Joe Biden has been elected as the 46th president of the United States. As a former vice president and senator, he has spearheaded the US military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan. Despite this, he is not a pure interventionist who views military operation as the only means to maintain international order. There are occasions that he criticised and advised the US president not to embark on military intervention. For example, he objected to the military operation in Kuwait in 1991 and the retaliation on the Bashar Al-Assad regime on grounds of human rights violations, which later made Syria the center for terrorist operation.
The US foreign policy under Trump administration
When Donald Trump came into office, he viewed the trade deal and relations with its allies as the US’s burden. He believed that US allies such as Japan, South Korea and countries in Europe have gained a lot of benefits in terms of economy and security. He slammed NATO members for being delinquent on meeting their share of expenses while the US paid nearly 70 percent of NATO’s expenditure. He abandoned the Iran Nuclear Deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership, Paris Climate Accord, and even withdrawing the US from the World Health Organization. The withdrawal from these organisations and agreements has put the US leadership into question, particularly with its allies such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan whose securities depend largely on their mutual Defense Agreement with the US.
Trump’s rhetoric of making America great again, his embrace of unilateralism and adoption of the “America First” policy have alienated the US from its key allies. Under Joe Biden, these policies will very likely be reversed as the US looks set to cooperate with its allies across the globe to restore and enhance their regional and global interests. Biden has affirmed foreign leaders including the UK’s Boris Johnson, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and Germany’s Angela Markel who had sent him congratulatory messages that ‘America is back in the game, you can count on us’. This is a clear signal that the US is returning to multilateralism and will undertake its role as a world leader to maintain and promote public interests.
The US Foreign Policy under Biden administration
The US foreign policy under the Biden administration may not look at external threats differently from the Trump administration because Biden also views Russia and China as threats to the US’s security and global leadership. However, Biden will possibly opt for different policy options and strategies that he deems are necessary for the US and its allies to gain greater interests.
The US foreign policy will likely revert back to multilateralism and the US will utilise offshore balance of power to counter its rival. The US will deepen its relations with its allies to support international institutions and uphold international law. In Europe, for instance, the US as well as the NATO members will increase their defense budget. They are likely to admit Ukraine into NATO as this will help to defend Europe from Russia. They will also increase budget in other defense areas such as information technology and cyber security.
Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons will be one of the top priorities for the US foreign policy. Although Biden also supported Trump in negotiations with Kim Jong Un, he preferred strict measures to force North Korea to make concessions through cooperation with its allies and China. Biden also criticised Trump for withdrawing the US from the Iran Nuclear Deal, which is the only system to keep Iran in check and prevent it from developing nuclear weapons that could potentially destabilise the region. It is possible under the Biden administration that Iran can reenter the Iran nuclear deal with prior agreements; however, sanctions will only be lifted when Iran adheres to all the previous conditions.
For Biden, the US can regain its superpower status only when it maintains the international system and norms having been maintained by the international institutions and regimes. He will try to promote democracy and convene the summit for democratic countries that aim to strengthen human rights and democracy, and fight corruption. Moreover, he views international trade law has been violated by China as the Chinese government has been accused of stealing information technologies from US companies. So, Biden is likely to cooperate with its allies and international institutions against China.
Overall, the Biden’s foreign policy seems to cover a variety of issues ranging from restoring the international order to promoting peace in the Middle East. However, achieving such a great foreign policy goal will be very hard. First, if the US want to gang up with its allies to counter China, it has to relinquish harping on issues of democracy and human rights; otherwise, it would complicate relations with its allies as some of them such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam are not really democratic countries. Second, it may not be possible to alienate its regional rival such as China because most countries in the region are not ready to choose side. For example, Asean is the largest trading partner of China while Japan and South Korea are the third and fourth, respectively. Though they have security ties with US, they still need China as its trading partner.
Rim Sokvy is a fresh graduate from the Department of International Studies majoring in International Relations. He is currently an intern at Cambodian Education Forum