Biden’s ten first days
As estimated in my blog of December 1, 2020 “US President Election 2020”, Biden and his administration will concentrate on domestic issues, from which Covid-19 pandemic and the economy are the most important. However, some interesting glimpses of new foreign policy have been already pointed out.
Biden’s executive orders
Biden has issued 40 executive orders (or similar decisions) in his seven first days in the office, which can be found here and here. They cover various practical measures regarding coronavirus (15), equity and ethics (8), economy (5), immigration (5), environment (5) and others (2). As to environmental decisions, the rejoining to Paris climate accord and canceling of the Keystone XL oil pipeline are the most prominent. One of those economic decisions is quite controversial, strengthening “Buy American”-rules, which is largely criticized by European allies, otherwise orders are economically unimportant so far. All this is just what was estimated in my December 1 blog.
Biden – Putin phone conversation
Biden and Putin had the first phone conversation on Tuesday 27th January, covering topics (according to American sources) like Navalny case, the massive SolarWind cyber-attack, Russian election meddling, Russian wrongdoing in Afghanistan, Russian aggression against Ukraine and also five years extension of the New START treaty.
As such, the New START treaty for the next five years is unquestionable welcomed achievement in the present circumstances but in fact just a tiny “must”, which was a “practical necessity” to both parties. Business as usual, no drama.
An “amusing” detail in the Biden-Putin phone discussion was Biden’s mention “the Russian election meddling”, which was also described in my December blog. After the November 2020 election, four-years furious allegations of “Russian meddling” disappeared overnight and was replaced by the official confirmation of the most secured election in American history. Now, two months later, Biden has found again the same old scapegoat, “Russian meddling”. As mentioned then, I can repeat again “miracles have returned to America”.
From the geopolitical point of view, much more important are those small glimpses of possible future events and processes in the American foreign policy. Here some of those recent “glimpses”:
- Biden signaled a tougher US stance on Russia in Tuesday’s phone call with Putin
- both new Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken have given hard announcements regarding Russia and China in the Senate Hearings
- Biden administration may change the mechanisms and tactics of China Game but will maintain the same pressure on China as Trump did
- China will reply in tit-for-tat measures taking even harder stance for Taiwan issue and South China Sea affairs; Chinese foreign ministry official stated that “Taiwan’s independence ambitions mean war”; the US expressed its firm support to Taiwan just a couple days before
- Biden obviously backs two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian crisis, which will complicate the Middle East “post-Trumpian” configuration in the complex framework where the position of Saudi Arabia is going down, Russia’s and China’s up; Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Libya being in multifaceted, complex and volatile situations; obviously the political tectonics and constellations are moving in the whole MENA region faster than ever
- in order to raise the difficulty level in MENA affairs, the Biden administration imposed a temporary freeze on billions of dollars in weapons sales to the two countries, including the sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia and F-35 fighters to the UAE
- more difficulties with sanctions and supply restrictions of military material by the US and NATO to Turkey
- Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that “the US will not return to the nuclear deal until Iran comes back into compliance… but we are a long way from that point. Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts.” This means that the US is far from lifting sanctions on Iran. Foreign Minister of Iran, Javad Zarif said the US must take the first step. Zarif called on President Biden to unconditionally lift sanctions if he is serious about restoring the JCPOA (writing in Foreign Affairs). Zarif’s argument is that since the US was the first to violate the deal by re-imposing sanctions on Iran in 2018, it’s on Washington to revive the JCPOA.
All of mentioned statements and cases tell there will be no lack of political powder kegs around the world. China – Russia – the US triangle game & evolving processes and events in complex and volatile MENA region will be pursued diligently.