Foreign Policy

“America is again,” says Biden

In his first major US foreign policy address on Thursday, President Joe Biden mixed up the old and the new and called for the restoration of multilateralism and US alliances, while at the same time introducing a new organizational principle for national security: the good of the American middle class .

In his remarks, largely a reprimand for former President Donald Trump, Biden said he had a message for the world: “America is back. Diplomacy is once again at the center of our foreign policy. “He also said the world should be encouraged by the results of the Trump-provoked riots in the Capitol on Jan. 6, and stated so Americans are “better equipped to unite the world in the struggle to defend democracy – because we fought for it ourselves”.

Overall, the speech was presented as a mix of populist, anti-Wall Street ideas emerging from the powerful progressive wing of the Democrats and Biden’s avowed intention to make the rest of the world forget the turbulent four years of Trump’s presidency and, instead, those to see The United States is once again a world leader and a force for democracy and human rights.

The biggest news was Biden’s announcement that the United States would cease supporting Saudi Arabia’s military offensive in the Yemen war, saying, “This war must end.” He appointed a special envoy for the conflict, US International Service Officer Timothy Lenderking. He also said he would reverse Trump’s plan to withdraw thousands of US troops from Germany.

[Join the Conversation: Michael Hirsh will discuss President Joe Biden’s first major foreign-policy address with Elise Labott, a journalist and adjunct professor at American University, in a discussion for FP subscribers moderated by editor-in-chief Ravi Agrawal on Friday, Feb. 5 at 12 p.m. EST. Register now, or subscribe for access.]

In other respects, the speech was largely single-minded, revealing few details about his key actions against adversaries and rivals such as China, Iran, Russia and North Korea, which his national security adviser Jake Sullivan had under control earlier in the review. But Biden said he wanted to “stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies and key partners once more”.

What the president didn’t talk about on what was sometimes a hesitant matter was how he would repair the damage in relations with Europe – other than to keep troops in Germany – or develop a multilateral approach to pressure China. The administration has not expressed a desire to return to the Trump-canceled transatlantic trade and investment partnership negotiations, and its efforts to halt the EU-China investment pact announced late last year have failed.

He signaled a new hardship towards Russia and China and said: “The American leadership must face this new moment of growing authoritarianism.” He called for the release of Russian dissident Alexey Navalny and recently imprisoned Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi – without saying what steps he could take to achieve this.

The most important new element was Biden’s focus on the working class: “There is no longer a clear line between foreign and domestic policy. Every action we take must be taken with American working families in mind. Emphasizing his focus on renewing the domestic economy and his’ Buy America ‘plan, Biden added,’ If the rules of international trade are not stacked against us … there is no country on earth that can do with us can keep up. “

Biden’s remarks reflected the views of Sullivan, who had long criticized previous democratic foreign policy, including that of former President Barack Obama, under whom he served, for promoting unfair trade deals that give work a boost, civic jobs and Had sacrificed livelihoods. Part of the language showed how deeply the progressive ideas are embedded in democratic politics. “Our priority is not to get Goldman Sachs in China,” said Sullivan at a meeting in the White House before Biden’s speech.

The president, who spent his first two weeks in office re-establishing multilateral agreements and institutions that Trump threw down – mainly by re-entering the Paris Climate Pact and World Health Organization and extending the new START arms control treaty with Russia – said, the cause of multilateralism is all the more urgent today.

“We must address this new moment of accelerating global challenges – from a pandemic to the climate crisis to the proliferation of nuclear weapons – challenges that can only be solved by nations that work together,” said Biden.

Biden said he has spoken with major US allies such as Canada, Britain, France, Germany, NATO, Mexico, Japan, South Korea and Australia over the past few weeks to “reformulate the habits of working together and rebuilding the muscle more democratically Alliances that have withered in the past four years of neglect and, I would argue, abuse. … American alliances are our greatest asset. “He also said that he would increase the upper limit on the number of refugee admissions imposed by Trump by about eight times.

And in a direct reprimand against Trump’s conspiracy theorizing about a “deep state” – the government bureaucracy that the previous president said it wanted to undermine – Biden praised State Department staff in separate remarks, saying, “I promise You that it is me will have your back. I promise you. And I expect you to have the back of the American people. … You are the center of everything I plan to do. You are at the heart of it. ”

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