Advocates for the Biden administration and its friends in the mainstream media have tried to portray the very modest results from his first European trip, concluded by a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as a success, if only because Biden did not follow President Trump’s example of getting into angry confrontations with European allies, or accept Putin’s lame denials that he had ordered Russian government hackers to interfere with US elections.
Biden’s main message to America’s allies was that, “America was back,” by which he meant that he has abandoned Trump’s tough-minded America-first foreign policy stance and was willing once again to sacrifice America’s best interests in the name of good will and globalization.
Biden boasted that he told Putin in their face-to-face meeting that as president, he would not tolerate Russia’s continued interference in US elections and cyberattacks on major American companies, government agencies, and vital infrastructure facilities. He also sought credit from liberal activists for raising objections to Russia’s sorry human rights record, including the attempted assassination and jailing of Putin’s most popular political opponent, and the continued imprisonment, on trumped-up criminal charges, of two innocent American citizens.
But more objective foreign policy experts and commentators, including some liberal voices, disagreed with the rosy White House assessment of Biden’s accomplishments while abroad. They concluded that Putin emerged as the clear winner in the meeting with Biden, while giving Biden little of substance in return. These same observers noted that Biden was largely unsuccessful in convincing Europeans to push back against the aggressive Chinese agenda to achieve global market dominance by 2025, as well as China’s military moves threatening its neighbors, including US allies Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
BIDEN VISIT WAS SHORT ON ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Aside from photo-ops of Biden’s friendly chats with European leaders, who were visibly relieved at not having to deal with Donald Trump’s demands that their countries pay their fair share of NATO defense costs, and who were eager to welcome the new American president back into their elitist diplomatic social “club,” Biden’s week-long trip was short on significant new accomplishments.
They included an agreement between the US and the EU to call a truce in their long-running trade dispute over government subsidies to Boeing and Airbus, and an agreement between Biden and Putin to allow their respective ambassadors to return to their posts so that normal low-level diplomatic interactions between them could resume.
Upon close scrutiny, most of the other “achievements” the White House claimed for Biden’s foreign trip turned out to be glib promises with very little actual substance or hard commitments behind them. For example, the G7 conference featured an announcement of the “Build Back Better World” (B3W) plan, an international version of Biden’s grossly overpriced domestic infrastructure proposal which is now being cut down to a more reasonable size by congressional Republicans. The internationalized version of Biden’s plan was touted as a response to China’s ambitious trillion-dollar “Belt and Road Initiative,” in which China has made major investments in essential infrastructure projects mostly in poorer countries around the world, vastly expanding China’s influence. The B3W plan was touted as offering those countries an alternative source of infrastructure funding without so many strings attached, but it was not clear from the announcement how much money would be provided to fund those projects, or exactly where that money would come from.
Some of Biden’s other diplomatic achievements while abroad were reaffirmations of previously announced commitments, such as the now obligatory pledges to continue fighting the man-made causes of climate change, and a promise to distribute a billion doses of the Covid vaccine to poorer nations where the virus is still running rampant.
Putin and Biden also informally agreed to take the first steps to set up an agenda for a new round of international nuclear arms control talks. In plain English, that means an agreement by both countries to talk about having more talks about disarmaments. The details, of course, are to be announced later. What a marvelous achievement!
BIDEN AND PUTIN AGREE US-RUSSIAN RELATIONS AT A NEW LOW
At least both Putin and Biden now publicly agree that relations between the US and Russia have deteriorated to their lowest point since the darkest days of the Cold War, when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev almost started a nuclear war by secretly installing Russian missiles in Cuba, only 90 miles from the southern coast of Florida.
This past March, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov was pressured into leaving Washington for Moscow, and, a few weeks later, US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan was obliged to make the same trip in the reverse direction.
In May, the Russian government added the US to its “list of unfriendly countries” which meant that the US embassy had to fire its non-US staff, effectively bringing all routine work at the embassy to a standstill.
Both countries recognized that continuing the diplomatic standoff was in neither side’s interest, so one of the few things that Putin and Biden were able to quickly agree upon was to back off, thereby reestablishing routine relations between the two countries on the lowest levels, and enabling each side to send high level diplomats to each other without delay or the need for help from a third party.
Few of the matters that Putin discussed with Biden during their meeting were that important to the Russian leader. What Putin wanted most from Biden was his assurance that the US and its Western allies won’t take any meaningful action to stop Putin’s ongoing campaign to restore Russia’s great power status and its domination over the European states of the former Soviet empire.
THE SUMMIT THAT NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED
Biden’s rocky history with Putin indicates that, unlike the previous three former US presidents, he is under no over-optimistic illusions about the kind of leader he’s dealing with. Biden appears to recognize Putin as dangerous, untrustworthy, and intransigent. That is in basic agreement with the view of several prominent experts on relations with Russia, most notably the exiled dissident and former chess champion, Garry Kasparov, who has argued that Biden shouldn’t have agreed to the summit with Putin at all.
