Biden’s Foreign Policy: Changing Dynamics
The foreign policy of each country is based on the national interests of that country, But in the 21st Century, there have been comprehensive changes in the mode of determining these national interests. In IR there is a tendency of changing the allies and enemies of a country but its national interests remain eternal. The national interests of a country are determined by various factors like the country’s recent past, its geo-polity, geographical location, and the concurrent needs of the country. Apart from this, there is an important factor in determining the priorities and national interests of the country and that is the mindset and ideology of the leaders and powerheads of a country.
Owing to his America First Policy, the 45th US President Donald Trump (2017-21) made several changes in the foreign policy of the USA. His careless and eccentric statements and senseless acts aroused resentment among the allies of the country. Before Trump, America had been acting as an effective player in the issues like coordination between the countries to maintain a law-based Global Order by acting as a leader in the maintenance of democratic values and human rights, Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Climate change, terrorism etc. But this American First Policy of the Trump Administration started confining this global leader position of America, resulting in a dent in the image of America and its effects all over the world. The resulting Power Vacuum is tried to be filled by the rising Communist Power- The People’s of Republic China. Apart from this a type of uncertainty also sowed in the allies of the USA, resulting in imbalance and uncertainty on the Global Level and shake in the rule-based International System.
Election Night on the 3rd November 2020, and the upcoming weeks proved to be a high voltage drama in America and the World. From carelessness in fighting with Covid pandemic to the violence of Capitol Hill, Trump’s policies led America to divide.
Throughout this period, the newly elected President Joe Biden adopted a patient, mature and statesman-like posture emphasising the unity of the nation and focusing on revamping the US economy and dealing with the pandemic. Throughout the post-election period, Biden highlighted the necessity of a united and imaginative approach to the nation’s problems. This was also the strategy President Biden wanted to adopt regarding the conduct of American foreign relations. Unlike Donald Trump, Biden made his utmost deliberate effort to reach out to many of America’s closest allies in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere.
So between all this chaos when Joe Biden took over the presidential charge with his colleague and famous Human Rights activist Kamala Harris on Feb 20, 2021, the world took a sigh of relief. In his very first declaration regarding the Foreign Policy of the country, Joe Biden gave the slogan “America is back, Diplomacy is back”, indicating towards the end of the “America First” policy of his predecessor. He promised the world that the Biden administration intends to steer a cooperative, multilateral, and much more stable and predictable course. It wishes to engage with both allies and foes and is highly unlikely to pursue an isolationist, protectionist, or semi-authoritarian policy. Joe Biden has promised, for instance, to convene a global “Summit of Democracy” during his first year in office.
In Trump’s regime, the US-Europe relationships deteriorated to almost an unprecedented extent. But now it’s been 5 months since the Biden administration is working and the rumours of the death of US-Europe relationships now appear to be greatly exaggerated. A full-throttled U.S. diplomatic reset with the European Union is well underway to repair and rebuild damaged ties after Donald Trump’s presidency. Unlike Trump, Biden will not try to divide the Europeans to weaken the European Union, thinking that it would give the US more advantage in US-EU trade negotiations, which Trump has mistakenly believed. He is aware of the weight that the European (and other) allies bring to the table and how this strengthens America’s standing and influence in global affairs a great deal. He may also attempt to revive the negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which started in the Obama administration and was soon abandoned by Trump. Unlike Trump, who frequently lambasted NATO and predominantly viewed the EU as a competitor and a “foe,” Biden and his advisers have gone out of their way to reaffirm strong U.S. commitment to Europe and seek to display emotional intelligence. Ticking one more diplomatic box, United States Secretary of State- Antony Blinken, has already participated in the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels in February 2021, where a wide range of topics were discussed, in two NATO ministerial meetings, and in the G7 ministerial meeting in London in person. Apart from this, re-entering the Paris climate agreement and ongoing efforts to salvage the Iranian nuclear agreement, Biden has already re-joined the World Health Organization and joined the COVAX global vaccine initiative, restored U.S. funding to the UN Population Fund, lifted Trump-era Sanctions on International Criminal Court officials, re-entered multilateral arms control arrangements with Russia, and re engaged in a multilateral forum such as the G7 and the G20.
The Middle East is one of the serious challenges that Biden and his foreign policy team have to face now. It was not the same Middle East that Biden had left 4 years ago with the end of the Obama administration. There are new equations and aspects that have been arising over there in the past 4 years in Trump’s Regime. Here it can be said that it is one of the areas of Trumps’ Foreign Policy success. But now the new president needs to focus on the relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
During Trump, radical changes were made like the Abraham Accord and rumours of Secret Security Cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran; these are some of the things to focus on. Moreover, the Trump administration reflected a deep shift in American policy. He tried to become more neutral in the cases of the Middle East and tried to unite countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia, against Iran. Now Biden wants to resume the Nuclear Peace deal with Iran, confronting the confederacy of Israel and Saudi Arabia and UAE.
Regarding Israel, it intends to accept the Abraham Accord and also stick to shifting the US embassy to Jerusalem and also it is not going to undo the recognition of Golan Heights as Israeli territory. But he criticized the neglect of the Palestine Question and also not supporting Israel openly in the current struggle between Israel and Hamas in Gaza Strip.
