Biden Administration: Foreign Policy

A thread to discuss foreign policy under the Biden Administration.

Here’s something to start. This is good news to my ears.

10 thoughts on “Biden Administration: Foreign Policy

  1. Russia

    Good. I’m pretty upset by all four. We need to get to the bottom of this.

    2/3/2021

    What this guy is doing is impressive. This is worth listening to.

    Also, Nalvany mentions the people of Russia who are “not afraid,” “not casting their eyes downward,” not settling for corrupt government officials being the best of Russia. Sounds right to me. I also think of the similar people in Belarus and Hong Kong. Their courage and thirst for democracy are really inspiring.

    I wish there were a conservative equivalent to Nalvany in the U.S.–someone who would stand up and speak out against Trump and Trumpism.

    Secretary of State:

    2/4/2021

    2/5/2021

    op-ed by Garry Kasparov in WaPo

    What I agree with:

    They (dictatorships) must be isolated and contained, or else they spread their corruption to the free world — while using the profits from engagement to fund repression at home and aggression abroad.

    The traditional recipes of international diplomacy are worthless against a mafia dictatorship that cares nothing for ideology or national interests. Hurting the Russian people doesn’t bother Putin, so sanctions must target him and his gang directly. Putin doesn’t care about left or right; he cares about money.

    Second, unite on anti-kleptocracy measures. The recent U.S. ban on anonymous shell companies is a strong move, and Europe should be pressed to coordinate.

    Some recommendations that I’m more ambivalent about:

    First, end Putin’s asymmetrical advantage and treat his regime like it’s the target of a criminal investigation.

    and

    Blocking human rights abusers and their families from travel, freezing their assets and blocking their companies from doing business in the free world would finally take the gloves off and send the message that Putin is too toxic to keep around.

    My sense is that Kasparov is correct–this would really hurt Putin, while he’ll care less for sanctions that hurt the Russian people. (This is similar to the North Korean situation.) However, these actions are aggressive acts, similar to using military force or actions that would cause serious economic damage to a country. Why? Because all these things could be a serious threat to Putin and his power. On one hand, these actions would be a real punishment and threat. The thing is, if you push too hard, the threat can be so huge, that Putin will retaliate in an aggressive way. It’s like if you use military force on another nation, if the force is reasonable, it may not precipitate a chain reaction that can lead to war. But if the force is too significant, then it could. For example, say the U.S. exposes Putin’s corruption and that leads to even more unrest by the Russian population. If Putin feels such actions come close to ending his power, like a cornered animals, he may lash out, which can escalate into a war–either conventional, cyber, or something else.

    I feel like one alternative is to contain and isolate Putin, as Kasparov mention. The U.S. should strengthen ties with its allies, including NATO. I feel like Putin exporting corruption is a threat, changing laws and cracking down on money-laundering would be a defensive measure, protecting Western democracies from the virus of corruption. If that can be done, and the West can prevent aggressive acts (invading Georgia, annexing Crimea), then they maybe waiting out Putin might be a sound approach.

    I would be OK with the next recommendation–if this is practical and realistic for U.S. and their allies:

    Third, stop giving Putin and other authoritarian regimes leverage and legitimacy with trade deals, memberships and access. Lecturing dictators about human rights is meaningless if you’re also taking their oil, gas and cash.

    3/17/2021

    A different approach to Putin

    Watch Biden’s comments on Putin. Night and day from Trump—also from Bush 43.

    I hope Putin pays a price for Russian bounties on U.S. soldiers as well. There needs to be consequences.

  2. Foreign policy for the middle class

    Below, Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser, discusses a central tenet of Biden’s foreign policy–namely, that the interests of the middle class will be at the center of Biden’s foreign policy. How does a policy affect the economic well-being and security of the middle class? I really like this approach–and I wondered why no one thought of this before (including myself). I don’t know if this is going to work, but, in principle, I like it.

  3. Sciutto asks the question I wanted to hear an answer to:

    Scuitto: Would a (criminal) group like this be able to operate without the knowledge or tacit approval of the Kremlin?

    Kayyem: No. It’s as simple as that….This is one of those things where a non-state actor is acting as a state actor, and I think we should treat it as such.

    They don’t talk about this, but how is this not a war-like act–or close to it?

  4. Is the Biden Administration pivoting the U.S. towards China?

    I recently listened to Submarines and Shifting Alliances, NYT’s The Daily podcast about the dust-up over the U.S. and U.K. making a deal to provide nuclear submarines to Australia, cutting out France from the deal. I wanted to know more details about this, and discover the reason the Biden administration would do this.

    The NYT reporter doesn’t really provide a definitive answer, but he did provide a context for a possible reasons.

    First, some details about what happened. I believe France first had a deal with Australia to provide nuclear subs. Without consulting France, the US and UK came in and made a deal with Australia to provide the subs (which would involve sharing US technology). France was understandably outraged, and accused Biden of behaving like Trump, which seemed fair.

    The reporter also mentioned that the US did something similar to the UK, when the former pulled out of Afghanistan. Specifically, the US really didn’t consult the UK very much, even though the UK had the second most troops in Afghanistan.

    So why would the Biden Administration do this?

    Here, the reporter gives a brief overview of the US’s desire to shift attention and resources towards China. At least from the Obama Administration, the US believed China posed the biggest threat on the international stage. Obama wanted to direct more resources and attention toward addressing this, but he got bogged down by issues in the Middle East, and maybe Russia as well.

