well be divided about Donald Trump, but the rest of the world isn’t.
soon-to-be-former president has gotten
in the Philippines and Israel, a passing grade in a couple African
countries and India, and dismal reviews pretty much everywhere else.
U.S. allies in Europe and Asia are particularly relieved that Joe
Biden will be taking the helm in January. The mayor of Paris, Anne
Hidalgo summed up world sentiment with
a pithy tweet:
“Welcome back, America.”
international community is happy that the American people have taken
down the world’s biggest bully. The heads of international
organizations – from the World
– are delighted that soon Trump won’t be undermining their
missions. Perhaps the 2020 presidential election will inspire people
elsewhere to dethrone their lesser bullies – Viktor Orban in
Hungary, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Narendra Modi in India, even
Vladimir Putin in Russia. Short of that, however, the removal of
Trump from the international scene will restore a measure of decorum
and predictability to global affairs.
a slew of executive orders, Joe Biden is expected to press the reset
button shortly after his January inauguration. The
will rejoin the Paris climate accords, according to those close to
his campaign and commitments he has made in recent months, and he
will reverse President Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health
Organization. He will repeal the ban on almost all travel from some
Muslim-majority countries, and he will reinstate the program allowing
“dreamers,” who were brought to the United States illegally as
children, to remain in the country, according to people familiar with
as Donald Trump was determined to delete the Obama administration’s
legacy, Joe Biden will try to rewind the tape to the moment just
before Trump took office.
all to the good. But the world that existed just before Trump began
starting messing with it wasn’t so good: full of war, poverty, and
rising carbon emissions. Will Biden to do more than just the minimum
to push the United States into engaging more positively with the
with Russia, China, and North Korea
paradox of Trump’s foreign policy is that he often treated U.S.
adversaries better than U.S. allies.
was constantly berating and belittling the leaders of European and
Asian countries that had come to expect at least a modicum of
diplomacy from Washington. The abrasive president berated NATO allies
for not spending enough on their own defense, and he was constantly
trying to pressure Japan and South Korea to pony up more money to
cover the costs of U.S. troops on their soil.
loved to insult
what should have been his friends: Canadian Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau was “dishonest and weak,” British Prime Minister Theresa
May was a “fool,” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was
Trump was positively glowing about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
fell in love”),
Chinese leader Xi Jinping (“He’s
now president for life, president for life. And he’s great”),
and Russian President Vladimir Putin (“he
might be bad, he might be good. But he’s a strong leader”).
On the campaign trail in the fall, he reiterated:
“One thing I have learnt, President Xi of China is 100 per cent,
Putin of Russia, 100 per cent… Kim Jong-un of North Korea, 100 per
cent. These people are sharp and they are smart.”
can be expected to reestablish the more routine praise of democrats
and condemnation of autocrats. But will the reset go beyond rhetoric?
the campaign, for instance, Biden hit Trump hard on his China policy.
The president, according to the Democratic candidate, wasn’t tough
enough on China. Biden pledged
to force China to “play by the international rules” when it comes
to trade and security. In addition, “under my watch America is
going to stand up for the dissidents and defenders of human rights in
China,” he has
U.S.-China relationship had
begun its slide
before Trump took office. The consensus, therefore, is that Biden’s
election won’t reverse the trend. As Steven Lee Myers writes
New York Times,
“While many will welcome the expected change in tone from the
strident, at times racist statements by Mr. Trump and other
officials, few expect President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to quickly
reverse the confrontational policies his predecessor has put in
however, that China-bashing has become a time-honored element of U.S.
presidential campaigns. Biden was not different. He saw an opening to
criticize Trump and an opportunity to look tough on foreign policy, a
perennial requirement for Democratic candidates. Once in office,
however, presidents have generally adopted a more business-like
approach to Beijing.
guess is that Biden will largely abandon
that Trump applied on Chinese goods, because those were
self-inflicted wounds that hurt American farmers and manufacturers.
But he’ll continue to use sanctions against Chinese companies –
on the grounds of intellectual property theft or security concerns –
and against individuals associated with human rights abuses.
Practically that would mean shifting tensions to more targeted issues
and allowing the bulk of U.S.-China economic cooperation to proceed.
focused cooperation might be possible on environmental issues as
well. In 2011, China and the United States established the Clean
Energy Research Center
to combine efforts to develop technology that can wean both countries
of their dependency on fossil fuels. The funding runs out this year.
Trump would not have renewed the project. Biden can do so and should
even expand it.
course, just talking would be a good start. The United States and
China need to dial back tensions over Taiwan, the South China Sea,
and the global economy. Biden will likely move quickly to lower the
temperature so that he can focus on cleaning up some other foreign
same applies to Russia. Despite some rather conventional hawkish
language about Russia, Biden is clearly
in reducing the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. military policy. He
is not only skeptical about the huge cost of modernizing the U.S.
arsenal but has shown some support for
a no-first-use pledge,
which would put him to the left of Obama. These positions should
facilitate arms control negotiations with Russia, beginning with an
extension of New START, even if the two sides remain far apart on
issues like Ukraine, human rights, and energy politics.
prospects for a resumption of negotiations with North Korea are
perhaps not as rosy. Biden will probably order a strategic review of
relations with Pyongyang, which will conclude after several months
with various recommendations for cautious engagement. Those
proposals, not terribly different from the ones that the Obama
administration embraced in 2008, will not entice North Korea to give
up its nuclear program. There might be negotiations, but they won’t
be any more successful than the Trump administration’s efforts.
end result: the same “strategic patience” approach of the Obama
years. But perhaps a more flexible Biden administration will allow
South Korea to move forward with its own slow-motion engagement with
Greater Middle East
tilted U.S. policy toward the Israeli hard line. He was a great deal
more accommodating of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States,
particularly around Yemen and human rights. And he substantially
escalated tensions with Iran.
