Biden Says ‘America Is Back’, But American Allies Aren’t So Sure | Voice of America
In his meetings with G-7 and North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies in Europe last week, President Joe Biden missed no opportunity to repeat his assertion that “America is back ”on the world stage and ready to take the lead in solving big problems like the climate. change, the rise of authoritarianism, cybersecurity and the distribution of coronavirus vaccines to low and moderate income countries.
Among other things, Biden rallied the leaders of some of the world’s largest democracies to a plan to create a global infrastructure fund, called the Build Back Better World Partnership, or B3W, with the specific purpose of challenging the belt and the eight years of China. Road Initiative (BRI).
The name of the program is a very deliberate reminder of Biden’s campaign motto which pledged that it would help the United States “build back better” after the devastation of the pandemic.
In announcing the program, he described it as “fairer” than the Chinese BIS, and said that B3W “will not only be good for countries, but … good for the whole world and will represent values that our democracies represent, not autocratic values, lack of values.
After four years of a Trump administration, which tore up deals, trampled on standards and upset longtime allies, Biden’s comments were greeted warmly. But for many, the promises ring hollow, say experts such as Hans Kundnani, a senior research fellow at the European Program at Chatham House, a think tank on international affairs in London.
Although they recognize that international cooperation is essential to solve global problems, Kundnani said that “Europeans do not see the United States as a particularly reliable or consistent partner”.
“Overall, I would say there is a lot of skepticism about this idea that America is ‘back’,” he said. “In particular, there is this feeling among Europeans (…) that maybe another Trumpian president will be elected in four years. I think Trump’s shock is hard to forget.
This is a dark message echoed by experts in the United States.
“The question of US reliability is going to be a major challenge for the Biden administration,” said Barbara Bodine, former US ambassador to Yemen and a three-decade veteran of the US foreign service.
“There just has to be in the back of anyone’s mind this question: Will a deal made by the United States, with a friend or an enemy, survive another round of administration?” ” she said.
Writing in World Politics Review, Stewart M. Patrick, director of the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations, made a similar observation.
“The Trump era has cast doubt on the sustainability of the United States in the world, encouraging its close allies in Europe and Asia to hedge their bets against a suddenly capricious America … and demolished what little remained of the bipartisan internationalist consensus. . Democrats and Republicans now inhabit a different foreign policy. planets, ”he wrote.
How did we get here?
The past few years have produced a series of shocks among U.S. allies, who have come to take for granted an America that, while not always perfectly consistent in its actions, is at least not erratic.
The 2016 election was the first of those shocks, Chatham House’s Kundnani said, because like most Americans, most American allies did not expect the United States to elect a former USA star. reality TV with no political experience to run the country.
Other upheavals abound for the American allies, as the former president attacks NATO and tries to forge closer relations with the authoritarian regimes from Pyongyang to Moscow. But the next major shock came in 2018, when Trump pulled the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, informally known as the Iran nuclear deal.
Most Europeans had never looked beyond the Obama administration’s support for the deal, and therefore failed to understand that a lack of Republican support at the national level required Obama to seal the deal with a easily repealed executive action rather than binding legislation.
Another look at the 2020 elections
All in all, Trump would withdraw the United States from at least 13 major international agreements, organizations, and even treaties, often in a way that seemed arbitrary and capricious to allies.
So, as the 2020 election approached, these allies saw the vote as a signal to suggest whether the Trump administration was an aberration or an indication that some kind of permanent change had taken place in the United States.
With his 2020 victory in hand, Biden was quick to present the result as proof that the United States is ready to reclaim its former place as leader of the world’s democratic nations. But many American allies received a very different message from the election result.
Granted, Biden won the presidency with more than 81 million votes, the most ever won by a presidential candidate. But Trump still received more than 74 million votes – the second-highest number on record for a presidential candidate, and more than 11 million more votes than he had received four years earlier.
So, while Biden insists on America’s return, Kundnani says Europeans see something very different. “What Europeans look at when they look at America is a deeply divided country – deeply polarized in every way we know,” he said.
This has profound implications for how other countries treat the United States when it comes to long-range planning.
Form of future agreements
The Build Back Better World partnership will be a major challenge for the Biden administration. Getting countries to sign up to billions of dollars in long-term financing deals that will affect their development for decades to come will depend on their belief that the program will still exist when Biden is no longer in the White House.
And that will be true not only for B3W, but for any major multilateral initiative undertaken by Biden.
Bodine, now director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, said that at a minimum, she expected allies that make major multilateral agreements with the United States to insist that ‘There are “tightly defined withdrawal provisions,” even though, she noted, the Trump administration has ignored its withdrawal obligations in the Iran nuclear deal.
More generally, she said, she expects international agreements to be structured to survive a potential exit from the United States, noting that other countries have already started to adjust the agreements to it. absence of the United States.
After Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement in 2020, other countries voted to honor their commitments. And when the United States walked out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal early in Trump’s presidency, the region’s major economies forged ahead – and hosted the United States’ biggest regional rival, the United States. China, in the pact.
Biden’s biggest advantage here is that he has long-standing personal relationships with leaders around the world and is widely seen as a man of his word. But its biggest drawback is something it can’t really control: the back and forth of the American political system between heavily polarized parties that override each other’s commitments.
“The problem is not Joe Biden’s credibility; it is the credibility of our political system, ”said Bodine.
Recalling former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who once called the United States an “indispensable nation,” Bodine said she feared that a United States unable to persuade other nations to make commitments. seriously can “go from indispensable to inconvenient to irrelevant.” . “