    The reporter suggests that the recent decisions involving Afghanistan and Australia are ways in which the Biden administration finally focuses on China.

    Still, why not at least consult allies like UK and France, before making those moves? Here’s my guess: Engagement, prior to the decision, would likely delay those decisions and maybe increased the chances that those decisions would never take place. Engagement implies that the ally also has a say in the decision, or an opportunity would open for them to try and convince the US to do something different or even delay the decision. This makes the moves more complex, and it’s possible that the US would ultimately anger the allies anyway. If this is correct, Biden’s approach can be seen as a kind of “ripping off the band aid,” versus gradually trying to pull it off.

    If China is the biggest geopolitical foe/problem, and the US has struggled to devote the necessary resources to China, then I can see the moves in a more sympathetic light. Note: This does not mean that other issues like terrorism emanating from the Middle East or Russia are not problems. But they may be lesser problems relative to the US. If that’s accurate, then it makes sense to devote more attention to addressing China.

    One other thing the podcast mentioned. China has been building a navy, and it’s now formidable. They are also becoming more aggressive and imperialistic in their region (e.g., the South China sea). Based on history, this is a threat to the world, as increases the chances of a multi-country military conflict. One way to prevent this is to have an equally powerful rival nearby to hold China in check. The move to build subs and share technology with Australia seems like a step in that direction.

    1. The Massive Biden Reset You Probably Don’t Even Know Is Happening from David Rothkopf in The Daily Beast

      Rothkopf helps readers understand the specific actions in Afghanistan and with Australia and France in a larger strategic context. To wit, move away from the Middle East and focus on China. Interestingly, Rothkopf points out the link between Biden’s domestic agenda with this strategy–e.g., invest in infrastructure, to be more resilient to cyber attacks for one thing, green technology and the citizenry, making the country more economically competitive.

      If you wanted a broad, easy-to-understand overview of Biden’s foreign policy and it’s relevance to the country, I’d recommend this piece.

  5. Something definitely to watch: Russia planning massive military offensive against Ukraine involving 175,000 troops, U.S. intelligence warns from WaPo

    I heard President Biden say today that he’s putting together a package of some of toughest consequences or strongest deterrents (or something to that effect) with regard to the situation above.

    I hope so. My sense is that the U.S. has policy towards Russia has been really weak–and I’m including Biden’s administration in this–and that seems dangerous to me.

    Opinion: The best response to Russia’s threats is a closer relationship with Ukraine WaPo

    1. Opinion: As invasion looms, Ukrainians are calmly defiant WaPo op-ed from David Ignatius.

      This passage resonated with me:

      The best advice I heard, echoed by the most thoughtful analysts in Kyiv and Warsaw, is that the United States and its allies must check the balance of intimidation — by taking action themselves rather than responding to Moscow. Impose severe sanctions on Russia now, rather than after it has rolled into Ukraine. If Putin persists in covert actions in the West, match him.

      “You cannot permit the Russians to believe you are afraid of an escalation. They will use it time and again,” argued one of Poland’s wisest Russia analysts during a conversation on Wednesday in Warsaw. “Restraint does not stabilize Putin. It encourages him.” To paraphrase the analogy coined by the Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan, Putin thinks that accommodationist Americans are now, similar to Europeans, from Venus — while warlike Russians are very much from Mars.

      On the flip side, it’s easy to say this, when one doesn’t have to consider the consequences of accepting the possibility of escalation–which is what not being afraid of escalation essentially means (unless the U.S. was willing to bluff, which I don’t think is a great idea).

      Is a potential Russian conflict, one that could intensify into something more serious and long-term, something the U.S. should consider because it’s linked to a key U.S. interests? Does a Russia warrant more attention than China or North Korea? If it doesn’t, then willingness to escalate seems like an even harder position to take.

      But none of this makes the passage above less true.

  6. The Gamble of Nancy Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan by Charles Schuman of theAtlantic

    The U.S. and China are in or moving toward a dangerous situation–one that increases the chances of a war between the two superpowers. My knee-jerk reaction is to view Speaker Pelosi’s visit as too provocative and unwise. But on further reflection, I feel not going to Taiwan, especially cancelling it after Chinese threatening rhetoric (e.g., “You play with fire, you will get burned.”), also poses serious risks as well–namely, projecting weakness can embolden China to act more aggressively. In short, projecting strength has the potential for increasing or decreasing the likelihood of war. Not projecting strength–i.e., projecting weakness–also has the potential to escalate or deescalate aggression in an adversary. (The former seems more likely than the latter, though–especially if the adversary initially acted in an aggressive way.)

    So what’s the right action? To me, it’s not clear cut (but what do I know?).

    The article mostly emphasizes the risk that can occur through bold projection of strength, and I want to present the downsides of among other points made in the article.

    Ever more ambitious, Beijing believes that China has a right to be the paramount power in the region and that the U.S. is standing in its way. In Washington, D.C., policy makers see America’s future as depending on Asia and are resolved to maintain, or even expand, its system of alliances in the region to entrench U.S. influence and contain China’s.

    This sounds too close to moral equivalency, but I think that’s wrong. While the U.S. is seeking their interests, I also think this involves strengthening a rules-based international system and liberal-democratic nation-states that value human rights–something many countries in the region would welcome. On the other hand, China prefers a weaker rules-based system (at least within his region) and views liberal-democracy as a threat–something many countries in the region fear.

    Is it just me or is it clear that there is no equivalence between these two positions?

    More later….

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