Biden to look beyond crisis management in 2022

Another major Democratic Party objection to Trump’s policies centered on climate change. As Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Agreement, Biden quickly joined him. He also attended the COP26 conference on climate change. Biden and his party have also addressed climate change in their domestic politics.

Another key political area in which Biden seeks to reverse Trump’s policies is the Iran nuclear deal. Signed in 2015 under the Obama administration, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action aimed to impose constraints on Iran’s nuclear program. Trump withdrew from the multilateral agreement in 2018 and imposed heavy sanctions on Iran. The Biden team has continued talks with Iran to return to the deal, although with little noticeable progress so far.

Biden also worked to partially roll back Trump’s policies toward Israel and the Palestinians. The Biden administration has expressed support for a two-state solution and restored economic and humanitarian funding to the Palestinians, which Trump had cut. However, the Biden administration has done very little to continue a peace process, continues to express its strong support for Israel and has no plans to reverse Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

Partners and adversaries alike know Trump could be president again in just a few years, presenting a major complication for Biden’s foreign policy. It’s hard to persuade the world that the Trump era is an aberration when the current White House cannot guarantee that Trump will not return to power.

One area of ​​agreement between Biden and Trump is that both wanted the United States to withdraw from the war in Afghanistan. In a deal with the Taliban, the Trump administration agreed to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan, but it was Biden who implemented the withdrawal. While it is debatable whether a more peaceful withdrawal was possible, the reality is that it seemed very messy. As the Taliban quickly regained ground, chaos ensued in Kabul. The United States has failed to evacuate many Afghans who had participated in its operations and who now face persecution.

The seemingly haphazard withdrawal of the United States has seriously undermined perceptions of American might. NATO allies felt ignored in the process, complicating Washington’s efforts to reestablish relations with Europe. Particularly after the sudden withdrawal by the Trump administration of large numbers of troops from northern Syria, which put Kurdish allies at risk, the Afghan withdrawal has further cast doubt on the United States as a security partner.

More broadly, the withdrawal demonstrated that the American public and its leaders are tired of the nation-building wars that began with the administration of George W. Bush. Biden has also taken steps to further reduce the United States’ military role in Iraq. There is little appetite for any kind of military activity that is not clearly directly related to the security interests of the United States. The Biden administration is well aware of this and has expressed its intention to try to reorient foreign policy so that it more clearly benefits middle-class Americans. Avoiding ideological nation-building wars and trying to ensure that foreign policy benefits American citizens are positive developments. Nonetheless, the fact that the United States wants to avoid military entanglements will reduce its influence over countries like Russia, China and Iran.

Under Biden, intelligence and defense officials have publicly stated that China is one of the main threats the United States faces. Polls also identify it as the top country of concern for a majority of Americans. Compared to Trump, Biden has taken a calmer approach towards China, but his policies are clearly designed to ward off growing Chinese influence. Biden mainly maintained Trump’s tariffs and said U.S. officials (but not athletes) would boycott the February Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Biden team has actively worked to deepen relations with Indo-Pacific partners who share Washington’s concerns about China.

The Biden administration views China as an increasingly strong economic, military and political competitor. Washington is keenly aware that Beijing is working to assert the superiority of its autocratic style of government, in direct contrast to liberal democracy. The recent Biden Democracy Summit served several purposes for the administration, including building a network of countries that reject China’s more authoritarian approach.

At the same time, the Biden team does not believe it is possible or desirable to isolate China completely. Rather, they seek to balance competition with the pragmatic understanding that the two countries must cooperate on certain economic and environmental issues.

The pandemic has been another priority for the Biden administration, both in foreign and domestic policy. After taking office, Biden called off Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization. While the administration initially focused on vaccinating Americans, it soon began providing vaccines overseas. The United States has now shipped more than 300 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to other countries, as part of Biden’s pledge to deliver more than 1.1 billion doses through 2022. Washington has also took additional steps to help increase vaccine availability globally.

The first year of a presidency often involves crisis management, while developing foreign policy orientations. In 2022, the administration hopes to focus more on implementing strategies. For Biden, managing the pandemic, responding to climate change and relations with China will remain top priorities. He is likely to continue his efforts to reach a deal with Iran, but Washington will keep the pressure on Tehran unless there is an agreement. A second Summit for Democracy is planned.

US presidents set foreign policy priorities, but must adapt as events unfold beyond their control. Relations with Russia are freezing and Biden now faces a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine that threatens American interests in Europe. Moscow understands that Americans are not interested in a new ground war, but Washington has tools it can use to try to deter Russia – a lot will depend on how willing Biden is to use those tools and whether allies will support it.

Obama attempted to move away from the Middle East to Asia, but events on the ground in the Middle East complicated those efforts. Biden is now attempting that same pivot, so far with more success, but he’s not fully in control of the outcome.

Terrorist and extremist movements have already derailed U.S. foreign policy priorities and may do so again, along with many other expected and unexpected challenges. Issues to watch in 2022 include southern border migration, global economic recovery, cybersecurity and North Korea.

Kerry Boyd Anderson is a writer and political risk consultant with over 18 years of experience as a professional analyst on international security issues and political and business risks in the Middle East. Her previous roles include that of Deputy Director of Consulting at Oxford Analytica. Twitter: @KBAresearch

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