U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor: What Allies and Partners Need to Know - April 23
Welcome to the U.S. Foreign Policy Monitor where every week we track the “who,” “what,” and “so what” for the new U.S. administration and Congress. This week the Monitor looks at the first in-person visit of a foreign leader to the Biden White House.
Sign up here to receive the newsletter every Friday in your inbox.
Last week, President Biden welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to the White House. This was the first in-person visit by a foreign head of state since Biden’s inauguration. The White House made clear that the commitment to meet in person was an explicit indication of the importance placed on this relationship. That the Japanese leader was the first to receive an in-person invitation was taken by many observers as yet another sign of the increased U.S. focus on the Indo-Pacific region, countering an increasingly assertive China, and on reassuring important allies. In his remarks, Biden emphasized that both countries committed “to take on the challenges from China…to ensure a future of a free and open Indo-Pacific.” Prime Minister Suga in turn noted the necessity for both countries “to engage in frank dialogue with China.” That the symbolism of the visit was also understood in Beijing was made clear by a strongly worded statement issued by China’s embassy in Washington the day after the visit, which “resolutely opposed” the U.S.-Japanese joint statement issued by Biden and Suga.
Who to Watch
Barbara A. Leaf was nominated to serve as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. Leaf had joined the Biden administration in January in the role as special assistant to the president and senior director for Middle East and North Africa affairs on the National Security Council and is now moving to Foggy Bottom. She has had a long diplomatic career and most recently served as U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (2014-2018). Prior to that, she served as deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq. She also had postings in Rome, Sarajevo, Paris, Cairo, Tunis, Jerusalem, and Port-au-Prince.
Prior to re-entering public service, she was the Ruth and Sid Lapidus Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and director of the Beth and David Geduld Program on Arab Politics. She speaks Arabic, French, Italian, and Serbo-Croatian and has a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree from the University of Virginia.
- In January 2020, Ambassador Leaf testified in front of the House Committee on Homeland Security on the issue of “U.S.-Iran Tensions: Implications for Homeland Security.”
- Together with other experts, she contributed to a policy brief for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on “The UAE-Israel Breakthrough: Bilateral and Regional Implications and U.S. Policy.”
On April 15, President Biden nominated Christine Abizaid to be the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to hold the position on a permanent basis. Abizaid most recently worked for Dell Technologies as the director of supply chain sustainability. Before working in the private sector, Abizaid served in several national security positions for the U.S. government. Most recently she was the deputy assistant secretary for defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia from 2014 to 2016. Prior to her time at the Pentagon, she served on the National Security Council as both a director for counterterrorism and senior policy advisor to the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. Earlier in her career she worked for seven years at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), deploying several times throughout the Middle East, including a tour as the senior DIA counterterrorism representative in Iraq.
Abizaid holds a B.A. degree in psychology from the University of California, San Diego and an M.A. degree in international policy studies from Stanford University. She is the daughter of retired Gen. John P. Abizaid, a former U.S. Central Command commander and most recently ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2019-2021.
- In this Texas National Security Review book review roundtable on “America’s Hot and Cold Relationship with Its Counterterrorism Partners,” Abizaid contributed a chapter on “The Imperfect Truth Behind Counterterrorism Partnerships.”
What to Read
Biden Choice for Justice Dept.’s No. 2 Is Seen as a Consensus Builder, Katie Benner, The New York Times.
“Ms. Monaco, 53, a veteran of national security roles, is poised to become the deputy attorney general … where her ability to broker consensus on politically charged issues will quickly be tested. …[S]he is expected to be a key player in the Biden administration’s push to combat domestic extremism, embodied most publicly in the Justice Department’s investigation into the deadly Capitol attack on Jan. 6 by a pro-Trump mob.”
Biden Is Pushing a Climate Agenda. Gina McCarthy Has to Make It Stick, Coral Davenport, The New York Times.
“Gina McCarthy worked six or seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day, to produce America’s first real effort to combat climate change, a suite of Obama-era regulations that would cut pollution from the nation’s tailpipes and smokestacks and wean the world’s largest economy from fossil fuels. Then the administration of Donald J. Trump shredded the work of President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency chief before any of it could take effect. Ms. McCarthy is back, as President Biden’s senior climate change adviser, and this time, she is determined to make it stick.”
