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Joe Biden’s disappointing foreign policy

On January 20, 2021, when Joe Biden, considered to be one of the most experienced foreign policy Presidents entered the White House, the hopes were high. During the election campaign, he had committed to provide a ‘trusted leadership’ to democratic world against expansion of authoritarian Russia and China; to revive the Trump-damaged US credibility as a security and economic partner; and to settle Iran and Afghanistan imbroglios apart from addressing US issues with South Americans. The package of promises also included a joint stand against Covid-19 and much-hyped foreign-sponsored cyberattacks/espionage. It was actually a pledge to reverse Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ approach that had undermined Washington’s central role in the world arrangement. But after the lapse of roughly one and a half year, when foreign policy observers analyze the situation, it looks bleak.

Let us start from Afghanistan. Since Barack Obama’s tenure, the US had been trying to get out of the Afghan quagmire, in a respectable manner, but could not make a break-through. Joe Biden, immediately after assumption of charge, declared that American mission in Afghanistan had been completed as it was no more a safe haven for the terrorists. He committed to abandon the country by September 11, a date, which was later moved to August 31. Biden’s announcement was based upon the ‘Classified Intelligence Assessment’ that American-backed Afghan government could possibly sustain two to three years after the departure of international forces. However, what happened on the fateful day of August 15, was simply shameful for Washington. Despite spending $8 trillion and, directly or indirectly, becoming instrumental in 90,000 killings in Afghanistan since 2001, the US had failed to uproot the extremists and organize an indigenous political system which could endure even for few weeks, at its own. A cost-benefit analysis of the ‘war on terror’ is sufficient to horrify any sane person. Fairly speaking, Joe Biden could not be alone held responsible for what happened in Afghanistan but being in-charge at the time of debacle he had to cut a sorry figure. His shameful failure actually lie in the fact that he could not plan the exit properly as well as timely. No justification of this derelict will be accepted by the political analysts of the present or the future. Icing on the cake is the fact that Taliban are reported to be hands-in-glove with ‘Al-Qaeda’ and ‘Islamic State’; and they are not allowing any space to the progressive elements of their country.

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During Trump days mostly China had remained under focus and Russia was not so intensely targeted by his administration. However, through 2021 in general and after Putin’s February 24, 2022 Ukraine invasion in particular, Russia has been the prime adversary. Joe Biden’s strong stance against the Moscow’s aggression was endorsed by the American public at mass-scale level and the CBS News Poll held in March reflected 75% support for Biden’s measures. In the UN General Assembly, 141 states condemned and only 05 favored Russia. The NATO countries stood whole-heartedly united in America’s leadership to provide all political, economic and military support to Ukrainian resistance. The importance attached by Biden administration to this conflict can be gauged by the fact that during his 2022- State of the Union Address, President Joe Biden allocated 12 minutes i.e. 20% time to Ukraine issue out of his 60-minutes speech. However, the outcome of the whole effort has been dismal. Putin has continued advancing as per his plan without any signs of change in his standpoint. On the other side, the US seems to have lost the initiative and suffering from stalemate. This situation has cast shadows of doubt on the US potential to deliver and its partners in Europe and elsewhere are becoming restive. Parallel to it, Russia has politically benefitted from the US inability to sort-out Iran, influence post-withdrawal Afghanistan and play a meaningful role in Syrian civil war. All this points towards Biden administration’s crucial policy and execution deficiencies.

US-Iran tussle has passed through many ups and downs since 1979-Revolution but Iran’s nuclear ambitions intensified it some two decades ago. A nerve-racking series of parleys lead to ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ (JCPOA) in 2015 under which Iran consented to dismantle certain objectionable fragments of its nuclear program and open its provisions to extensive international inspections in lieu of a billion-dollar sanctions relief. Although P5+1 (US, UK, Russia, China and France +Germany) were the signatories and the EU supported it but President Donald Trump’s withdrawal in 2015, due to his dissatisfaction with the outcome, made the settlement meaningless. The decision provided Iran an opportunity to revive a portion of its nuclear activities. During his election campaign, Joe Biden had indicated to restore the agreement provided Iran comes back into compliance. After assumption of charge by Biden, renewed diplomacy did start and at the outset it seemed promising. However, after stop-and-go negotiations during last eighteen months, the result is almost nil and future prospects are unclear. Most probably President Joe Biden lacks resolve on this issue as well like many others. He seems to be in habit of working by fits and starts: a tendency which not only slows the process of decision-making but also nullifies its efficacy.

The high-note of Donald Trump’s presidency was continuous tension with China, for one reason or the other, ultimately leading to a ‘trade war’ and sanctions on Chinese technology companies. The political and commercial stake-holders were optimistic at the beginning of President Biden’s tenure and expected de-escalation of Trump-created stress. However, all the hopes in this connection have dashed to the ground particularly due to events of the near-past. Washington’s self-contradictory ‘Taiwan Policy’ has been the root-cause of China’s anxiety during Biden’s period apart from clash of interest in international business and newly-emerging realities in global politics. The landing of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US Congress, in Taipei on August 2, 2002 prompting China’s military drills aggravated the already strained situation. The White House added seven more Chinese entities to its already long ‘Export Control List'(ECL) on August 23 resulting in suspension of US-China talks relating to several areas of co-operation and sanctioning of Nancy Pelosi.  Though Russia-Ukraine war has become the immediate concern but China remains a strategic priority for the US. The ‘Strategic Concept-2022 presented during NATO Summit in Madrid dated 28-30 June cited China as a challenge to their interests, security and values. What turn the events will take? It is anybody’s guess. Joe Biden has to take some meaningful steps to normalize his dealings with China.

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President Joe Biden has always highlighted the importance of the South America for the US. and pledged to do something substantial for them regarding migration, clean energy and health infrastructure. However, nothing concrete has emerged as yet. The US influence in Middle East and Africa has also been dwindling; and both of its adversaries have expanded their role i.e. Russia in Middle East and China in Africa. President Joe Biden badly needs to appraise his foreign policy and initiate valiant corrective measures.

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