Joe Biden, the veteran Democratic politician defeated incumbent conservative populist Donald Trump in the US presidential election.It is a recent record to snatch victory by not allowing any incumbent president to run for a second term.Republican Ronald Regan snatched a landslide victory defeating Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1980 US President Election. Joe’s win as 46th President of America could mark the beginning of a dramatic shift in America’s attitude toward the world. But does that mean things are going back to normal? The former Vice-president, who will take office in January 2021, has promised to be a safe pair of hands for the world. He vows to be friendlier to America’s allies than Trump, tougher on autocrats, and better for the planet. However, the foreign policy landscape may be far more challenging than he remembers.
US President Donald Trump tried to dismantle a syndicate, which wasa rules-based world order established by America after the Second World War. President-elect Joe Biden might resurrect it. But getting almost half of American vote, Trump has lost its moral standing and cannot be seen as the super-powerful leader of the free world. Trump adopted a nakedly transactional foreign policy based entirely on short-sighted local interests. His mercurial approach to global affairs has been described as incoherent and unpredictable. The 45th President of America has destroyed the U.S. image abroad, decimated its diplomatic capacity and undermined long-held alliances, especially in Middle East. In that context, Trump’s doctrine left a destabilized Middle East for the incoming Biden administration to stabilize. So, dealing with the rather chaotic Middle East will be one of Biden’s important challenges. I extrapolate that in some areas, Biden’s policy in the Middle East will only show cosmetic changes. Saudi-Iran rival relationship, Israel’s brutality against the Palestinians, the still-authoritarian government in Middle East will remain the same.
East Asia is a region of uncertainty in many ways. It is not yet clear how the country will react to Trump’s departure as North Korea continues to test nuclear weapons and missiles here. On the other hand, the rise of China as a new military power has also posed a challenge to the region. At the same time, if we consider Russia as a part of East Asia, there is no end to the worries in international relations. The country has ongoing territorial disputes with Japan and tensions with Washington over Moscow. On the other hand, Trump himself has created a kind of distance with Japan and South Korea, two very close allies of the United States.
Apart from this, if a second Arab Spring occurs during Biden’s rule, he will certainly have much more support than Trump. Biden’s first priority now will be to fight the coronavirus and to defend internal racism. The Middle East will also have a place in foreign policy after building good relations with Europe and strengthening its presence in the South China Sea.
Joe’s Middle East Policy would be
in-between Trump-Obama’s Doctrine:
Many countries in the Middle East are still governed by authoritarians- religious leaders, monarchs, and autocrats. The two pillars of the Islamic world are Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, the Persian nation has been challenging the hegemony of Saudis who see themselves as the leaders of the Muslim world.George W Bush bombed Iraq and Afghanistan; Obama shied away from participating militarily in the Syrian and Yemeni wars and signed a nuclear deal or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. The pact was seen as America’s tacit nod to Iran to have its own region of influence. That did not bode well with Saudi Arabia. When Trump came to power and his son-in-law and Middle East adviser Jared Kushner befriended the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), Trump leaned massively towards Riyadh. In 2018 Trump walked out of the JCPOA even though the US’s European allies, who were co-signatories to the deal, objected. His move led to the final deterioration of US relations with Iran and Tehran has stockpiled 10 more times enriched uranium.
Iran went through harsh sanctions but did not come to the table to renegotiate the deal with Trump. Biden has already promised to return to the Iran-US nuclear deal if Iran abides by its commitments and refrains from making a nuclear bomb. Following Obama’s path, Joe will sincerely try to defuse the ongoing tensions with Iran. But the task will not be easy at all. Once the agreement is broken, the Iranians will not easily forget the sweet words of America. They will demand tougher concessions than before, which may not be possible for Biden. Otherwise, if the Conservatives come to power in Iran’s next election, the situation could become even more complicated, as many of them opposed the nuclear deal for the first time.
However, Biden’s efforts to improve relations with Iran will upset Saudi Arabia the most. It is sure that Saudi Arabia’s personal relationship with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, during Trump’s presidency, will not be the same as it was during Biden’s tenure. Biden must not raise the issue of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and demand the justice of Prince MBS, but if Saudi Arabia repeats the same thing during his rule, he will be forced to impose a tough blockade.
Biden has promised in his election campaign that if he comes to power, he will stop the Saudi aggression in Yemen and re-evaluate US relations with Saudi Arabia. But a review of Biden’s past history does not seem credible. Even as relations deteriorated towards the end of the Obama administration, Biden played a key role in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which has been used to launch air strikes on Yemen.
Biden has been a vocal critic of Trump’s policy on the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. But in reality he himself will not do anything that goes against the interests of Israel. Biden feels comfortable identifying himself as a Christian Zionist. Obviously, he will not go against Trump and move the US embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv again. And as in the past, if Israel continues to build illegal installations in violation of international law, it will not interfere or reduce military aid to Israel. But Biden will most likely oppose any Trump-backed bipartisan solution that supports Israel’s plan to annex 30 percent of the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley and the West Bank to Israel. President Trump cutting off 600 million in financial aid to the Palestinians, closing the Palestinian envoy’s office in Washington, Biden is likely to resume them. Although these initiatives have not resulted in a solution to the long-term Palestinian problem, for now the Palestinian people will be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Biden’s position on Iraq and Afghanistan would be somewhat realistic. Trump promised to bring the entire army back to the country, but in the end he could not do so for realistic reasons. On the other hand, Biden has never been in favor of bringing back the entire army. He wants to keep troops in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan in order to maintain US dominance. However, he will not agree to send a new army if there is no unforeseen crisis. Biden will not agree to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. But he has a history of opposing US generals’ plans to step up “counter-terrorism” operations in Afghanistan in 2009. Apart from that, during Obama’s tenure, he also secretly started peace talks with the Taliban. So he may not come out of the Taliban peace talks that started with Trump.It is saying that the issue of Syria was almost non-existent in this election campaign. From there, the idea is that there will be little difference between the two presidents’ policies on Syria. Biden will also maintain a US military presence in northeastern Syria. But the difference will be, he will probably increase support for the Kurds again.
