Whitehead said that Africa has been something of a step child with regard to U.S. foreign policy.  A timely and impressive presentation to a large and receptive audience.