On foreign policy decisions, Biden faces an obstacle from pragmatism


WASHINGTON (Associated Press) – President Joe Biden last week found himself looking for a nice place in foreign policy: somewhere between pulling a stark turn on four years of Trumpism and cautiously approaching the world as it is.

In the last days Biden accumulated New sanctions on Russia, He announced that he would Withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan In less than five months, they backed away from the campaign A promise to sharply raise the ceiling for refugee admission.

Biden said in explaining his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan: “As you know, we will be more powerful for our opponents and competitors in the long term if we fight the battles over the next twenty years, not the past twenty years.” That also summed up his key foreign policy hopes.

Yet, as last week showed, Biden discovered that when it comes to the strenuous process of statecraft, the drag of pragmatism can slow the race toward aspirations of the big picture.

First, Biden had declared that he would end the “eternal war” in Afghanistan by the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States that sparked America’s longest conflict.

Biden, who has long questioned US strategy in Afghanistan, is doing what he wants The last three ancestors pledged the achievement but were unable to achieve it.

Biden campaigned with a promise to end the war – and former President Donald Trump set a May 1 deadline to do so. In the end, though, Biden said he would exit the Americans, but he would not overcome a “hasty” withdrawal according to his predecessor’s schedule. Instead, he has called for a months-long exit ramp even as Republicans – and a few Democrats – criticize the withdrawal as unwise.

Lisa Curtis, who served as the top director of the National Security Council for South and Central Asia in the Trump administration, said Biden had lost a desire to end the war this year because the United States had the right size of the American presence of about 2,500 soldiers. She noted that it is not cheap, but it is a relatively modest cost to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

It has been more than a year since an American soldier was killed in fighting in Afghanistan. Curtis argued that with a relatively modest troop presence, the United States could maintain a crucial intelligence foothold in a dangerous part of the world, something William Burns, the CIA director in Biden acknowledged, could be curtailed by the planned US withdrawal.

Biden’s push and pull calibration was also evident last week in his approach to Russia.

The president imposed new sanctions on Moscow over the cyber attacks and interference in the 2020 elections, expelled 10 Russian diplomats and targeted Moscow’s ability to borrow money by preventing US financial institutions from buying Russian bonds.

But Biden, who declared in February the end of the days of Vladimir Putin’s “coup” against the United States, indicated at the same time that he had been strict with the Russian president and emphasized that he wanted a “stable and predictable” relationship with him. The president also suggested holding a summer summit with Putin.

Biden said he made it clear to Putin During a phone call On Tuesday, two days before the sanctions were publicly announced, he could have been tougher on the Russians.

“I was clear with President Putin that we could have gone further, but I chose not to,” Biden said. “I chose to be proportional.”

Last week also brought new steps from Biden on accepting refugees that demonstrated the administration’s efforts to overcome the fraught policies of the issue. The President issued an emergency declaration stating that the maximum allowed entry for refugees of 15,000 for this year “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest.”

The move marked a dramatic departure from the Biden campaign’s promise to raise the refugee limit to 125,000 and then to no less than 95,000 a year thereafter. This came as the Biden administration struggles to deal with a severe crisis An increase in young unaccompanied migrants From El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras upon their arrival at the border.

After a torrent of criticism from Democratic lawmakers, the White House in a matter of hours made a quick correction of course on Friday. Next month, Biden will raise the historically low refugee cap that Trump has set – but it may not even reach the 62,500 level that was in a plan submitted to Congress in February, she said. The number already accepted is expected to be closer to 15,000.

Before the Biden administration backed down, Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, welcomed Biden’s move in a tweet that exposed the political implications of the case.

“This reflects the Biden team’s awareness that border flooding will cause record losses in the middle of the term (asterisk) if the Republican Party (asterisk) keeps the issue front and center,” Miller wrote.

Biden has shown over the years his willingness to abandon his party’s stance at times on foreign policy matters. As vice president, he has often found himself out of tune with some of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy advisers.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote in his diary that Biden had “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Early in Obama’s tenure, General Stanley McChrystal publicly indicated that Biden was “short-sighted” in urging the president to focus on a smaller counterterrorism effort in Afghanistan while military commanders were pushing for an increase in troops.

As Biden looks to put his own marks on foreign policy in the early months of his presidency, others in the Obama world argue that the president and his team showed just how ambitious the president and his team were at first.

Michael McFall, who served as the US ambassador to Russia during the Obama years, credits the Biden team for taking the unique step by issuing interim national security strategic directives in March, months before the administration demands it. McFall said the early guidance sent the message around the world that they were serious about breaking up with the past four years.

“They have a much greater ambition for their foreign policy,” said McFall, current director of the Freeman Spogley Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. “I can’t think of a department that has done that before.”


Associated Press writers Josh Book in Baltimore and Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.

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