But Biden also recognized that after the past five years of incessant Democrat Russia-bashing as an integral part of the larger “resistance” campaign to undermine Trump’s presidency, he had to show his fellow Democrats that he was capable of standing up to Putin, face-to-face, in contrast to Trump’s performance at his Helsinki summit with the Russian leader.
Another Biden goal in meeting Putin was his desire to keep US relations with Russia on a relatively even keel, and prevent Russian meddling from becoming a distraction preventing Biden from focusing on his main immediate objectives. These include the passage of progressive domestic spending bills through Congress, reviving Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, and completing the American military pivot that Obama had planned but never implemented from the Middle East to the Western Pacific, to meet the long-term threat from China to US dominance in that region.
The wall-to-wall international media coverage of the one-on-one meeting in Geneva which portrayed Biden and Putin as equals was a significant boost for Putin’s efforts to restore Russia’s former status as one of the world’s two dominant nuclear superpowers. It was also a useful photo-op for Putin that he will be able to use in the campaign leading up to Russia’s nationwide parliamentary elections on September 19.
Former CIA Moscow station chief Daniel Hoffman told Fox News that “Putin got what we wanted,” which was a big summit before his parliamentary elections. “I think China’s happy that Russia is such a thorn in our side,” he said, “[because] we take so much of our time and our energy and our resources to deal with Russia [that] we have less to deal with China.”
BIDEN WHITE HOUSE IN DENIAL
Not surprisingly, the Biden White House strongly pushed back against the obvious criticism that despite all the positive media coverage and high expectations surrounding Biden’s first major European visit as president, he accomplished very little of substance.
In a CNN interview, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, claimed that at their Geneva summit, Biden had challenged Putin on “hard issues.”
“I just don’t buy the argument which says this [summit] was not worth it for the United States,” Sullivan said in defense of the trip’s accomplishments. “As President Biden himself said, he did what he came to do and I think America’s come out better for it.”
But Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and many other critics of Biden’s foreign policy ridiculed Sullivan’s conclusion and argued that Biden had effectively given Putin a “pass,” allowing him to continue pursuing his efforts to undermine America’s strategic interests around the world, while attempting to reestablish control over the Eastern European democracies which used to be part of the Soviet Union.
And the Biden administration’s claim that the president responded forcefully to Putin over Russian aggression does not stand up well under close scrutiny.
In explaining his strategy for dealing with Putin, Biden admitted to reporters that he takes a simplified personal approach to the conduct of international diplomacy. “Look, guys, I know we make foreign policy out to be this great, great skill that somehow is sort of like a secret code,” he said. “All foreign policy is a logical extension of personal relationships. It’s the way human nature functions.”
At the Geneva summit, that strategy translated to Biden appealing to Putin’s ego by offering him a measure of acceptance and legitimacy on the world stage after the past seven years during which Putin has been treated as a diplomatic pariah for having ordered the invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014.
BIDEN’S PIPELINE GIVEAWAY TO PUTIN
Putin has also ruthlessly exploited the economic leverage that Russia enjoys as the main supplier of natural gas to countries in Eastern Europe. On several occasions, he has cut off or jacked up the price of Russian natural gas, usually during winter months, to intimidate and punish those countries when he thought they were getting too cozy with the US and its NATO allies.
President Trump frequently urged European leaders to lessen their dependence on Russian energy supplies and encouraged US energy exports to Europe to help maintain their political independence. Trump was highly critical of the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which, when completed, would bring large quantities of Russian natural gas to Western Europe. Trump rightfully feared that the cheap Russian natural gas would make Germany and other European countries more vulnerable to Putin’s brand of energy blackmail.
Nevertheless, Biden announced, shortly before leaving for his visit to Europe, that he was waving the US sanctions that Trump sought to impose on the Russian gas pipeline. Biden’s critics saw that move as another act of appeasement towards Russia, giving Putin a major economic and diplomatic victory even before the Geneva summit took place.
BIDEN FORCED TO ACCEPT PUTIN’S STATUS QUO
The White House claims that the talks between Biden and Putin gave the American president a chance to clearly draw his “red lines” in US-Russian relations. But any negotiation necessarily begins with the establishment of each side’s respective positions as a starting point, instantly making them normal and acceptable. In the case of the Biden-Putin talks, that forced Biden to accept the new status quo established by Putin’s acts of aggression against Ukraine and other Eastern European states since he took over as Russia’s leader two decades ago.
For example, with regard to the ongoing civil war in Ukraine between the forces of the Kiev government and the Russian-backed insurgents, Biden did not demand that Putin withdraw his military support for the pro-Russian insurgents who have occupied the Donbass region, or return Crimea to Ukrainian control. Instead, Biden only asked that Russia act within the framework of the Minsk agreement, a series of Russian-orchestrated ceasefire agreements that have legitimized leaving large sections of Eastern Ukraine under insurgent control indefinitely.
In the case of the ongoing persecution of Russian opposition leader Alexander Navalny, Biden did not demand that Putin order his immediate release. Instead, he only asked that Navalny not be killed in prison, again implying that from Biden’s point of view, Putin was free to keep his main political rival behind bars indefinitely.
