A New Era of Foreign Policy

Holden Lamberson

The day President-Elect Joe Biden is sworn in as the next President of the United States will mark the beginning of a shift in American foreign policy, one where the United States will strive for greater cooperation with our allies overseas. Specifically, Biden will move the U.S. away from the anti-European policy championed by Donald Trump in favor of a policy that emphasizes a more collaborative approach between U.S.-European Union (“E.U.”) relations. The future shift in this direction is clear from Biden’s public statements and his announcement of his Secretary of State nominee, Antony Blinken, who is the former Deputy Secretary of State of the Obama administration.

Based on Biden’s lengthy government career, spanning nearly four decades, his long-standing position as a proponent of transatlantic policy, which encourages relationships with European Nations, his Secretary of State nominee, and his successful working relationship with former President Barack Obama, Biden’s proposed approach to foreign policy should not come as a surprise to the American public as it mirrors a return to the Obama era in this political arena. Indeed, Biden likely will adopt a strategy similar to the one Obama used when rolling out his foreign policy platform as it relates to the E.U. This strategy almost certainly will include the United States reentering the Paris Climate Accords to assist in combating climate change. It also undoubtedly will include a diplomatic and friendly approach to E.U. relations to encourage multilateral agreements designed to decrease tensions between the E.U. and the U.S. that have flared in the past four years. 

While this future shift in the U.S. approach to foreign policy would seem like a full reversal of Trump’s foreign policy with the E.U., there are some key exceptions. In fact, a few of Trump’s marks in foreign policy likely will become the status quo in relations between the United States and its E.U. allies. For example, Biden plans to continue Trump’s policy requiring North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations to uphold their agreements mandating they dedicate two percent of their gross domestic product to military expenditures. Fortunately, with the exceptions of Germany and a few smaller countries, most nations already abide by this agreement.

Overall, the general consensus is that U.S. – E.U. policy relations likely will be far less tense than those of the last four years. Furthermore, Biden’s election win generally has been well received by most the E.U. and its member-states, as evidenced by the many congratulations Biden has received from heads of foreign nations within days of the 2020 Presidential election. 

That said, Biden’s planned foreign policy changes will not be accepted by all European nations. Leaders of populist countries, like Poland, Italy, and Hungary, have utilized Trump’s anti-free trade foreign policy to justify their populist political positions and anti-free trade stances. According to CNBC, the former Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta, even reported to news networks that they “will miss … the megaphone” Donald Trump once possessed. Additionally, the United Kingdom, which currently is negotiating Brexit, unquestionably will undergo a significant change in its relationship with the United States. Under Trump, Britain enjoyed U.S. approval of their current foreign policy and their push to continue forward with Brexit, but Biden publicly has stated his disapproval of Brexit.

Regardless of where U.S. foreign policy is headed in Europe, one thing has become clear: Europe is becoming more divided between populist, eurosceptic nations and those democratic nations that support the E.U. The United States cannot continue to support both sides, and Biden’s foreign policy in Europe during this next presidential term will be vital in determining where we draw the line when it comes to European foreign affairs for decades to come. 

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