United States under Biden’s Presidency: Emerging Foreign Policy Orientations

Dr. Arvind Kumar
26th January 2022

Picture Courtesy: Reuters

Joe Biden has completed one year in his office as a President of the United States. Though, the year was tumultuous because of the pandemic, Biden’s commitment to bring back America on the top of the global radar seemed to be showing some sign of culminating intangibles to tangibles. The message given by him when he took over was loud and clear that all the efforts will be made to bring back ‘America’ on the centre stage of world politics. The legacy which he inherited obviously had thrown open many complex challenges and obviously a great deal of alteration was needed as far as the US engagement with the world was concerned. How diplomacy could be brought back to the centre of the US foreign policy gained momentum in the first year of Biden’s presidency.

Biden in the last one year has made all efforts to repair its alliances and boost confidence among allies so that the US would be able to create its sphere of influence as it had done in the past. The most worrisome challenge before the US seems to be the emerging moment of advancing authoritarianism including the growing ambitions of China which is showing all the signs of becoming a global hegemon built with communism. The strategic vacuum created by the weakening of alliance system by the predecessor President Trump is being filled by China and hence the US needs to make its alliance system as an asset to its foreign policy priorities.

The daunting task before Biden has been also to restore the United States again as the nation of immigrants domestically, which has wider ramifications globally. There are some sign coming where it is clear that he is not tough on this issue as his predecessor was. He has been able to show his commitment fulfilled mainly in the context of the mission statement of US citizenship and immigration services.

The other important change the first year of Biden saw was the approach with which the United States was able to align its policies with the requirements of climate change obligations. Biden has a clear understanding that climate change affects everything from geopolitics to economies to migration and overall development. The US withdrawal from Paris Protocol seemed to be a big disaster in addressing the commitments and obligations of climate change negotiations. The US has been the second largest emitter of Green House Gas (GHG). CoP 26 at Glasgow in November 2021 saw a reflection of the changes in the US approach and its assertion to follow the obligations has been a departure from Trump’s policies.

Biden’s dream that the US shall be leading the world can only get realized when it would be able to restore its credibility and influence. There should be reasons to trust and respect the word of an American President for the rest of the world. There have been renewed threats emanating from non-state actors as well as state institutions. The disruptive impact of new technologies is being witnessed. The existence of terrorist networks spread across the world remains a cause of concern for the United States and the rest of the world.

Without dismantlement of terrorist networks, the US ended the global war on terrorism and withdrew completely from the epicenter of war – Afghanistan. Such US action paved the way for Taliban to occupy the seat of power. Al Qaeda and ISIS remain the potent force to spread their cadres and ideologies.

The United States has also been decreasing its role in West Asia especially in the last one year. Iran is taken as a force to reckon with by Biden’s Administration and hence negotiating with Iran again becomes a priority on nuclear issue. The US support for Saudi-led war in Yemen will get over soon as has been indicated by President Biden himself. Biden has also been showing the sign of dealing with North Korea with lot of caution. His well articulated policy towards Taiwan created much furore in China. It was made clear that the US would come to Taiwan’s defence in the case of any eventuality. The strategic ambiguity on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack got ended. It was seen as a quantum shift in the US policy.

Geopolitically, China will remain a part of the problem for the United States. Biden has sent enough symbolic messages to China in the last one year with serious intent. China will keep posing threat to the US interests and elsewhere through its ideology, espionage and commerce.

Biden’s plan to launch a top-to-bottom review of the US funding to Central America mainly to determine how the leaders of El Salvador, Gautemala and Honduras would make sincere commitments to get rid of corruption, violence and endemic poverty that drive migration will soon see the dividends.

President Biden has made sincere effort in strengthening its alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia. The confidence level among allies of the US is being regained. Strengthening NATO in particular has been receiving sufficient attention in comparison to Trump’s Presidency.

Russia remains as a major concerns for the United States. More recently, Biden has reflected tough posturing in case Russia makes an attempt to annex Ukraine. The Central European countries are aligning with the US policies and seeking more commitment for their security. The strategic stability between the US and Russia needs to be maintained.

It is generally believed among the members of the key policy community in the United States that India will remain a trusted and responsible strategic partner of the United States. India and the US together will work together for greater convergence on pertinent important areas including maritime domain. Indo-Pacific security architecture will have to guarantee stability for global interests. The United States seems to have understood India’s potential and role in this regard. It is most likely that the United States might change its pivot to Asia policy to ‘pivot to India’ policy. India has become a part of the regional and global solutions to the varying problems. India and the US will work for a stable world order.

*The Author is Professor of US Studies and Chairperson of the Centre for Canadian, United States and Latin American Studies at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Disclaimer: The Views in the Article are of the Author

This expert opinion is a part of the KIIPS special series on President Biden’s first year in office from an Indian perspective