Biden’s foreign policy: forecasts, challenges and opportunities

Biden’s foreign-policy priorities: Part One

Diplomats and Experts in Washington DC – about what will be new and what will remain unchanged in the US foreign policy after January 20, 2021

An atmosphere of uncertainty has thickened around current U.S. foreign policy: while President-elect Joe Biden receives election victory congratulations from leaders of Washington’s allies in Europe, Acting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells reporters that he believes, «there will be a soft transition to the second Trump administration».

However, this does not prevent experts from making their predictions about what will be the foreign policy course of the next owner of the White House, which, according to the forecasts of the press and most observers, Biden should become. – a person who is by no means a newcomer to US foreign policy and its practical implementation.

A video of January 1988, when Democratic Senator Joe Biden met with «mister «Not» – Andrei Gromyko, who at that time had already left the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the USSR and held the post of Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the country.

Biden and Gromyko discussed the Treaty on the Elimination of Short and Medium-Range Missiles – the same one from which the Trump administration left after the violations committed by Moscow. In the comments, jokes about «ancient» videos were interspersed with a recognition that the US President-elect has been engaged in diplomacy for a long time and at a high level.

Evan Osnos (Evan Osnos), an expert at the John Thornton Center for Chinese Studies and author of a biography about Joe Biden, described the attitudes of a wide variety of foreign leaders towards the president-elect of the United States: «They simply know him, they know him. And at the moment when the image of the United States for our allies and opponents began to look somehow unfamiliar due to our internal contradictions and our policies, this element – leader recognition – is political capital».

Former Deputy Secretary of State of the United States, who participated with Evan Osnos in the Brookings Institution Roundtable Victoria Nuland (Victoria Nuland) said she would welcome a return by the US government to a more unified approach to foreign policy and greater engagement with America’s allies. She believes President-elect Biden, who is calling for an end to political confrontation, is capable of making this a reality:

«I believe Biden will instinctively try to rebuild the traditional bipartisan coalition to advance America’s leadership. The Republicans will demand a tougher approach than they saw from the Obama administration on certain issues, in particular, towards China. But it seems to me that President-elect Biden and his team, in any case, themselves have reached the point that it is time for us, as a democratic community, to take a much more organized, structured, tough approach to Russia, China and challenges from authoritarian rulers. who want to change the rule-based system for their own benefit. I think he will put a lot of effort into it.».

At the same time, Nuland believes that Joe Biden will not be too easy a partner for Europeans: «I think our allied democracies should be prepared for him to be very demanding, because he will not want to tackle the big problems facing us all alone. He will need the help of allies and partners in Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world. So, it will be much more versatile than it is now, but I don’t think he will prove himself with allies an easily succumbing weakling».

Former Deputy Secretary of Defense of the United States Eric Edelman (Eric Edelman), who has considerable governmental and diplomatic experience, noted in his speech at the Brookings Institution roundtable that many US allies will need to be convinced that Washington is returning to the role of leader of the Western world:

«They look at the vacuum that was created by President Obama, perhaps as a result of his insufficient reaction to what was happening in Syria, and wonder if all this is not something temporary, inherent only in Trump’s rule, but something- then longer. Biden will face the problem of how reliably he can say: «Look, I am not Barack Obama or the reincarnation of Barack Obama, I am Joe Biden, and I will take a different approach in which America will be more active than you have seen, not only in the last four years, but in the last 12 years.». To say this will be a real challenge for him.».

At the same time, Eric Edelman believes that not all the agreements that Donald Trump left need to return:

«Vice President Biden said he would like to return to «nuclear deal» with Iran, and I hope he does not, because I believe that would be a huge strategic mistake. The situation regarding Iran has changed… Almost no one was able to predict, including critics of the Trump administration, that the maximum pressure campaign would create the economic pressure on Iran that we see. – Iran’s economy is now in dire straits. Moreover, the Iranians are now in severe violation of the standards set by «nuclear deal». Therefore, to roll back and ease the pressure of sanctions without receiving something significant in return would mean losing those tools, those levers of influence that have been developed. Moreover, it will ruin relations with the Republicans in the Senate, who will look at it very carefully, and not only with the Republicans.».

