Joe Biden’s Ambiguity toward International Geneva

These next few days, the American president will have to nominate over 10 ambassadors. No nominee, for the moment, for the Chief of Mission job in Geneva. Yet, it is in this one-of-a-kind multilateral ecosystem that the geopolitical battle with China is most fierce.

Joe Biden’s presence on June 16 at the heart of International Geneva to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, is clearly good news. With the exception of the brief passing of George W. Bush through Cointrin Airport in 2003, you have to go back to 2000 to see a sitting American president tread on Genevan soil. The signal for the multilateral ecosystem in John Calvin’s city could not be better. But the situation is more complicated.

There is nothing multilateral about the face-to-face with the master of the Kremlin. It is an attempt to pacify a bilateral American-Russian relationship that is in poor shape. With his tour of Europe, Biden is clearly getting back to diplomacy. But we are still waiting to see him really get back to multilateralism after the Donald Trump years, which marked a concerning unilateral withdrawal on the part of the world’s most powerful nation.

The signals are, for the moment, not good. These next few days, the boss of the White House will have to nominate more than 10 ambassadors. On the Democratic president’s list, there is no one nominated for the moment to the Chief of Mission job representing the United States at the United Nations Office in Geneva — a position that has remained vacant since the departure of the very Trumpian Andrew Bremberg. It is a worrying and counterproductive omission.

Trump’s administration dealt a hard blow to International Geneva by withdrawing from the Human Rights Council, by announcing that he would do the same with the World Health Organization and by issuing death threats to the World Trade Organization. In Washington, there is a realization of the considerable damage that this empty chair policy has done, in opening the door to China. That country has not held back in filling the void.

A strong engagement of the world’s major powers — the United States included — could, where necessary, enable needed multilateral compromises to be elaborated so that the geopolitical risks of the moment do not lead to real and dangerous conflicts.

The delay in nominating an American ambassador to Geneva seems incomprehensible. At the Group of Seven summit in Cornwall and the NATO summit in Brussels, Biden sought to convince European democracies to ally with Washington so as to better stand against the rise of autocratic China. Now, if Beijing is the United States’ main strategic challenge, the White House must also lead its geopolitical fight where it is particularly lively — in Geneva. Without that, the United States’ return to multilateralism could be only an illusion.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply