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IRI President Examines the Biden Administration's Global Agenda for Foreign Policy

February 4, 2021
 
When President Joe Biden lays out his administration’s foreign-policy priorities this week in his first major policy address since taking office, he is expected to pivot far away from the Trump administration’s “America first” approach. But as much as the country remains divided after a bitter election and its violent aftermath on Jan. 6, the new Democratic administration should think twice before tossing out past Republican policies. At least, that’s what Foreign Policy’s panel of five former officials from the Trump and George W. Bush administration argue. Read their foreign-policy recommendations for the Biden team below.
 

Leverage America’s Democratic Edge to Undercut Authoritarian Rivals

by Daniel Twining, the  president of the International Republican Institute and a former member of the State Department’s policy planning staff during the George W. Bush administration

Biden’s foreign-policy team includes principled professionals whom this Republican admires. Most served in the Obama administration and reject former President Donald Trump’s impoverished view of international leadership. But it would be a mistake to look backwards. The new team needs new approaches to shaping a free and open world that remains safe for the American way of life.
Biden should institutionalize the fledgling Quad alliance with Australia, India, and Japan in the Indo-Pacific.

What differentiates the United States from its strategic competitors, and gives it its greatest advantage, is its network of alliances and partnerships around the globe. But these alliances require renewal and modernization. China and Russia have very few friends, but they deploy “sharp power” to coopt, coerce, or neutralize U.S. allies around the world. The good news is that the United States has the right allies: the rich democracies in Europe and East Asia, as well as a rising India. But these partnerships, embedded in traditional military alliances, are not geared for the political, economic, technological, and information contests that pit open systems against China’s bureaucratic despotism, on which U.S. alliance management must focus.

U.S. interests require stewarding like-minded coalitions to tackle new challenges. To protect open technology while countering authoritarian surveillance and digital subversion, the United States should lead a D-10 coalition of technologically advanced democracies. To strengthen an international economy based on rules rather than predatory Chinese mercantilism, Washington should negotiate to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a way to generate prosperity—as a corollary to domestic support for U.S. workers displaced by globalization and the economic effects of COVID-19. The United States should institutionalize the fledgling Quad alliance with Australia, India, and Japan to sustain U.S. leadership in and access to the Indo-Pacific, the emerging center of global economic gravity and potential geopolitical instability.

Finally, the Biden administration should operationalize incoming Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s maxim that renewing American democracy at home and supporting democracy abroad are two sides of the same coin. The realist approach to foreign policy suggests that Americans check their values at the door of great-power competition. In fact, prevailing over authoritarian rivals requires the United States to be more American: standing for freedom and human dignity abroad by supporting accountability, transparency, and anti-corruption efforts everywhere. The strategic Achilles’ heel of the United States’ geopolitical adversaries is their leaders’ fear of their own people.