Evan Osnos also believes that Washington should not return to the relatively soft foreign policy of the times of Barack Obama, in particular with respect to China. – if only because toughness towards Beijing is supported by both parties:

«There is a Senate resolution on sanctions against Beijing due to its intervention in Hong Kong, which was passed by 100 votes without a single vote against – nothing else is accepted by such a majority these days. This gives the new administration a huge number of options for how it can act in relation to Beijing.».

«For example, says biographer Joe Biden, she might say to Beijing: «We can now speak to you on our schedule and on our terms, because we have a mandate to do this.». I think we will see that they are going to use existing tools in a way to benefit. There is no need to lower rates until something is offered in return. There is no need to change the existing approach in the field of technology until there is significant progress on this topic.».

Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund in the USA (GMF US) Jamie Fly (Jamie Fly) says Republican positions, given their advantage in the US Senate, will play a significant role in how well the Biden administration can pursue its goals. He expressed this point of view at a round table held at GMF US on November 10:

«The elements «Trumpism» will continue to influence the GOP. I think we will probably see this in trade matters. These trends were present before Trump when it came to multilateral institutions and international cooperation. This is not a new dynamic. Donald Trump brought her out… to a new level, but this is what has been happening with the party for decades, and it will continue».

Biden's foreign policy: forecasts, challenges and opportunities

According to Jamie Fly, who previously served on the team of Republican Senator Marco Rubio, Joe Biden represents a positive attitude towards transatlantic cooperation. But as the Republican Party has changed under the influence of Trump, so the Democrats, the expert recalled, have undergone changes associated with the formation of a different political climate in the United States, and this will also affect decision-making in foreign policy..

At the same time, with regard to China, agreement of representatives of both parties in Congress can be expected, notes Jamie Fly. He also hopes for the support of the US’s European allies in dealing with China, but does not expect too much: «Apart from questions about China, I am rather pessimistic about the prospects for transatlantic relations.».

Also, one of the areas in which one can hope for both a bipartisan consensus in the United States and European interest is the policy towards countries that have become members of the European Union relatively recently, or partnering with the EU:

«I think this is a region that is clearly close to Joe Biden’s heart.… We have serious challenges to democracy and the rule of law there, threats to independent media. Some of these problems are not unique to countries «Eastern Partnership», but also in such EU member states as Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania… I hope the Biden administration will prioritize this early on.».

Ambassador of the European Union to the USA Stavros Lambrinidis (Stavros Lambrinidis) at the same roundtable at GMF USA confirmed that on China-related issues, Europe will cooperate with the next White House host, who has already spoken out positively about the United States’ return to the Paris Climate Agreement:

«China is the largest polluter of the environment. And the return of the United States to the Paris Agreement is of the utmost importance, as well as the consolidation of concrete methods to comply with its obligations. We are trying to do this in Europe, and it is extremely important for us that we work closely with the Biden administration on this issue.».

While Europeans are positive about a possible agenda with Washington, not only the United States has changed over the past four years, but also Europe, the European ambassador added: «The United States will only welcome Europe as a stronger and more effective partner».

At the same time, the diplomat actually confirmed that the pressure on increasing the military spending of European countries, which Donald Trump constantly put on them, was legitimate. It is another matter, he stressed, that Europe itself began this increase even before the President of the United States began to insist on it:

«Europeans began spending more on defense in 2014-15, when Russia invaded Ukraine. It became quite clear to us that we must pay closer attention to questions of our defense. But then we also realized that it is not only the amount we spend that matters, but also how effectively they are spent. And in our case, we were dealing with colossal inefficiency.»

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