Biden promised to reset Donald Trump’s America First agenda and concentrate on foreign diplomacy. How is he doing? U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January on a pledge to trade his predecessor, Donald Trump’s “first America” approach to diplomatic-heavy, human-right-led foreign policy.
As Biden celebrates his first 100 days at this week’s White House, analysts say his administration has taken multiple measures toward that goal—including re-engaging with a variety of foreign organizations and calling for multilateral collaboration on global issues including climate change.
“Biden’s first 100 days came pretty much as advertised,” said PJ Crowley, President Barack Obama’s former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.
Crowley referred to the Biden administration’s stern stance on China, its attempts to re-engage with Washington’s European allies, and its continuing talks for a return to the 2018 nuclear agreement unilaterally withdrawn by Trump as indicators of the transition.
But though Biden has a wholly different style from Trump, his predecessor’s “wholesale rebuke” in foreign policy, Crowley told Al Jazeera.
That has gained criticism from Democratic Party segments that have urged Biden to take more radical positions on a variety of issues, including U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia, a low U.S. refugee ceiling, and arms sales to the U.A. and Egypt.
Here’s some of Biden’s big foreign-policy movements over his first 100 days:
On April 13, Biden announced the US would withdraw all remaining US troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that precipitated the country’s US invasion.
Biden pushed back a deadline of 1 May between the Trump administration and the Taliban, and his proposal was hailed by activists who have long called on the US to resolve its so-called “forever wars.”
But critics have questioned whether withdrawal would lead to renewed conflict, leave the Afghan government ill-equipped to hold onto territory, and make a peace deal between the Taliban and the government more elusive.
Biden’s administration has made competing with China – and combating Beijing’s economic and military assertiveness – a top priority while promising a more complex strategy involving collaboration wherever possible.
While the US continued to punish Chinese officials for human rights violations, enforce tariffs in an ongoing trade conflict, and establish regional alliances to fight Beijing, officials in the Biden administration exchanged barbs with their Chinese counterparts during an inaugural meeting in Alask
In an opening speech, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed “deep concern about China’s conduct, including in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan, cyber attacks on the US, and economic coercion against our allies.”
His Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi then accused the US of “long-arm jurisdiction and suppression” and said many Americans had “no faith in U.S. democracy,” an obvious reference to the U.S. Capitol storming by pro-Trump rioters in January.
Still, Chinese President Xi Jinping participated in last week’s US-hosted climate summit, showing leaders willing to collaborate with each other on certain global issues.
Biden’s pledge to reset Trump-era policies on the southern border with Mexico was also ad hoc due to an increase in arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers, the vast majority from Central America.
The Biden administration ended Trump’s so-called Remain in Mexico policy, which forced asylum seekers to stay in Mexico – mostly in border-side temporary camps – while processing their US asylum claims. He also concluded agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras that required US authorities to deport and send back asylum seekers who passed through one of those countries.
Nevertheless, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden’s administration continued to use Title 42, a Trump-era public health initiative that requires authorities to deport most migrants at the border, while Biden has exempted unaccompanied minors.
Biden also faced immediate rebuke for revealing that he would not fulfil a campaign pledge to lift the 15,000-point historically low Trump-era refugee admissions limit. After widespread criticism, the administration announced a higher limit on May 15.
The Biden administration sanctioned Russia twice, first for the suspected poisoning and detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and then for a slew of charges involving US elections, election interference, and hacking a variety of US federal agencies.
Biden also took a more confrontational tone with Russian President Vladimir Putin for his crackdown on opposition and building Russian troops along the Ukrainian border, especially confirming that he believed Putin was a “killer” in a March interview.
In the coming weeks, Biden has offered to meet with Putin for a European country summit, though it is unclear whether that meeting will take place.
In February, the Biden administration declared the end of US funding for offensive operations by a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition battling Houthi rebels in Yemen and any “related weapons sales.” However, the US has not given clear descriptions about how this would work.
Biden officials are pressing for a diplomatic solution to end the six-year war in Yemen, which led to a terrible humanitarian crisis, and in its early days, the Biden administration removed the Houthi movement’s Trump-era label as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), which observers said could complicate deliveries.
Before being elected, Biden vowed to “reassess” US-Saudi ties.
Although Biden’s approach to the Gulf Kingdom signalled a move from Trump, who unequivocally supported Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his administration was also criticised for not sanctioning MBS after a U.S. intelligence report explicitly linked him to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
Biden was also criticised for continuing with $23bn, Trump-era weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, also a member of Yemen’s combat coalition. The sale includes F-35, drones, and other advanced equipment that critics claim could endanger Yemeni civilians.
Biden also pursued a return to Iran’s nuclear settlement, an arrangement signed under Obama, his former boss, who saw Tehran curb its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
Trump withdrew from the 2018 Saudi Arabia and Israel-opposed agreement and instead imposed a “complete pressure” campaign on Tehran.
Tehran and Washington were caught in a deadlock on who would take the first step back to the settlement, but indirect negotiations are underway in Vienna that involve the other parties to the agreement – UK, France, Germany, EU, China and Russia.
On the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the Biden administration indicated perhaps the most openness to upholding Trump-era policies.
Although Biden has renewed funding to the UN Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA), he has made it clear that he would not reverse Trump’s relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem or his acceptance of Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
Biden administration officials have said they’re planning to expand on Trump-brokered normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco that drew Palestinian condemnation.
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