U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor: What Allies and Partners Need to Know
The U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor will track the “who,” “what,” and “so what” for the new U.S. administration and Congress. Sign up here to receive every Friday in your inbox.
Despite President Trump’s refusal to concede the election and his decision to pursue various legal battles to challenge the results, Joe Biden launched his transition, preparing his team to assume office in January. While efforts started earlier this year, the critical post-election phase is ramping up quickly. Biden’s team is still waiting for the General Services Administration (GSA) to sign the letter allowing for this work to formally commence.
Meanwhile, Biden’s team opened an office and launched a website to outline their work and transition agenda. Additionally, the agency review teams were announced and will be in charge of guiding the hand-over process of various departments and agencies.
Simultaneously, outreach to various partners and allies by Biden began in earnest. For more context, the team has also provided readouts of initial calls with various allies and partners in Europe and in Asia.
So What - In Focus This Week
Joe Biden laid out his foreign policy vision in Foreign Affairs earlier this year, directly refuting President Trump’s approach for the U.S. abroad. The broad-sweeping piece argues that Trump’s policies have been devastating for U.S. interests on issues like Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, and others. Specifically, Biden offers three framing ideas: “renew U.S. democracy and alliances, protect the United States’ economic future, and once more have America lead the world.” For more, you can find the entire piece Why American Must Lead Again on Foreign Affairs online.
For a more specific breakdown of Biden on foreign policy, the Council on Foreign Relations developed an issue-by-issue tracker. To hear the president-elect in his own words, you can watch Biden’s foreign policy address during the campaign. Robin Wright’s piece in the New Yorker on the The Seven Pillars of Biden’s Foreign Policy details additional dynamics, while a recent NPR All Things Considered conversation offers a quick dive into the global realities facing the incoming Biden administration.
Who to Watch
At this point, there is much speculation but little certainty on who will wind up taking the most senior foreign policy posts in a new administration. But a closer look at the transition teams can provide some insight into some of the personalities shaping Biden’s foreign policy vision. A key person in this regard is Avril Haines, who has been running the transition team’s foreign policy shop for some time.
Prior to joining the transition, Haines worked at Columbia University on the Columbia World Projects and lectured at the law school. She most recently served in government as principal deputy national security advisor to President Obama. Prior to that, she served as deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency and as a legal advisor with the National Security Council. Haines cuts a different figure than many of her peers in national security—a trained pilot, she survived a crash landing in Newfoundland and once owned an acclaimed independent bookstore in Baltimore.
- One of the few articles Haines penned during her time out of government can be found here. Her co-authors Mike Morell and David Cohen also served as deputy directors of the CIA during the Obama administration.
- Here is a good write-up of Haines’ key attributes following her appointment to serve as deputy director of the CIA in 2013.
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield leads the State Department’s Agency Review Team. Prior to joining the transition, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield worked as a senior vice president at Albright Stonebridge Group, where she led the firm’s Africa practice. A career diplomat, she retired from the State Department after 35 years, which included tenures as assistant secretary of state for African affairs and Ambassador to Liberia. Her service as director general of the foreign service and director of human resources positions her well to lead the Agency Review Team as it analyzes personnel and management issues facing the State Department. For more, take a look at:
- A recent Foreign Affairs article co-written by Ambassadors Linda Thomas-Greenfield and William J. Burns about saving the State Department
- A 2012 interview from Louisiana Public Broadcasting that profiles Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield
- Two op-eds written by Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield amidst political upheaval in Zimbabwe
What’s Happening @GMF
“Though U.S.-India relations fared quite well under the Trump administration, Prime Minister Modi was quick to send congratulations to the new president-elect,” writes Garima Mohan. Read her analysis on India’s outlook on a Biden presidency: India Looks forward to the Stability and Familiarity of a Biden Administration
“The greatest danger to the transatlantic relationship today is passivity and lack of ambition. Business as usual will not cut it.” Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff explains how Germany can get the relationship back on track in his new Transatlantic Take: How Berlin Can Help Biden—and Itself
France’s push for more strategic independence means that it will not necessarily be aligned with U.S. interests under a Biden administration, argues Milan Seghier in his latest Transatlantic Take: Biden’s Victory Means Cautious Optimism in Paris
The future U.S.-Polish partnership will focus on security, economic, and energy cooperation, but it will also be impacted more severely than in the past by Poland’s adherence to the principles of human rights, freedom of the media, and rule of law, predict Michal Baranowski and Marta Prochwicz-Jazowska. Read the Transatlantic Take: With a Biden Administration, Poland Expects Continuity in Security and a Return of Democracy
Mutual expectations between Turkey and the Biden administration will not go beyond not making an already bad situation even worse, argues Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı. Read the Transatlantic Take to learn why: A Sense of Foreboding in Ankara
GMF Digital published #Tech2021, a collection of 15 policy briefs that offer “strategic, turnkey reforms from experts for how the U.S. government can leverage technology to ensure individuals and society thrive in the midst of rapid change.” With forewords from Christopher Schroeder and Will Hurd, the collection gives specific ideas to ensure new technology be used right. You can find the entire collection here: #Tech2021 - Ideas for Digital Democracy
What to Read
ON PEOPLE AND THE TRANSITION:
Robbie Gramer, Jack Detsch, Foreign Policy, Here Are the Experts Leading Biden’s Transition at Federal Agencies
“The experts staffing the agency review teams also give early signs that the Biden campaign will make good on its promises to diversify the administration’s national security team, both on racial and gender diversity. For example, of the 23 members of the Pentagon agency review team, 15 are women. And of the 30 members of the State Department’s agency review team, 18 are women.”
