Why Biden likely won’t find much political relief abroad in 2022

The United States faces at least two potential national security crises that could explode in the near term. First, he must try to avoid a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine in what would be Moscow’s most daring attempt to reshape the post-Cold War order. And unless the talks bear fruit soon, Iran could cross the threshold of nuclear power and leave Biden the atrocious choice to respond with military action that could push the United States back into a Middle East conflagration.
Serious as each situation is, both are in some ways a distraction from the historical conundrum of 21st century US foreign policy: how to handle an increasingly powerful and aggressive China. The intense diplomatic and military attention Washington would have to devote to a confrontation with Iran or Russia would delight Beijing, after its rise to power coincided with the American quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, a hectic world could present Biden with unexpected problems. For example, no president, perhaps since Bill Clinton in the 1990s, has thwarted North Korea’s nuclear march. And the Stalinist state, which turns 10 under volatile dictator Kim Jong Un, is forging ahead with missiles that could send its nuclear bombs to American soil.
But Pyongyang is not alone in challenging the United States. Biden’s political fortunes at home have been in part tarnished by rising gasoline prices after his failure to convince major Gulf oil producers to pump more crude. The pandemic, meanwhile, threatens to cause further upheaval overseas that could impact U.S. national security. And Omicron’s push could block global supply chains again – increasing the inflation that threatens Biden Democrats in the midterm elections next year.

All was not bad news for the president, a former chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee who bragged during the election campaign of his talents as a statesman. He displayed a certain diplomatic skill during his first year in office. Declaring “America is back,” Biden appeased his allies battered by crises and insults from former President Donald Trump. He has convinced Western governments to craft an intimidating sanctions package for Russia to deter it from crossing Ukraine’s borders – and is proposing security talks in Moscow in a long-term attempt to ease tensions. At the start of last year, he appeared to discourage Russian President Vladimir Putin after a previous build-up from Ukraine. And while Trump has reset America’s course by adopting a confrontational posture toward China, Biden has done better by getting U.S. allies in Europe and the Pacific to support U.S. strategy.

But his diplomacy has yet to change President Xi Jinping’s nationalist and expansionist path, having crushed the rest of democracy in Hong Kong and as fears grow that he could possibly attempt to reunite Taiwan with the mainland through force – a move that could drag the United States into a disastrous war with its Asian rival.

Immediate tests at the dawn of the new year

The credibility of Biden’s foreign policy will come under scrutiny in 2022.

His administration’s most intense diplomatic offensive to date seeks to convince Putin to withdraw tens of thousands of troops from near Ukraine. NATO’s integrity and the health of its own political position depend on Biden defusing the crisis without giving in to the security guarantees demanded by the Russian leader. Putin, for example, wants NATO to withdraw forces from former Warsaw Pact countries that have joined the alliance – a condition that could destroy Western credibility and further spur Russian adventurism.

In the latest development, the White House said on Tuesday that U.S. and Russian officials will meet on January 10. US, Russian and NATO officials will also be in touch over the next few days. Russia fought for another Biden-Putin summit in person, a diplomatic choreography that would evoke old Cold War meetings. But Biden has to walk a fine line – as he could be accused of appeasing Putin if he were to eventually move to Ukraine – while finding an exit ramp for the Russian leader that allows him to save face. The showdown has profound political implications for Biden and Putin. And the Russian leader, who sees a historic task of restoring Russian power at the expense of the United States, is a cunning opponent who has outsmarted the last three American presidents.

As their European counterparts try to prevent a war on the continent, U.S. nuclear negotiators are scrambling to revive the 2015 nuclear deal involving the United States and Iran, which was broken by Trump’s walkout.

Despite some optimism expressed by Russian negotiators during the last session of talks in Vienna since Monday, the United States is deeply skeptical of the diplomatic route. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday it was “too early to tell” whether Iran’s new radical government had returned to the table to negotiate. And any progress still falls short of “Iran’s accelerated nuclear milestones,” Price added.

New talks – in which the United States and Iran do not meet directly – are taking place after the main US negotiator Robert Malley issued a terrible warning days before Christmas. He told CNN’s Becky Anderson that Tehran’s growing uranium enrichment meant time was running out for a deal.

“If they continue at their current rate we have a few weeks left but not much more, in which case I think the conclusion will be that there is no deal to revive,” said Malley, the American envoy to Iran. US officials believe Iran is now months away from acquiring the materials for a nuclear bomb. Some Israelis speak of weeks.

Iran demands that the United States lift all sanctions before canceling enrichment. The United States proposes a sequenced approach. His position is complicated by the inability of the Biden administration to promise that a future Republican administration would honor any deal. Iran has said it is now enriching uranium to up to 60% purity, its highest level ever and much closer to the 90% threshold needed to build a nuclear bomb. Its progress reveals the utter failure of Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy, introduced when Iran complied with the Obama administration’s pact to cap its nuclear program.

If diplomacy fails now, Biden – or, more immediately, Israel – will be faced with the question of whether to launch a military strike against the Tehran facility that could set the Middle East on fire again.

Biden’s fate at home and abroad is linked

Much of Biden’s influence abroad in the coming days depends on how he is viewed by allies and enemies of the United States after a year in power.

The biggest flaw in its record to date is the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The president had promised the Americans that there would be no exit from Kabul à la Saigon, and yet that is what happened. Administration claims the rushed evacuation was a massive success, was undermined by video footage of what was really going on – and the deaths of 13 US servicemen and many more Afghans in a suicide bombing attack. outside the airport.

The debacle shook Biden’s authority at home and abroad, despite claims by Democrats that Americans didn’t really care how American troops left the country’s longest war and that they just wanted them at home. The mess has also offered Republicans an opening to label the new president reckless – even if those GOP critics were silent when Trump bowed to global tyrants. In foreign capitals, the withdrawal which occurred with little warning to the allies raised new questions about the resistance of the United States. So is Biden’s cold view of American interests.

Biden grapples with predicted Covid-19 test failure
Tortured domestic politics also hamper Biden’s attempt to make his mark on the world. While America’s speedy return to the Paris climate agreement appealed to America’s friends, its ability to deliver on its commitments is in doubt after West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin said he couldn’t not vote for the president’s Build Back Better plan, which includes a historic $ 500 billion investment in tackling global warming. Biden’s attempt to enlist the world’s democracies in a quest to preserve the liberal world order, meanwhile, is constantly undermined by Trump’s relentless attempts to destroy American democracy. And the prospect of the 45th president returning to the White House in 2025 means that many foreign powers are doubting Biden’s promise that America is back.

Presidents criticized at home often seek easy victories abroad, but Biden does not have such luxury as he serves as America’s world power is more contested than at any time since WWII. global. At the same time, the American political divisions raging in the United States offer openings for adversaries like Putin and Xi. It’s a vicious cycle that plays into the hands of Republicans determined to portray Biden as a weak failure. So, as tough as 2022 promises to be for Biden at home, he’s unlikely to get much relief abroad.

CNN’s Natasha Bertrand and Kyle Feldscher contributed to this report.

Previous Iranian nuclear talks fail
Next Israel prepares new scenarios for attack on Iran