Biden: ‘America Is Back.’ What’s the Message to the World?

Biden has announced important decisions and confirmed changes in the course of U.S. foreign policy. What didn’t interest Trump will now affect U.S. relations with its partners, including Poland.

In his first speech after the inauguration devoted entirely to international affairs, Joe Biden announced important administrative decisions and reaffirmed previously announced changes in the course of U.S. foreign policy. The president spoke at the State Department, indicating that he aimed to stress the importance of the department after many experienced experts had left during Donald Trump’s presidency, when diplomacy and cooperation with other countries were neglected.

What Will Biden’s America Look Like?

Biden has reaffirmed his willingness to repair U.S. relations with its allies, saying, “America is back.” In saying so, he implied that America is back to the global arena as a partner in joint actions, and that he will not be influenced by the isolationist impulses of the former administration. He also declared that America will lead not by “the example of our power,” but by “the power of the example” it sets for the world by promoting the values of democracy and human rights.

Biden has also announced that he will be “freezing” the withdrawal of some American troops from Germany. Trump didn’t go ahead with his plans of withdrawing 12,000 troops, more than one-third of the contingent (about 33,000 troops) stationed there, which has additionally undermined the confidence Germany and other European allies of the U.S. had in Washington after Trump announced his decisions without consulting them. Biden has given assurance that the Pentagon will review all American troops stationed abroad. This may suggest that any final halt to their evacuation from Germany will come with conditions.

The president has also called for “the immediate and unconditional” release of Alexei Navalny, whose three and a half year jail sentence was ordered a few days ago by the Kremlin-subservient court in Moscow. He also stressed that the time when America did not react to unfriendly moves by Russia—such as attacks on American computer systems or attempts to interfere with elections through disinformation campaigns and undermining the confidence Americans have in democracy—is over. Trump avoided any criticism of Vladimir Putin and disputed the findings of his own intelligence that it was Russian agents who attempted to help him win in 2016.

The president’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said earlier in the day that the policy toward Russia will be “tougher and more effective.” However, neither he nor Biden gave any specifics on what that would consist of. There are voices in the U.S. calling for sanctions in response to Navalny’s imprisonment, targeting, for example, prominent people responsible for repression of the opposition leader and the brutal suppression of demonstrations in his defense. The White House and the State Department have not responded to questions about any such plans.

Biden announced that he would withdraw America’s support for the international military intervention in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is helping the government in the civil war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The move is rather symbolic, since Trump’s administration cut the aid to the Saudi-led coalition under pressure from Congress. Biden’s team, after all, has frozen arms sales to the coalition.

The president reiterated that the war in Yemen is a humanitarian disaster, with tens of thousands of civilians dying and hundreds of thousands left homeless.

Biden promised to radically increase the limit on the number of political refugees admitted to the U.S., which was set by Trump at 15,000 a year. He didn’t specify the figure, though earlier he had announced that his administration would accept up to 125,000 asylum seekers. He also condemned the military coup in Myanmar and called on its leaders to transfer power to the legitimate civil government.

Likewise, he also declared that his administration would strongly support LGBT rights around the world. It was another signal that these rights — just like human rights in general — along with adherence to the norms of democracy in other countries—will again play a role in American foreign policy. It should serve as another warning to the Polish government that what was of no interest to Trump will again influence relations between the U.S. and those partners which, just like Poland, Turkey or Hungary, disregard values that are significant to the Western community.

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