European leaders and other American allies say President Joe Biden has done much in his first 100 days in the White House to start rebuilding confidence in U.S. leadership.
But while agreeing with his key foreign policy goals, including confronting the global rise of authoritarianism, they are still taking the measure of the Biden administration — as are America’s foes, say analysts and diplomats.
They say the 78-year-old Biden has already shown how a switch in the Oval Office can prompt significant political change with a promise of more to come, not only in the United States but across the globe.
Observers in Europe and Asia praise the U.S. leader for his emphasis on multilateral cooperation and the need for a coordinated global effort to tackle climate change. The fresh emphasis on the importance of alliances is a sharp break with Biden’s immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, they note.
Significant differences remain. The Biden team is encountering some of the same headwinds that contributed to the straining of Euro-Atlantic ties, first during Barack Obama’s tenure in the Oval Office, and then to a much greater degree under Trump, who identified Europe as an economic adversary and complained about NATO’s purpose.
All EU national governments have welcomed Biden’s aim of revitalizing U.S.-European ties and are relieved the adversarial language has gone. Washington, however, is now facing an EU that’s turning inward, with the bloc focused on protecting its post-pandemic market and protecting its industrial champions, analysts say, and determined to become more of a global player in its own right. All fo this is likely to aggravate some trade and geopolitical frictions.
The post-Second World War transatlantic consensus is also being complicated by splits within the bloc over the best ways to handle the rising power of Communist China and how to manage a revanchist (retaliatory) Russia, they add. That is placing some populist European governments in an especially awkward position — including Hungary. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been accused of hedging his bets between the West and the autocracies of Russia and China.
“In the transactional world of Trumpist foreign policy, it was perfectly okay for many European leaders such as Viktor Orban to do this limbo between Eastern autocracies and Western democracies. Right now, they have to choose sides,” Katalin Cseh, a liberal Hungarian politician, said during an online exchange between EU lawmakers discussing Biden’s first 100 days. The discussion was hosted by Visegrad Insight, a Warsaw-based debate platform.
But Biden’s more confrontational strategy toward China poses problems also for Europe as a whole, according to the discussion’s participants. “Our challenge is to maintain trade with China while at the same time maintaining our alliance with the United States. It will not be easy,” said Radosław Sikorski, a European lawmaker and former Polish foreign minister.
Overload is also seen as a risk ahead for the Biden administration with a daunting number of foreign policy challenges to overcome — not least curbing the spread of the coronavirus and rolling out vaccinations. So far, the Biden administration is given high marks for its blending of clear-eyed pragmatism with idealism in how it is handling Russia, China and Iran, offering both sticks and carrots.
“Mr. Biden is attempting a two-track policy, trying at once to resist and relate to such 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,” appraised Britain’s Economist magazine.Original Article