The new U.S. president is putting America’s familiar foreign policy back into operation. That is fairly certain. Now, it’s up to others to make revolutions.
Joe Biden isn’t too accurate when he promises the return of the United States to world politics. There can be no question of returning. The United States never disappeared; it has always been part of world politics, no matter who has been in the White House. A country that possesses just under 10 million square kilometers (6,213,712 miles) of land, with coasts on two oceans, that houses 328 million people, circulates $21 trillion in the economy and spends $738 billion on its military — it is a world presence.
Admittedly, there is a difference between the power under Donald Trump, running wild, and under the current president. In his tumultuous way, Trump was probably the most active foreign policymaker the United States has imposed on the world in the past decades. It was the fear of unpredictability that extinguished America’s power during this time. Richard Nixon’s madman theory — that the fear of irrationality forces everyone toward rationality — was, in many respects, successfully tested under Trump.
Even if the world is now hoping for the Biden revolution in international relations, Biden won’t intervene in world affairs in a dramatically different way from his predecessors (except for Trump). His first foreign policy move, with which he is expertly correcting the biggest fool’s errand of his predecessor (withdrawal of troops from Germany, military aid for the Yemen war) shows this and otherwise sets a correct and familiar tone.
However, the world has moved on while U.S. foreign policy took its Trump timeout. Three issues were of the greatest importance for Europe: First, Vladimir Putin’s Russia maneuvered itself into a dangerous impasse. A policy of arrogant disregard, like that under Barack Obama, is no longer possible for Biden. Second, a coordinated strategy between the EU and the United States is needed for China’s extensive ambitions; the largest gap in perception and analysis becomes evident here.
Europe Will Be a Construction Site for Biden
Biden’s third construction site will be Europe itself. Right now, Europe is putting on a show of powerful self-confidence and swears up and down that it will now finally grow up and become independent. President Emmanuel Macron’s words of strategic autonomy are being tested for academic viability in seminars and are found to be appropriate.
However, at first blush, this much-invoked autonomy collapses again. Be it Nord Stream, the policy, the struggle over influence in the Balkans, or dealing with Turkey and Libya, Europe is evidently not a monolithic actor. And the real test is imminent if a new chancellor is elected in Germany who cannot make use of the integrative power and trustworthiness of their predecessor.
That is the Old World for the new U.S. president. Even though, in America, they always like to point to the crumbling landscape at home, blown over by the blight of the decay of democracy, the United States will naturally act as a leading power, in and for Europe as well. The government has no other choice. It only has the choice of means — and at least with Biden, it will be less revolutionary than with his predecessor.