The Donald Trump Presidency has come to an end. His foreign policy strategy best described as “America first,” has resulted in strained relationships with allied countries, the withdrawal from many international agreements and a scaled back global role comparative to the one the US has played for generations.
As of Saturday, November 7, Joe Biden was projected to be President-elect alongside his Vice President Kamala Harris. Many world leaders have taken a sigh of relief, and even celebrated this election in hopes that a more traditional US posture will be restored.
The new President-elect has been critical of the incumbent President’s foreign policy strategy, stating in a Foreign Affairs article, “For 70 years, the United States, under Democratic and Republican presidents, played a leading role in writing the rules, forging the agreements, and animating the institutions that guide relations among nations and advance collective security and prosperity — until Trump.”
Biden has advocated for restoring long standing alliances, a recommitment to international organizations and the return of a United States that is a dependable figure on the center of the global stage. Much has changed since Biden was last in the White House as Obama’s VP. Leaders of some of America’s alliances have been goaded by Trump, while rivals and dictators have been enabled by his presidency. Notably, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and others have exploited Trump’s vanity and boosted his ego for their personal gain- some have even crowned themselves dictators for life.
The election of Biden, a veteran politician, symbolizes a dramatic shift in not only the American public’s political views, but also a shift in America’s attitude towards the rest of the world. But, what exactly does this mean for America’s foreign policy stance and its role in the world?
Reconnecting with allies
With Biden’s expansive foreign policy experience, his first move will likely be on the offensive, taking a diplomatic approach to patch up relations with allies- notably those in Europe. During Trump’s Presidency, he frequently questioned the purpose of NATO, which provoked ill-will and tempted some European countries to question their reliance on the US and begin their search for alternatives.
Europe’s appraisal of American leadership has become increasingly cynical due to the flagrant and unpredictable behavior of the Trump Administration, and in no means will the Biden Administration be able to simply return to old patterns of liaison.
Biden has promised he will return to a foreign policy that is mainstream, familiar and reassuring to US allies. Writing in Foreign Affairs, “As president, I will do more than just restore our historic partnerships; I will lead the effort to reimagine them for the world we face today.”
According to Trump the Paris climate accord places a burden on the US economy and the World Health Organization is controlled by China. There is little evidence to back these claims, and Biden plans to rejoin both during his presidency.
The rejoining of the Paris climate agreement will be a serious step towards the US regaining international trust. Biden has an ambitious climate plan with a goal to set the US on a path to be net-zero in carbon emissions by 2050; however, the US has a lot of catching up to do with major players like the EU and China.
During Biden’s time as VP, the US and other world powers signed the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018. Iran has since surpassed the limits of uranium enrichment that were placed on the nuclear program. The United States has imposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy which has only been damaged further by the pandemic.
Biden says, in his Foreign Affairs article, that Iran “must return to strict compliance with the deal. If it does so, I would rejoin the agreement and use our renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend it.”
Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
Although Biden supported the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during his time as a Senator, he has since called for “bring[ing]the vast majority of our troops home from the wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East and narrowly define our mission as defeating al-Qaida and the Islamic State” (Foreign Affairs).
A preliminary deal with the Taliban has called for the US to pull their 4,500 troops out of Afghanistan by May. This could be a difficult choice for Biden, considering the US and Afghanistan have long tried to form a permanent peace agreement with the extremist group, but violence is yet to end.
Clarifying a Stance on China
By imposing tariffs on China that led to a trade war, Trump has heightened tensions with China leaving many to question where the Biden Administration plans to stand on areas of conflicting interest.
The Biden campaign has stated that they will pursue a strategy of both cooperation and competition. With the US military viewing China as a threat, Biden has said that he supports the efforts to strengthen security agreements and alliances within the region.
Biden is yet to share a clear roadmap on this issue, other than stating he will confront Beijing.
Regardless of what Biden does have planned for the next four years, it’s important to acknowledge the significant voter turnout for Trump during the election. America remains deeply divided, and allies of the US recognize it. Foreign policy success in the US goes further than regaining the trust of former allies and standing firm against its enemies. Biden must create international confidence in a united nation which will be no easy task.
Cover photo by Sawyer Sutton via Pexels