Michael Crowley, The New York Times: An Obama Restoration on Foreign Policy? Familiar Faces Could Fill Biden’s Team,
“President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s national security team is likely to be largely staffed by former Obama Situation Room regulars prepared to restore foreign policy principles discarded by President Trump. An Obama redux would be a source of enormous relief to establishment insiders, who are desperate to see seasoned hands regain control of national security. But that likelihood is also causing disquiet among some younger, more liberal Democrats impatient with their party’s pre-Trump national security instincts, which they consider badly outdated.”
Emily DeCiccio, CNBC: Former Bush chief of staff cites 9/11 Commission, warns about slow transition
“The 9/11 Commission had said if there had been a longer transition and there had been cooperation, there might have been a better response, or maybe not even any attack,” the former chief of staff said. “This is very serious, so we’re calling on the president to open up the transition office, give the money out, let people start transitioning, and get ready to take the baton at January 20th at noontime, even if we don’t know the full results.”
Sean Sullivan, Lisa Rein, John Hudson, and Laura Meckler, The Washington Post: How Biden’s transition team will work around Trump’s blockade of the government,
“With the Trump White House blocking the administration from formally cooperating with Biden, the members of the Democrat’s transition team are under strict orders not to have any contact with current government officials, even back-channel conversations, according to people with knowledge of the situation, who presented several explanations for the directive.
Biden transition team members are instead making contact with recently departed government officials and other experts to help them prepare for the new administration.”
Laurence Norman, The Wall Street Journal: Iran’s Enriched Uranium Stockpile Is 12 Times Nuclear Accord’s Cap, U.N. Agency Says
“The report’s findings underscore the challenge the incoming Biden administration faces in persuading Iran to fully return to the 2015 nuclear deal: Besides the stockpile of low-enriched uranium, which when further refined can be used to fuel a nuclear weapon, Iran is also taking steps to potentially accelerate its production of low-enriched uranium and is continuing its nuclear research.”
Josef Joffe, Project Syndicate: Back to Liberal American Hegemony
“Even as Biden presents himself as the anti-Trump, he will continue to pursue some of the same core US strategic interests when it comes to China, Russia, and commercial competition with Europe. Still, as the French say, it is the tone that makes the music. The Biden administration will bring a most welcome change to the style of US diplomacy, replacing Trump’s brutishness with well-mannered professionalism.”
Aaron David Miller and Richard Solosky, Politico Magazine, Biden Must Craft a Foreign Policy for a World the U.S. Doesn’t Rule
“[Biden] will get a lot of diplomatic mileage because he’s not Donald Trump and will look and sound like a commander-in-chief by caring about America’s alliances, standing up to its adversaries and projecting an image of leadership. Through executive orders and actions, the United States can rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization and the White House can retract Trump’s Muslim travel ban, end extreme immigration restrictions, and extend protections for Dreamers. Biden has also pledged to host a global summit of democracies that would reinject American values back into U.S. foreign policy and galvanize closer cooperation among these countries. He has also said he would use the bully pulpit to call out authoritarian leaders like Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin to whom Trump had kowtowed. Reengaging positively with America’s traditional allies in Europe and the Asia-Pacific won’t be hard.”
Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post Six things we can already tell about the Biden administration
“Biden focuses on a few, top-level policy issues: the pandemic, his economic ‘Build Back Better’ plan and possible executive orders (e.g., rejoining the Paris climate accords, reversing Trump’s actions on DACA and undoing Trump’s travel ban targeting majority-Muslim countries). The first two are the most pressing and must get done correctly for anything else in Biden’s agenda to succeed. Not coincidentally, they are also topics on which Congress will be compelled to do something. Biden lived through this before — tackling President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan in 2009 and then the health-care plan. Focus on the high-priority items and make sure you get something done early.”
Mark Leonard, Project Syndicate: Building Back a Better Transatlantic Alliance
“Accordingly, US strategic planners today do not object to a stronger, self-reliant Europe, but a weak one that diverts scarce US resources from the rivalry with China. The US is looking for a partner, not a collection of needy children who take no responsibility for their own welfare. The Biden administration will want to work with a Europe that offers solutions, not more problems.”
Timothy McLaughlin, The Atlantic, Joe Biden Has a Barack Obama Problem: Many leaders in Asia, in particular, remain unhappy with the former president’s foreign policy
“On the campaign trail, Joe Biden embraced his former boss’s legacy. But the Obama years loom particularly large across the Pacific region—and the retrospection is not all rosy…..Obama, Kausikan told me, excelled at diplomacy, but was ‘uncomfortable with exercising power,’ and, as a result, Biden ‘will be deeply scrutinized for any sign of weakness, and he will be scrutinized by friends and foes.’ That, he continued, ‘is a reality he cannot escape.’ …. That could force Biden to rule out certain picks seen as too soft on China. Take Susan Rice, Obama’s former national security adviser, whose name has been floated by a number of publications for a Biden-administration post. She personifies the type of Obama-era official some in the region are hesitant to see return to American government, whom China hawks at home and abroad view with serious skepticism.”
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