A Biden led US Foreign Policy: What to expect from the Stalwart?

Sweta Kumari
November 29th, 2020


Image Courtesy: Times of India

Despite the ongoing fiasco with the US Presidential Election 2020, it is now almost certain that Joe Biden will be the next Commander-in-Cheif of the United States. The entire globe is closely monitoring the transition in the foreign policy of the United States with the end of the Trump era, and commencement of a Biden led administration.  The in-depth understanding and decades of experience in the United States’ foreign policy make Joe Biden one of the diplomatic stalwarts in American politics. Although it has not been very long when in the capacity of the Vice-President, he was involved with crucial decisions of President Barack Obama, the four years of Trump administration has changed the US foreign policy drastically. 


Foreign Policy Blueprint

Joe Biden’s election agenda has promised much undoing and/or altering the way of doing things. In his article, Why America Must Lead Again, published in March- April edition of Foreign Affairs Magazine, Biden has laid out the blueprint of his foreign policy goals. He points out if chosen the next President, he would initiate “immediate steps to renew U.S. democracy and alliances, protect the United States’ economic future, and once more have America lead the world.”  Policy experts have scrutinised the Trump administration for its tendency to undermining the democratic values for getting the job done, whether it was the case of dealing with countries like North Korea and Russia. Biden promises to hold a “Summit for Democracy” in the first year of his Presidency to restore the value of democracy and make America its ‘flag-bearer’ again by bringing nations with shared values together, by tackling with those who oppose the idea and by strengthening the democratic institutions. He acknowledges the impact of climate change and assures that the US will be joining the Paris agreement. He has been vocal about reviving NATO and dealing with Russia and at the same time assuaging the US allies. Biden takes a firm stance on Chinese aggressive behaviour and its disrespect for international law. Biden aims to confront China for its unfair trade practices and its violation of human rights. 

Team Biden

Given his stewardship, it was anticipated that Joe Biden’s foreign policy team would be studded with diplomatic experts. The nominees for critical positions in the new administration have been announced. Antony Blinken for the Secretary of State; Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor and Linda Thomas Greenfield as the Ambassador to the United Nations. All of them have been close confidants of Joe Biden and possess a non-partisan persona in the political sphere. Blinken, for instance,  has been served in National Security Council during the Clinton and Obama administrations. He has been National Security Adviser to Joe Biden when he was the Vice-President and also been Deputy Secretary of State to John Kerry. He was handling the foreign policy agenda of the Biden-Harris campaign.  The experts are seeing Blinken as an “alter ego” of Mike Pompeo who would work as a healer when it comes reassuring the allies of the United States that were either overlooked or harshly scrutinised by the Trump administration. Blinken with his “soft-spoken” disposition and belief in the importance of the alliances (both Europe and Asia ) in the US foreign policy would be instrumental in regaining the American credibility as the security enabler. Thus, team Biden would try to be everything that Trump administration was not for its allies and partners. 

Aiming Restoration

Joe Biden, along with his team is expected to bring a major shift in the approach of the United States foreign policy. International affairs and global power equations have considerably changed in four years. In issues like reviving NATO, strengthening alliances, addressing climate change and reinforcing international institutions, primarily the United Nations, there would be a reversal from the decisions taken by Trump. In dealing with rival states like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, the intentions might be the same, but the ways will have to change. At the same time, a continuum might be seen when it comes to crucial partners like India whom the US needs with the ever-increasing assertiveness of China.  According to James Traub, Biden administration would seek to bring back America to a position to exercise leadership through a restorationist foreign policy that would neither be reclaiming the American hegemony nor practising retrenchment. Instead, it will be allowing the United States to undo what needs to be undone for the sake of its national interest and international credibility while maintaining the continuity where required.  Joe Biden’s prudence in foreign policy and his views make him an “internationalist’’ who as the next President of the United States with  a team of shrewd professionals would reject protectionism and isolationism and make endeavours to make America able to “lead again.”


**The author is a PhD scholar of US Studies at the Centre for Canadian, US & Latin American Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. She is also an Associate Research Fellow at KIIPS **