Nearly a year into his first term in office, President Biden faces several pressing domestic challenges, including the country’s shaky economic recovery, skyrocketing inflation and rising consumer prices.
While these national problems are significant, many of President Biden’s key challenges lie in foreign policy – broadly speaking, how to confront America’s adversaries, protect global democracy, and re-establish the United States as a world leader. apply.
More specifically, President Biden is facing an increasingly hostile relationship between the US and China; Russia’s aggressive efforts to destabilize the West; and democratic crises in Latin America, as well as in Africa, where Chinese economic adventurism has emerged.
All the while, the overhang of the US’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan has jeopardized America’s global status. The fall of Afghanistan proved to be a turning point that exposed America’s weaknesses, which our adversaries are now exploiting.
The US-China relationship is recognized as President Biden’s most multifaceted geopolitical challenge. The CCP threatens the autonomy of Taiwan, takes aggressive militaristic action in the South China Sea, violates human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, expands their nuclear arsenal and facilitates cyber attacks on US companies.
Last week, President Biden held a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Still, the meeting yielded little more than some cordial exchanges, and the two leaders made no joint statement, nor did they promise any meaningful joint action.
To that end, the Biden administration apparently lacks an action plan to counter China, in addition to strong rhetoric. The government has sanctioned Chinese officials; however, these punitive sanctions – and other similar countermeasures – are limited in their scope. Sanctions alone are not a sufficient deterrent, and the US should seriously consider further steps, such as boycotting the Olympics.
One of the biggest points of contention between the US and China concerns the CCP’s attitude towards Taiwan. Seeking to expand US alliances in the Pacific, the Biden administration has closely aligned itself with Taiwan, a democratic island, which the CCP considers Chinese territory. This has fueled tensions and Beijing issued a stern warning after the summit to take “decisive measures” if the US intervenes on behalf of Taiwan.
To that end, the overhang from Afghanistan has encouraged the CCP over Taiwan. In September, Chinese state media ran an editorial insinuating that the US would leave Taiwan as soon as we withdrew from Afghanistan; and about that time, Beijing was conducting a military exercise near the island.
Walter Russell Mead also touched on another point of contention with China in his recent editorial for the Wall Street Journal: how Beijing “has turned its illegal islands in the South China Sea into military bases without an adequate response.” Aside from maintaining a Trump-era rejection of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea, the government has been hesitant to take decisive action against the CCP for increasing its maritime military activity.
China is not the only US adversary to adopt an increasingly aggressive military stance. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently ordered a large-scale deployment of Russian troops in the Donbass region on the Ukrainian border.
This latest provocation is preceded by Russia’s actions in April, when 150,000 troops were moved to the Ukrainian border. While Putin announced a partial withdrawal at the time, Russian troops and artillery remained in the region.
These actions raise serious concerns about a Russian military intervention in Ukraine, similar to 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea in violation of international law, and shortly after invaded eastern Ukraine.
In addition, there is a full-blown humanitarian crisis on the border between Poland and Belarus, where refugees from war-torn countries in the Middle East have gathered. EU leaders have accused Alexander Lukashenko, the Kremlin-backed dictator of Belarus, of bringing vulnerable migrants to the border in an attempt to spark a crisis within the EU
It is clear that both situations – the Russian militaristic escalation on the Ukrainian border and the migrant crisis on the Belarusian-Poland border – are part of the wider effort of Putin and Putin-allied leaders to weaken the West.
Like China, Russia has been encouraged by our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and officials have used it to portray the US as a weak and unreliable international partner of Ukraine and other countries, and to advance US goals for global democracy. criticize.
While the US provided $60 million in military aid to Ukraine in September, which was a good first step, the government needs to move forward, and Ukraine’s NATO membership should be seriously considered in light of Russia’s continued aggression and attempts to undermine democracy.
As in Eastern Europe, democracy is also under threat in Latin America and Africa, as Mead mentioned in his aforementioned editorial.
In Latin America, Venezuela’s democracy has been eroded. Brazil’s far-right populist leader Jair Bolsonaro is raising doubts in the Brazilian election process and spreading disinformation. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega won his fourth election last week, which is considered fraudulent by dozens of countries and the European Union.
And in Africa, a military coup in Sudan last month toppled the country during its arduous transition to democracy; while a civil war rages in Ethiopia between forces allied to the Prime Minister and rebels.
Biden’s foreign policy team claims to prioritize winning the global battle between democracy and autocracy in Latin America and Africa. Yet they have not made clear what countermeasures – ie economic resources – they intend to use to help fragile democracies.
The challenges facing our adversaries, countering the rise of authoritarianism, and protecting global democracy are some of the most profound that President Biden, or any president in modern history, has faced. Whether President Biden can succeed in each of these crises individually and collectively will determine not only whether his presidency can succeed, but also whether America can succeed.
Douglas Schoen is a former Democratic political adviser.