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Biden’s second trip to Europe tests his promises and hints at an emerging doctrine

Joe Biden was announced as president-elect of the United States just over a year ago. He recently departed for Europe on his second trip to the continent. But what about Biden’s foreign policy towards Europe? What are his priorities and what has this trip revealed about his overall foreign policy vision?

November 16, 2021 - Vladyslav Faraponov - Articles and Commentary

President Joe Biden arrives for the United States-European Union Summit at the European Council in Brussels in June 2021. Photo: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

Since taking the oath of office, Biden has spoken several times on what political scientists call his foreign policy doctrine. It has become clear that the president sees himself as the leader of a democratic world that must now prevent the expansion of China’s global influence. This task is now obviously the highest priority of the Biden administration. Overall, it would be fair to say that he has yet to directly admit to such objectives. However, he has emphasised his scepticism of various authoritarian regimes, such as China, North Korea and Russia.

It may have been expected that Biden’s vision would result in equal efforts to compete with each of these aforementioned regimes. Nevertheless, after nine months in office, Biden’s administration appears to have many more bilateral contacts with Moscow compared to Beijing and Pyongyang. This tendency has caused alarm in many European countries. Indeed, it appears that Russia is now effectively being rewarded for its attempts to undermine US national security through various cyberattacks. International politics should not work this way, but some European capitals may now assume that this is the new reality.

Joe Biden started his first foreign policy speech by declaring that “America is back”. Did France, however, expect that this supposed resurgence would see it lose out in the recent submarine deal between Australia, the UK and the US? Of course, the answer is absolutely not. In fact, Biden admitted that he believed Australia had already told France that the deal would not happen. Such a move is clumsy and it is simply not the way that allies should be treated. On the contrary, the current US administration did not even examine whether the deal was a correct move. This hints at beliefs in Washington that confronting and pressuring China’s global interests is a much more urgent objective.

Due to this, it seems that Biden ought to be more careful with his public statements and not make excuses for himself.

Biden needs more engagement with Europe to challenge China

Biden’s national security strategy is expected to appear late this year or in early 2022. Moscow and Beijing could be directly named as major strategic competitors as they were in Trump’s respective strategy.

It is useful to note that the State Department and the White House are not the only US actors taking an interest in the country’s policy on Europe. For instance, politicians Rob Portman and Jeanne Shaheen recently introduced a critical bill to the Senate regarding transatlantic communication, strengthening US-Europe ties and weakening China’s influence in the region.

There is no doubt that enhancing America’s political and financial presence in Europe would complement Biden’s overall foreign policy agenda. These moves may result in the strengthening of a mutually beneficial hegemony in line with the thoughts of Professor Duncan Snidal. In order to win the war with the world’s autocracies, America should reassure its allies before it is too profitable for them to cooperate with China. Interestingly, the US has not yet experienced any real difficulties with its traditional allies. Biden has stressed many times that he hopes to rebuild trust with Europe after the Trump era. It was more about himself this time with the situation with France and the US-Russia summit in June amid of Russia’s cyberattacks .

The G20 and other platforms should promote a pro-American international order

Biden’s agenda has naturally benefitted from the approval of a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15 per cent during the G20 summit. This move was also backed by the G7 this summer.

At the same time, Biden clashed with China and Russia for not committing to climate change reform and not taking the issue seriously. However, whilst US Special Climate Envoy John Kerry made contact with Chinese officials on 30 separate occasions within one month, the White House was negotiating with Moscow on a broad range of issues, including cybersecurity. These talks did not even mention Moscow’s climate commitments or its position in relation to Europe’s current energy crisis.

International politics may provide Biden with more legitimacy at home

America’s recent state governor elections suggest that the Democrats may lose control of the Senate and the House of Representatives in next year’s midterm elections. As a result, Biden may use the year ahead of the election to promote his domestic agenda and not remain so active on the international stage. At the same time, the Biden administration’s foreign policy currently faces few challenges. Foreign policy success may subsequently help Biden’s approval ratings and shore up the Democrats’ overall popularity.

The decision of Biden’s team to promote a profound shift towards Europe may have helped rescue the president’s doctrine as a whole. Indeed, it remains clear that Washington still needs its friends in the continent. However, what is needed at this point in Biden’s presidency is not just a success story, but a powerful ally to complete foreign policy objectives.

Vladyslav Faraponov is an analyst and journalist at the Kyiv-based Internews-Ukraine and UkraineWorld.


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