first and perhaps least controversial step will involve the nuclear
deal the Obama administration negotiated with Tehran. Biden has
indicated that he favors rejoining the pact, and Iran would welcome
such a move. To begin with, he’ll likely negotiate
the removal of Trump-era sanctions
in exchange for Iran reversing some of the nuclear moves it has made
over the last three years.
option for a Biden administration to jumpstart the process would be
to revoke National Security Policy Memorandum 11, which formally
ended U.S. participation in the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, on day one of
his administration,” the National Iranian American Council
“Sanctions-lifting could be accomplished by the same mix of
statutory waivers, Executive order revocations, and U.S. sanctions
list removals as performed by President Obama when implementing the
initial U.S. commitments under the nuclear accord.”
can’t come too soon. Iran will hold its presidential election by
June 2021, and the reformists need to demonstrate that their strategy
of engagement with the United States is still effective. The reform
in last spring’s parliament elections.
important first move would be for Biden to end U.S. support for the
Saudi-led war in Yemen. The cancellation of all military assistance,
from intelligence-sharing to spare parts for planes, would seriously
compromise the war effort, and it’s a move that even
some Senate Republicans
support. “He should publicly and privately tell the Saudis that he
will do this on day one,” Erik Sperling of Just Foreign Policy told
“This will pressure them into negotiations and may end the war
before he even enters the White House.”
Saudis, not thrilled at Biden’s victory, have been slow
their congratulations. In addition to his stance against the Yemen
war, the next president will take a harder line on Saudi human rights
violations, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the
Saudi embassy in Turkey.
the other hand, Biden might find a bit more common ground with Saudi
Arabia in piecing together a new approach to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. Donald Trump put a heavy thumb on the scale to favor
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Biden will seek to
correct the balance. Writes
in the Middle
is very likely that once Biden enters the Oval Office, his foreign
and national security team will renew contacts with the Palestinian
Authority, reinstate the Palestinian embassy in Washington and
re-open the US Treasury’s pipes to allow the smooth flow of
financial aid to the Palestinians, which were blocked and closed by
the outgoing administration.
sources close to the Biden campaign, Middle East Eye also learned
that the CIA will once again cooperate with its Palestinian
counterparts and engage in mutual security collaboration to tackle
terror threats. But at the same time, PA President Mahmoud Abbas will
be asked to tone down anti-Israeli rhetoric and to resume talks with
favors a two-state solution, but it’s not clear whether this option
still exists after Trump and Netanyahu teamed up to undermine the
Palestinian negotiating position.
Crisis and Security
the progressive wing of the Democratic Party – or major political
parties in Europe and other countries – Joe Biden has not fully
embraced a Green New Deal. Instead he has put forward his “clean
energy revolution,” which envisions a carbon-neutral United States
by 2050 and would invest around $1.7 trillion into job creation in
clean energy and infrastructure.
positions on the climate crisis are in marked contrast to Trump’s
denialism. According to the
not only recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate
change – he will go much further than that. He will lead an effort
to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic
climate targets. He will make sure those commitments are transparent
and enforceable, and stop countries from cheating by using America’s
economic leverage and power of example. He will fully integrate
climate change into our foreign policy and national security
strategies, as well as our approach to trade.
plan, if implemented, “would reduce US emissions in the next 30
years by about 75 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide or its equivalents,”
“Calculations by the Climate Action Tracker show that this
reduction would be enough to avoid a temperature rise of about 0.1C
the goals of the Paris agreement is certainly a major improvement
over Trump. But those goals themselves are insufficient. The pledges
at Paris would still result in an increase
of more than 3 degrees Celsius,
well above the 2-degree target. Moreover, those pledges were
voluntary, and many countries are not even meeting
those modest goals.
course, Biden will face considerable resistance from the Republican
Party for even his modified Green New Deal. That’s why he has to
focus on the jobs and infrastructure components to force the
Republicans to appear “anti-job” if they stand in the way of the
“clean energy revolution.”
pay for his Green transition, Biden plans to rescind the tax cuts for
the wealthy and leverage private-sector funds. He hasn’t discussed
reallocating funds from a sharply reduced military budget. Indeed,
about reducing military spending at all, though he favors
reducing American military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Biden is rather unexceptional when it comes to his views on American
exceptionalism. The Foreign
that outlined his foreign policy approach was titled “Why American
Must Lead Again,” after all.
Biden was focusing more on the “soft power” side of American
leadership: leading on climate change, human rights and democracy,
nuclear non-proliferation. His tone in the Foreign
article is a welcome antidote to Trump’s bombast: “American
leadership is not infallible; we have made missteps and mistakes. Too
often, we have relied solely on the might of our military instead of
drawing on our full array of strengths.” He emphasizes diplomacy,
international cooperation, openness.
Biden will be the president of the United States of America, not the
Democratic Socialists of America. He believes that the United States
has a right to intervene militarily overseas if necessary. He views
the United States as a honest broker to mediate in parts of the world
– the Middle East, East Asia – where the United States is hardly
neutral. He will, like Obama, sell weapons, and lots of them, to
almost any country with the cash to buy them (and even some that
if that weren’t enough, he’ll have a still-strong “America
First” constituency in Congress scrutinizing his every move, eager
to label him a “traitor.”
international community, although welcoming the new president, will
understandably remain wary of the United States. Dr. Jekyll will be
back in charge in the White House, but who’s to say that Mr. Hyde
won’t return in four years, or even make some guest appearances
before the next election?
simply doesn’t make a lot of sense to entrust leadership to a
country with a severe personality disorder.