Is the Biden Administration Doing Enough to Project Our Nation’s Strength in International Affairs?

Read TheGenZPost's Report Card on President Biden's Foreign Policy Actions Thus Far.

U.S. President Biden with French President Macron


Article by Jett James Pruitt


Nine months after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, many significant international events have unfolded in the wake of global chaos. From the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan to the ejection of American diplomats from France, American confidence in global affairs seems to be waning under the Biden administration. Indeed, amid the recent withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, President Biden’s approval rating slid to just 43 percent—the lowest in his presidency so far.


While many pundits speculate this will hurt his chances for re-election in 2024, it is simply too soon to determine whether Biden will win a second term.


It is not, however, too soon to evaluate his current foreign policy achievements.


Based on objective, factual reporting, here are our grades on President Biden’s performance concerning the top three most important foreign policy issues of our time: Afghanistan, Russia, and France.


ON AFGHANISTAN:


As most Americans know, the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan following the September 11th Attacks of 2001. Under the leadership of then-President George W. Bush, American forces toppled the Taliban-led Islamic Emirate, which ruled the country for the previous five years. In addition, American forces successfully hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden—the al-Qaeda leader who claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.


Flashforward twenty years. After claiming the lives of nearly 2,500 American soldiers and costing the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars, President Biden ultimately decided to end America’s longest war in April 2021. According to Reuters, the Taliban launched an offensive against the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on May 1, 2021. Beginning on August 6, they proceeded to seize provincial capitals with little to no resistance.


On August 15, President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, and Kabul—the country’s federal capital—fell to the Taliban.

Kabul International Airport, August 2021


While the decision to pull U.S. troops was initially praised, the Biden administration has been under fire for handling the chaotic evacuation of Afghani and American civilians. As a result, 13 U.S. service members died in a suicide bombing on August 26 and a U.S. drone strike mistakenly killed 10 civilians on August 29.

While the Pentagon apologized for the latter event, enemy perception of America's military prowess is seemingly at an all-time low.

To make matters worse, President Biden has recently received a media blitz after making misleading statements in a publicized interview.


On August 18, President Biden was interviewed by ABC’s George Stephanopolous. Among other things, Stephanopolous asked the President if he was advised by Pentagon officials to leave a residual military presence in Afghanistan.


“Your top military advisers warned against withdrawing on this timeline,” Stephanopolous said. “They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.”


“No, they didn’t,” President Biden replied.


“So, your military advisers did not tell you, ‘No, we should just keep 2,500 troops? It’s been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that?'" Stephanopolous asked in response.


“No one said that to me that I can recall,” President Biden maintained.


On September 28, top Pentagon officials testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In their sworn testimony, General Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, detailed their interactions with President Biden regarding the American military withdrawal from Afghanistan.


Speaking to top lawmakers, the two officials stated that they advised President Biden to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan to prevent the country’s government from collapsing.

The Afghanistan Withdrawal, August 2021


“In the fall of 2020, my analysis was that an accelerated withdrawal without meeting specific and necessary conditions risked losing the substantial gains made in Afghanistan, damaging U.S. worldwide credibility, and could precipitate a collapse of the [Afghan National Security Forces] and the Afghan government,” Milley asserted in his opening statement.


“I won’t share my personal recommendation to the President, but I will give you my honest opinion,” said McKenize to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). “I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.”


In essence, General McKenzie and General Milley contradicted President Biden on his previous statements. Especially at a time of heightened political distrust, division, and retribution, it is crucial for the President of the United States to remain fully transparent with the American people.


The crisis overseas—where 100 Americans remain trapped in the Taliban-ruled country—has weakened our international credibility, eroded our confidence, and plagued the current administration in a scandal of neglect. Put simply, Biden must reestablish trust with the American public if he wants to project our nation’s strength in international affairs.


Of course, some are rallying to Biden’s defense. Among other things, they are deflecting blame from the current President to his predecessors.


Appearing before the House Armed Services Committee on September 29, General McKenzie testified that the Doha Accord contributed to the collapse of the Afghan national government.

“The signing of the Doha Agreement had a really pernicious effect on the government of Afghanistan and on its military—psychological more than anything else, but we set a date-certain for when they could expect all assistance to end,” McKenize said.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin—who accompanied both McKenize and Milley—concurred. He insisted that the 2020 agreement committed the United States to ending airstrikes against the Taliban, “so the Taliban got stronger, they increased their offensive operations against the Afghan security forces, and the Afghans were losing a lot of people on a weekly basis.”


To clarify, the Doha Agreement is a peace pact signed by the United States and the Taliban on February 29, 2020. Negotiated under the Trump administration, the agreement directed the U.S. to withdraw all troops by May 2021 and the Taliban to stop instigating attacks on American forces. Biden ultimately postponed this deadline to August 31, 2021.


Nevertheless, President Biden is taking a massive hit from the media, the people, and his own administration. To lead our nation past the horrors of war, Biden must do a better job in achieving government transparency.


Grade: D-

U.S. President Biden and Russian President Putin


ON RUSSIA:


In a highly publicized event on June 16, 2021, President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a bilateral summit in Geneva, Switzerland. Accompanied by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Biden and Putin made basic agreements concerning potential areas for future cooperation between the United States and Russia.


