Why Biden Won’t be Able To Escape Trump’s Foreign Policy Legacy
Despite the fact that the Trump campaign team refuses to accept the result of the 2020 U.S. presidential election that so many networks have called in Joe Biden’s favor, it is fair to say that (unless U.S. President Donald Trump possesses substantial evidence that voter fraud took place across the U.S. during the time that mail-in ballots were being posted) he has lost the election.
As Biden prepares to become president of the most powerful country in the world over the next few months, his administration will have an impact on foreign policy no matter what. Although he will have a completely different vision to Trump, he cannot escape the latter’s legacy on foreign policy, which is far better than many of his critics would like to believe.
Trump Has a Successful Legacy in the Middle East
Biden will inherit Trump’s mostly successful Middle Eastern peace process. The current U.S. President presided over normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain that resulted in both nations accepting Israel’s legitimacy.
The incoming president has made it clear that he would not reverse Trump’s decision to relocate the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, which did not thwart the current President’s later efforts to encourage peace in the Middle East.
The Biden team released a positive statement in support of the Abraham Accords when they were signed, and it will be interesting to see whether a Biden administration will push for Saudi Arabia to normalize its relations with Israel. That would be a huge victory for a Biden presidency, but it is important to remember that Riyadh became open to the idea of normalized relations with Israel under a Trump administration.
Iran May Still Pose Problems for Biden
The former vice president has made it abundantly clear that he opposed Trump’s decision to withdraw from Obama’s Iran Deal, yet he will be confronting an Iranian regime that is far more confrontational than the one he dealt with during his final days as vice president.
U.S. Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post last month that he is worried a Biden administration would appease Iran and that this could have negative ramifications for the U.S.’s efforts to push for normalization deals.
Despite this, a change of president does not mean Tehran will suddenly shift its strategy. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on November 4 that it does not matter who wins the 2020 U.S. election, his country has planned for ‘difficult conditions’ in the future. He also called for a return to ‘international and multilateral accords.’
Biden has hinted that he will lift sanctions against Iran and return to the 2015 deal, but that might be easier said than done if Tehran also does not play by the rules. The incoming president may have to draft an entirely new agreement, but his opponents will hold him to account if it is just as soft as Obama’s pact was.
Biden Must Be Tough on China
In Asia, the former vice president cannot ignore the growing threat that China poses. Trump was the first U.S. leader to raise alarm about Beijing’s growing influence. Although Biden is unlikely to start another trade war with China, the incoming president has referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as ‘a thug.’ He has no detailed policies as to how he will tackle Beijing, but his rhetoric suggests that he has learned from the Trump administration’s approach toward America’s new adversary. Regardless, actions always speak louder than words.
Although Biden campaigned to end Trump’s presidency, the latter’s impact on foreign relations means it will be impossible for the incoming president not to continue with the Trump administration’s Middle East peace initiatives, and the growing threat that China poses. Biden will be very different to the current President when it comes to Europe and climate change, but for those who were hoping that a Biden presidency would result in dramatic changes in U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East and Beijing, they should think again.