The first steps of Joe Biden’s administration in foreign policy will have to address the various problems caused by Donald Trump during his mandate.
For a president like Biden, who intends to re-establish international alliances frozen by Trump’s isolation and to resume the world leadership traditionally exercised by the US, the situation seems delicate. Biden will follow the same foreign policy as Obama, for example with Cuba and Iran after the Trump administration disrupted these relations during his term. The US president intends to return to the nuclear pact with Iran signed in 2015, from which Trump withdrew in 2018. Biden opposed the expansion of the contingent in Afghanistan in 2010 and the intervention in Libya, and during the campaign was opposed to participating in “unnecessary wars.”
Antony Blinken, head of the State Department chosen by Joe Biden, comes to office with a lesson learned. Aware of the consequences of Obama’s refusal to intervene in Syria, he also knows that it was a mistake to have initially supported Saudi Arabia in the Yemen war. His appointment was well received in Israel, whose country he has always defended, and which will also benefit from a strengthening of military collaboration after the Pentagon. The goal is to improve relations with Iran and all countries in the region. A testament to the Iranian prominence in the Biden administration’s foreign policy was the appointment of Wendy Sherman as number two at the State Department. A veteran career diplomat, Sherman led the U.S. negotiations on the nuclear pact with Iran.
Both Blinken and Jake Sullivan, a future National Security Adviser and also a participant in the negotiations with Iran in the Obama Administration, advocate for more toughness toward China, although at the same time they are aware of the cost and attrition of such a conflict against the largest global superpower, especially in the current pandemic situation. The attempts at improving the relationship with the European Union after the UK’s exit and with NATO after four years of pressure by Trump increase more and more. Conciliation with Iran will apparently have no equivalent in relations with Venezuela and Cuba, as Sullivan advocates diplomatically forcing the fall of Nicolás Maduro and renewed pressure on Havana to isolate the Chavista leader.
Nevertheless, relations between the U.S. and China are in a bad spot and seem destined to get even worse. It has become commonplace to describe the US-China relationship as a new “Cold War”. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Alaska on March 18th. In the meeting between Antony Blinken and Wang Yi (foreign minister) criticism was exchanged. Blinken criticized China on issues of human rights, cyber-attacks, and economic coercion. He also said that the assertive and authoritarian behavior of the Chinese government threatens the system of rules that governs global stability. His Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, responded that Beijing follows UN rules and demanded that the US stop forcing its own version of democracy on others, especially when it has to deal with its internal divisions.
There were no illusions in Biden’s team. Before the meeting, Blinken had said that “this is not a strategic dialogue” and that “there is no intention at this time for a series of subsequent engagements.”
State Department: Ministère des Affaires étrangères, National Security Adviser: Conseiller à la sécurité nationale, NATO: OTAN, UN: ONU