Regarding Iran, as stated above, Biden intends to revive the nuclear peace deal and also lift out the economic sanctions that were imposed by the Trump Administration. Though the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in January 2020 by the US and the killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in late November 2020 have poisoned the atmosphere and empowered the hardliners in Tehran, however, Tehran’s increasingly desperate economic situation may be a decisive factor in the success of any renewed nuclear negotiations. Regarding Syria and Iraq, it intends to focus on fighting with ISIS and Al-Qaeda but is not likely to increase its military in either country. Regarding Afghanistan, the new administration has stuck to the withdrawal of troops from the country. America would also play a role in the democratic transition of Afghanistan
Relations with Saudi Arabia are a matter of serious concern for the new administration. Though Saudi Arabia’s strategic importance as one of the major allies for the country will affect the country, Biden may have second thoughts about the supply of large and sophisticated military technology to the country but the issue of Human rights may become a contentious issue in this.
From above it can be clearly stated that the new administration, unlike Trump, won’t create a power vacuum in the middle east. Though America’s policy has always mentioned that it wants to maintain peace in the region, it is not going to impact the supremacy of the USA in the region. The new trends show that the USA may not be going to support Israel, as openly as Trump did, and also not going to neglect the question of Palestine. The Policy to stop Iran from getting the Nuclear Weapon will continue. The president is also keen to revive the Iranian Nuclear Deal (The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). Overall the USA is not going to lose its effect, creating a Power Vacuum there and the national interests of the country will be a top priority.
Biden Administration: India, China and QUAD
India has an important role to play in the US foreign policy and there has been continuous improvement in the Indo-US relationships from the regimes of Bill Clinton, George W Bush, Barack Obama and then Donald Trump. Even the new president Joe Biden has been in favour of a strong Indo-US partnership as senator since the decade 1970. He also wrote a letter to the then US president George W. Bush in 2001, to lift off the sanctions imposed on India after the Pokhran Nuclear Tests. He also had a significant contribution to the successful completion of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal in 2008.
But there were also some apprehensions in India regarding the new president Joe Biden. While showing his diplomatic immaturity, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tried to strengthen the support of the Indian Diaspora, for the then US President Donald Trump, by giving the slogan “Abki Baar, Trump Sarkaar” (This time Trump Government) – improvising the popular slogan of BJP “Abki Baar, Modi Sarkaar” (This time, Modi Government) during Lok sabha elections in India; addressing an event, named “Howdy, Modi!”, of more than 50,000 Indian diaspora at Huston in September 2019. This arose resentment among the democrats in the USA and they called it a senseless interference of India in the domestic politics of the USA. Similarly, as the election of Indian origin Kamala Harris as the Vice-President of the USA created a festive atmosphere in India, on the other hand, Mrs Harris’s strict stance on the issues like Kashmir, Human Rights etc. in the past, also gave rise to many apprehensions in the diplomatic circles.
But after analysing the past 5 months of the Biden administration, it appears most of the apprehensions were baseless. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, in a conversation with his Indian Counterpart S. Jaishankar, re-affirmed the growing US-India partnership and discussed issues of mutual concern, including COVID-19 vaccination efforts, regional developments, and next steps in expanding bilateral ties. He also highlighted India’s role as a preeminent U.S. partner in the Indo-Pacific and the importance of working together to expand regional cooperation, including through the Quad.
The Biden Administration has strongly opposed China’s infiltration into the Ladakh region and putting military pressure on India. President Biden himself has described China as a threat to world peace.
Proposed in 2007 by the then Japanese PM Shinzō Abe, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) between the countries like USA-India-Japan-Australia, caught pace in the Trump administration and the first meeting of the foreign ministers of these countries was held in 2019. On the other hand, the organising of a virtual meeting of these QUAD countries by the Biden administration on 12th March 2021, has taken this group to new heights. In this conference, free shipping under international laws, the establishment of peace and security and a new strategy for the Covid Vaccination etc. in the Indo-Pacific region has been announced. Apart from this, some news also claims that China’s aggressive policy on the Indo-China border and violent skirmishes between the two countries has also been discussed in this virtual conference. China is also concerned over this increasing cooperation between these QUAD countries and also states them as “Asian-NATO”.
By giving importance to QUAD, it is clear that the Biden Administration will also continue to follow the policy of stopping China strictly (As there were some apprehensions that the new US government might be in favour of China).
In India, when the growing cases of Covid in April-May-2021 led to a widespread humanitarian tragedy, the USA government, though lately, lifted off the ban on the supply of raw materials required for Vaccine Manufacture. Apart from this the USA government also sent instant medical aid worth more than 80 million USD, to India. In this scenario, the USA is also supporting the demand for a patent-free Covid vaccine of India in order to fight Covid Pandemic.
In this way, by overlooking the past 5 month activities of the new Biden administration it can be clearly stated that: America is regaining its position as a global leader. It will be more sensitive towards the interests of its allies, along with its own national interests. There will be continuous efforts to stop the growing effect of China on the international community. But the recent encouragement to Vaccine Nationalism by the Biden administration also indicates that the radical-nationalist ideology of Donald Trump may also have prevailed in American thoughts for a long period of time.
By Soham Agarwal