Biden won't bring on board controversial Russia expert, Natasha Bertrand, Politico.
“A Russia expert whose bid to join the Biden National Security Council sparked an outcry among prominent critics of the Kremlin is no longer under consideration for the role […] Matthew Rojansky, the director of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, was being considered for the position of Russia director on the NSC…. But several current and former senior officials warned the White House against hiring Rojansky, arguing that appointing him would signal a conciliatory U.S. policy toward Moscow….”
Republicans lean into uphill battle against 2 little-known Biden nominees, Marianne Levine, Politico.
“The GOP almost certainly can’t stop Joe Biden from getting a lineup of leading progressives confirmed to senior Justice Department posts. But Republicans — especially those eyeing the White House — are eager to make the president’s party pay a political price. Senate Republicans have spent weeks on a messaging binge portraying Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, tapped for high-ranking DOJ positions, as ‘extreme’ and ‘radical’ nominees who will weaken law enforcement.”
China and Russia Turn Deeper Ties into a Military Challenge for Biden, Jack Detsch and Amy Mackinnon, Foreign Policy.
“Deepening military and diplomatic cooperation between Russia and China is worrying U.S. defense planners, who fear the two frenemies that share military technology and many foreign-policy goals will complicate the Biden administration’s plan to reassert U.S. leadership. China is carefully monitoring Russia’s military buildup near the border with Ukraine, which the U.S. Defense Department said this week is larger than the 2014 deployment, with an eye to its own pressure campaign on Taiwan and the South China Sea.”
Despite Tensions, U.S. and China Agree to Work Together on Climate Change, Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times.
“The United States and China have said they will fight climate change “with the seriousness and urgency that it demands” by stepping up efforts to reduce carbon emissions, a rare demonstration of cooperation amid escalating tensions over a raft of other issues. The agreement, which included few specific commitments, was announced on Saturday night, Washington time, after President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, visited China for three days of talks ….”
Biden’s climate summit offers rare ‘breathing space’ with Putin amid growing rifts, Isabelle Khurshudyan, The Washington Post.
“The stress points keep piling up between President Biden and Vladimir Putin […] But one apparent patch of common ground for dialogue — albeit while thousands of miles apart via video link — is the threat of climate change. Putin has agreed to take part in a Biden-hosted virtual Leaders Summit on Climate on Thursday …. The conference is viewed as Biden putting his personal stamp on the U.S. return to global climate initiatives ….”
Biden Calls Chauvin Verdict a ‘Much Too Rare’ Moment of Justice, Katie Rogers, The New York Times.
“President Biden called a guilty verdict in the murder trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday a potential ‘giant step forward in the march toward justice in America,’ but he also called the jury’s decision a ‘much too rare’ step for Black Americans who have been killed or abused during interactions with the police.”
How Joe Biden is reshaping America’s global role, The Economist.
“As Mr Biden nears the 100-day mark of his administration, the moment at which the American establishment likes to take the measure of a new president, the pattern emerging in his foreign policy differentiates it not only from that of his immediate predecessor, Mr Trump, but also from that of Mr Obama, whom he served as vice-president. …Biden is attempting a two-track policy, trying at once to resist and relate to these [authoritarian] regimes: to constrain their territorial ambitions and discourage their human-rights abuses and transnational meddling, while working with them where their interests might overlap with America’s.”
Can Multilateral Cooperation Coexist with Great-Power Rivalry?, Kemal Derviş and Sebastián Strauss, Project Syndicate.
“Recent US initiatives concerning new IMF special drawing rights, corporate taxation, and climate change highlight America’s renewed support for global cooperation. The big question now is whether multilateralism can work – and how China will respond to these proposals, given rising bilateral tensions.”
What’s Happening @GMF
- Biden’s Leaders Climate Summit Is a Chance to Drive Ambitious Action by Megan Richards (Article)
- The Role of Subnational Leaders in the Fight Against Climate Change (Event Video)
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.