Turkey is a country that is most unhappy with a Biden victory; its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has remained on relatively good terms with Trump but had a rocky relationship with the former vice-president. Biden’s policy on Turkey will also be to increase support for opposition parties. Biden has made it clear he wants to oust President Erdogan by helping opposition parties. Turkey has long been at odds with the United States over the purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia. Apart from that, the way in which Turkey continues to exert its influence in various neighboring countries is also a matter of concern for the United States and Israel. So far, Trump’s personal friendship with Erdogan alone has prevented Congress from doing anything about it. Biden can impose various sanctions on Turkey to weaken the Turkish economy, and hope that the Turkish people will one day take to the streets and start a movement against Erdogan.
Trump’s policy with Biden on Egypt and Libya will not differ much. Although the Obama administration fought Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, Biden himself opposed it. And the United States later withdrew from Libya. Yet Biden will probably follow that same principle. He will support the UN-backed government and perhaps help strengthen the UN mission.In Egypt, Biden was sharply criticized for Trump calling President Abdel Fattah el-Sisih is “favorite dictator,” but in reality Biden himself will not take any action against Sisi. In most dictatorships, including Egypt, Biden’s position will be to defend his image in front of the media by speaking out for democracy and human rights, as well as protecting some activists from prison or the death penalty. But apart from this, even during his tenure, the dictators who are against the public interest will survive in the existing system as before.
In short, Biden does not want extra democratization like Obama, nor does he want extra concessions for dictators like Trump. He would not want to withdraw all troops from the Middle East, nor would he want to send new troops to fight a new war. He will not give Israel a complete exemption like Trump, nor will he help pass a UN bill against illegal Israeli settlements, as in the late Obama administration. If nothing unexpected happens, Biden’s Middle East policy will be in-between Obama and Trump’s doctrine.
What could change US policy in Asia?
It is not yet clear how could change US policy in Asia. Biden is likely to continue building a stronger alliance with India like Trump, who is widely believed to have a close friendship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The biggest factor working in India’s favor right now is the rising global anti-China sentiment. But beyond that, the path to a smooth relationship between the two nations includes a list of issues that Biden will have to address.Biden’s win will mean a multi-faceted, potentially more favorable relationship, especially in trade policies for India, UBS Global Research said in October. Kamala Harris, first Indian-American and African-American vice president, will be the main driving force behind the two countries’ relationship.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihi de Suga congratulated Biden without delay, suggesting he was keen to strengthen existing ties with the United States. However, it is unclear how much Biden will be interested in moving away from Trump’s policies. Like Trump, he continues to put pressure on Japan to reduce the balance of trade, as well as whether he will seek more money from Japan for a US military presence on Japanese soil. In this case, Trump’s position was to extort money from both Japan and South Korea for fear of withdrawing the US military presence. There have been no major disagreements between the two countries in the past over the presence of more than 50,000 US troops in Japan, although there is dissatisfaction with that military presence at the civilian level in Japan. While the Biden administration’s policy of extorting money from allies in the name of military presence is not a priority, the United States may want its allies in East Asia, such as Japan, to play a stronger and more expansive role in maintaining peace and stability in the region. Japan was under similar pressure during the Obama administration. The Japanese leadership is well aware that Japan will have to face criticism from China if it is to do so.
On the other hand, the leaders of Japan and South Korea do not see any possibility of any change in the position of the United States despite the ongoing conflict between Japan and South Korea. The United States wants Japan and South Korea to resolve their differences through dialogue. Although some progress has been made in this regard recently, there is still a gap between the two countries in terms of interpretation of past history. But the biggest obstacle the Biden administration has to deal with in East Asia is its relationship with China. The United States is now economically dependent on China in many ways. On the other hand, China is not lagging behind in terms of military power as before. As a result, the Trump administration is no longer in a position to intimidate China. Japan is now considering whether to find a solution to the problem by adding China to a new multilateral structure, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and Tokyo may influence Washington as well. To do so, however, would require the United States to move away from its tough stance on Taiwan, this would be unwilling to look at the US military industry. Because it is not desirable to stop of earning the huge amount of money from selling military equipment to Taiwanthat Trump started.
Europe is seeing new hope:
The economic relations of the European countries with the United States started from the initial stage of the formation of the EU alliance in 1953 after the Second World War. This relationship has developed steadily since before the Trump era. Ever since Donald Trump came to power in the United States in 2016, the transatlantic development treaties have been mired in mistrust and skepticism. After Trump came to power, relations with Europe’s old allies have been strained for years over the tariffs were imposed on imports of cars, steel and aluminum from Europe, the cancellation of the nuclear deal with Iran, the relocation of the US embassy in Jerusalem and the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, not paying enough to NATO, decision to leave WTO.
With the victory of Joe Biden as President of the United States, European politicians are once again seeing the light of hope in transatlantic friendships and relations. How easily trade and political relations between the United States and Europe can become partners in the coming days or how close they can be to the NATO alliance will depend on the goodwill of both sides. The hope is that the development of transatlantic relations endsin the past, during Biden’s tenure, it will see new hope.
The author is an independent analyst on International Politics.