2021-09-24 01:33:02 In Biden’s Foreign Policy, Friends and Foes Claim Echoes of Trump

In Biden’s Foreign Policy, Friends and Foes Claim Echoes of Trump

NEW YORK (AP) — President Biden and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke ambitiously about international cooperation and a new diplomatic approach for a post-Trump America at the United Nations’ annual gathering of world leaders this week.

But nearly all of their diplomatic efforts at a scaled-back United Nations General Assembly were overshadowed – and complicated – by President Donald J. Trump’s legacy.

In a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday, Mr. Biden attempted to mend strained relations. On Thursday, Mr. Blinken met with his French counterpart in New York. However, French officials openly compared the Biden administration to Mr. Trump’s in their failure to warn them of a strategic agreement with Britain and Australia that they claimed forced them out of a submarine contract.

In a fiery address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi suggested that there was little difference between Mr. Biden and his predecessor, invoking their respective foreign policy slogans: “The world doesn’t care about ‘America First’ or ‘America is Back.'”

In response to Mr. Biden’s ambitious targets for reducing global carbon emissions in his own address, an editorial in Beijing’s hard-line Global Times newspaper raised an all-too-familiar point for Biden officials: “If the next U.S. administration is again a Republican one, the promises Biden made will be very likely rescinded,” the paper wrote — a point the Iranians also made about a petrodollar.

Mr. Blinken gave a positive assessment of the week of diplomacy at a news conference that concluded the week of diplomacy. He stated that US officials had met with counterparts from more than 60 countries and emphasized America’s leadership in climate and coronavirus issues.

When asked about recent criticisms of US foreign policy, such as the withdrawal from Afghanistan, stalled nuclear talks with Iran, and diplomatic offense in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry said he had not heard such complaints directly in New York this week.

“What I’ve heard in response to the president’s speech, the direction that he’s taking us in, has been extremely positive and extremely supportive of the United States,” Mr. Blinken said.

He spoke before leaving a weeklong diplomatic gathering that had cautiously returned in person after the coronavirus pandemic forced a virtual United Nations event last year.

Many foreign leaders, including the presidents of Russia, China, and Iran, did not attend this year’s gathering. Their absences ended the previous session’s drama over whether the president of the United States would have an impromptu meeting with a foreign adversary. Mr. Biden made only a brief appearance, leaving a few hours after delivering his speech on Tuesday.

In that speech, he portrayed an America that had ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, attacks. He claimed that the United States was now entering a new era of cooperative diplomacy to address global challenges such as climate change, the coronavirus, and rising authoritarianism.

The speech was a grand ode to internationalism, and it stood in stark contrast to Mr. Trump’s undiplomatic bluster. However, it came amid mounting criticism that some of Mr. Biden’s signature policy moves bore echoes of Mr. Trump’s approach.

French officials said the US submarine deal with Australia caught them off guard, a complaint to which Biden officials had no easy answer.

“This brutal, unilateral, and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a French radio station, according to Reuters. “I’m enraged and bitter. This is not done among allies.”

This had subsided somewhat by Thursday, following Mr. Biden’s phone call with Mr. Macron and Mr. Blinken’s meeting with Mr. Le Drian. However, the French diplomat’s statement suggested that the matter had not been completely forgotten. “Getting out of the crisis we’re in will take time and will necessitate action,” he said.

The spat with Paris could have been dismissed as an isolated incident if it hadn’t echoed complaints from some NATO allies that Mr. Biden had left Afghanistan without fully consulting them or informing them of Washington’s timetable. Mr. Trump was well-known for shocking long-time allies with rash or unilateral actions.

Mr. Blinken protested that he met with NATO officials in the spring to gather their perspectives on Afghanistan, but officials in Germany, the United Kingdom, and other countries said their advice for a slower withdrawal was rejected.

Allies of Biden say the comparisons are overblown, but not without a grain of truth.

“It is absurd on its face for allies, partners, or anyone to believe there is any continuity between Trump and Biden in terms of how they view allies, negotiate internationally, or approach national security,” said Loren DeJonge Schulman, who worked at the National Security Council and the Pentagon during the Obama administration. “It’s a conversation starter, and it’s a laughable one.”

However, Ms. Schulman added that other countries had legitimate concerns about how the Biden administration could make long-term international commitments, such as a potential nuclear deal with Iran, and build public support for foreign alliances in the shadow of the Trump era.

“This can’t be a case of ‘trust us,’” Ms. DeJonge Schulman, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said.

Not only have irritated allies embraced the notion of a Biden-Trump similarity; opponents have found it to be a useful cudgel against Mr. Biden. According to the Global Times, which frequently echoes the views of the Chinese Communist Party, Mr. Biden’s China policies are “virtually identical” to those of Mr. Trump.

They include Mr. Biden’s continuation of Trump-era trade tariffs, which Democrats slammed before Mr. Biden took office but which his officials quickly saw as a source of leverage in dealings with China.

Similarly, Iranian officials are enraged that Mr. Biden has not lifted any of the numerous economic sanctions imposed by Mr. Trump following his withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Early in Mr. Biden’s presidency, some European allies urged the administration to relax some of the restrictions in order to kick-start nuclear talks, but Biden officials refused.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, charged last month that “America’s current administration is no different from the previous one, because what it demands from Iran on the nuclear issue is different in words but the same thing that Trump demanded.” According to Mr. Khamenei’s official website.

After a months-long pause in talks and the election of a new, hardline government in Tehran, Biden officials are warning Iran that time is running out for a mutual return to the nuclear agreement.

Mr. Trump was chastised by a slew of foreign policy veterans from both parties. However, criticism of the Biden team’s management is growing, especially after the US military’s erroneous drone strike in Kabul last month killed ten civilians, including seven children and an aid worker.

Without admitting much fault, some Biden officials say the work of diplomacy has been especially difficult because scores of experienced Foreign Service officers retired during the Trump administration. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican, has also blocked dozens of Biden nominees for senior State Department positions and ambassadorships.

Mr. Biden is also being compared to Trump in other contexts, such as immigration.

“The question now is, what makes you different from Trump?” The executive director of Mijente, a Latino civil rights organization, Marisa Franco, told The New York Times this week.

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In Biden’s Foreign Policy, Friends and Foes Claim Echoes of Trump