In short, the gains made from the summit were modest. While both sides agreed to return ambassadors to their posts in Moscow and Washington, D.C., and relaunch negotiations on bilateral arms control, relations between Russia and the United States seem to remain the same as before.


For context, U.S.-Russian relations have soured since Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Not surprisingly, Biden entered the summit with the goal of establishing a “predictable and rational” relationship with President Putin.


In the United States, public reception of the summit was mostly divided along party lines.


Democrats are relatively pleased with Biden’s stance toward Russia—which is a major shift from how former President Donald Trump managed bilateral relations.


In a written statement, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) declared that “President Biden did his job and stood up for the American people by making clear that the United States will respond to Kremlin aggression where and when it happens,” calling it “a necessary reality check for Putin and a welcome departure from the past four years of Trump’s coddling of the Kremlin.”

U.S. President Biden and Russian President Putin


Meanwhile, Republicans are disappointed in how Biden confronted Putin on certain geopolitical issues. Senators Ted Cruz (R- TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI), and John Barrasso (R-WY) animadverted the Biden administration in a statement published on June 16:


“President Biden has signaled the U.S. is back to repeating the same decades of Democrat geopolitical policy failures during his first trip abroad.” Referring to the Biden administration’s decision to relax sanctions on the Russia-backed Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Project, the senators asserted that this “weakness only encourages Putin’s aggression; he’s not paying a significant price for his malign activities, and with decisions like these, this administration is only encouraging him . . . it is precisely the wrong message to send.”


To clarify, the word Kremlin metonymically refers to the Russian government; similar to how The Pentagon refers to the U.S. military or The White House is associated with the Executive Branch.


Since the Geneva Summit, relations between the U.S. and Russia seem to be the same. Overall, it seems that Biden accomplished his goal of establishing a stable and predictable relationship with the estranged nation.


Grade: B


Now, if we include Biden's famous list of "16 critical computer systems Russia shouldn't hack" as announced at a Geneva press conference on June 16:


Grade: C-


U.S. President Biden and French President Macron


ON FRANCE:


Diplomatic relations between France and the United States have always been strong. Dating back to 1778 when colonists were in the fight for American Independence, France has helped to enhance our country’s interests perhaps more than any other nation in the world.


This ironclad relationship has never withered (with the exception of Nazi occupation of France during World War II). According to the U.S. State Department, “relations between the United States and France are active and friendly.”

For this reason, AUKUS will go down as one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in American history.

On September 15, 2021, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States announced the ratification of a trilateral military pact.


Speaking to reporters in the East Room of the White House, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that “The first major initiative of AUKUS will be to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia. Over the next 18 months, we will work together to seek to determine the best way forward to achieve this. This will include an intense examination of what we need to do to exercise our nuclear stewardship responsibilities here in Australia."


"We intend to build these submarines in Adeliade, Australia, in close cooperation with the United Kingdom and the United States,” said Morrison.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (L), U.S. President Joe Biden (C), British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R)


Based on this announcement, reports suggest AUKUS is designed to counter the influence of China in the Indo-Pacific region as it allows for greater sharing of military technology between the three countries.


While some analysts regard the defense pact as the most significant security agreement between the three nations since World War II, AUKUS has soured relations between the United States and France. Specifically, the agreement cancelled a $37 billion security deal between Australia and France, which Paris is not too happy about.


To make matter worse, French officials were notified of AUKUS only a few hours before the agreement was revealed.

In fact, two days after AUKUS was formally announced, France recalled its ambassadors from both Canberra (capital of Australia) and Washington.

Explaining the rationale behind expelling American and Australian diplomats, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drain said in a written statement that “[the decision] is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcement [of AUKUS].” He further maintained that Australia’s decision to cancel a French conventional submarine deal in favor of nuclear technology constituted an “unacceptable [act of] behavior between allies and partners.”


This is the first time U.S. ambassadors were ever recalled from France, per the French foreign ministry.


While France is still enraged with the AUKUS deal, Washington and Paris recently took steps to restore diplomatic ties. On September 22, President Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the future implications of AUKUS in a 30-minute phone call.


According to a joint statement:


“The two leaders agreed that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies on matters of strategic interest to France and our European Partners. President Biden conveyed his ongoing commitment in that regard,” the statement read.


“The two leaders have decided to open a process of in-depth consultations, aimed at creating the conditions for ensuring confidence and proposing concrete measures toward common objectives. They will meet in Europe at the end of October in order to reach shared understandings and maintain momentum in this process. President Emmanuel Macron has decided that the French Ambassador will return to Washington next week. He will then start intensive work with senior US officials.”


Time will tell if AUKUS will permanently impact relations between France and the United States. At this time, President Biden is challenged with maintaining strong relations with Australia and the U.K. while restoring our strategic partnership with France.


It will be very interesting to see how this issue develops in upcoming months.


Grade: C-


In sum, Biden has stumbled somewhat out of the gate in terms of foreign policy. However, with 1,205 days left in his presidency, he has more than enough time to turn things around and strengthen America's image as a model nation for years to come.


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