The pro-Biden mainstream media reports of the Geneva summit made a point of emphasizing that during their meeting, Biden presented Putin with a list of 16 crucial American infrastructure targets that must be kept off-limits to Russian hackers. Otherwise, Biden warned there could be serious consequences, including the possibility of an American cyber-counterattack on crucial Russian targets.
WHY PUTIN MAY BE TEMPTED TO CALL BIDEN’S BUFF
But look at that same conversation from Putin’s point of view. First of all, he would see it as a green light from Biden for Russian hackers to continue their cyberattacks on any American targets not on Biden’s list. Second, given his past history, Putin would likely be tempted to secretly order a Russian cyberattack on one of the lesser targets on Biden’s list in such a way that would enable him to later publicly deny any responsibility for it. Putin would want to see what happens if he called Biden’s bluff.
Would Biden back down from his threat to respond militarily? President Obama did that in 2013, after Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered his military to use chemical weapons against civilians in territory under rebel control during the Syrian civil war. Or would Biden feel obligated to carry through on his public threat? That would risk, at the very least, starting a new Cold War, and at worst, trigger a dangerous series of escalating attacks and counterattacks between the world’s two leading nuclear superpowers.
If Biden would seem willing to carry out his threat in the end, Putin would always have the option of backing down by issuing an apology, or, more likely, shifting blame for the attack to a rogue Russian ally or low-level subordinate who had exceeded his authority.
It would not be the first time that Putin has used that kind of excuse to cover up the Russian commission of a serious war crime, such as the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board. The Boeing 777 commercial jetliner took off from Amsterdam and had been bound for Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down over Eastern Ukraine by a Russian-built anti-aircraft missile, fired from pro-Russian insurgent-held territory. Russia vehemently denied any responsibility for the deaths and blamed the Ukrainian government in Kiev for allowing the commercial airliner to fly over an active war zone.
Contrary to media reports, Biden claimed that he had issued “no threats” to Putin during their Geneva meeting. But the meeting did end hours earlier than expected, which was taken as a sign to outside observers that it had accomplished very little in bringing the two sides closer.
Biden did say that he warned Putin that if Navalny were to die in prison, or if Russian hackers continued to launch cyberattacks on critical infrastructure in the US, Putin would find both himself and Russia even more marginalized in the international arena than before the summit, and subject to more economic sanctions.
BIDEN’S FRONT-LOADED “CARROT AND STICK” APPROACH
The problem with the “carrot-and-stick” approach that Biden took was that he felt the need to deliver all his carrots to Putin up front. That sign of weakness is yet another reason why Putin might be tempted to call Biden’s bluff.
Putin no doubt remembers how President Obama backed down in 2013 after Syrian dictator Bashar Assad defied him by using chemical weapons against his own people. In fact, Putin gave Obama a face-saving way out by arranging a fake deal with Assad in which the Syrian dictator falsely promised to give up his chemical weapons cache under international inspection.
Putin is also aware of how the Obama administration caved in on all its original demands in negotiating the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. As Obama’s vice president, Biden played an important role in both those decisions, and currently as president, Biden is in the process of making the same mistakes in his efforts to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, three years after President Trump renounced it and reapplied US sanctions on Iran.
BIDEN EMULATING OBAMA’S STRATEGY OF APPEASEMENT
Biden’s refusal to push back strongly against Putin’s strategy of aggression in Eastern Europe has its roots in the Obama-Biden administration policy of appeasement and withdrawal in response to Putin’s belligerence.
For example, in 2009, Obama agreed to cancel US plans to build up the missile defenses of newly-admitted NATO member states in Eastern Europe, after Putin complained that enhancing their ability to defend themselves against a Russian attack posed a threat to Russian national security.
In 2014, shortly after the citizens of Ukraine overthrew their pro-Russian president and installed a democratically-elected, pro-Western leader in his place, Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula by “little green men,” former Russian soldiers wearing no insignias on their uniforms. He also gave extensive military aid to pro-Russian insurgents who took over most of the industrial Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
After putting up a largely pro forma diplomatic protest, the Obama-Biden administration accepted Russia’s gross violation of Ukraine’s national sovereignty and independence as a fait accompli. After Putin engineered a referendum in which the population of Crimea purportedly agreed to be annexed by Russia, Obama and America’s European allies administered a public slap on the wrist, imposing relatively light economic sanctions and expelling Russia from the G8 conferences of major economic powers, which is why they are now called G7 meetings.
At the same time, the Obama-Biden administration refused to sell Ukraine’s pro-Western government the defensive weapons it needed to fight off the Russian-sponsored insurgency.
After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, he reversed Obama’s policy and began selling American defensive weapons to the Ukrainian government. When Putin started a build-up of Russian military forces on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland, Trump responded by insisting that NATO troops be permanently stationed in those countries to assist in their defense. He also visited those countries to personally and publicly promise their people that the US would stand by its commitment to come to their defense, under the terms of Article 5 of the NATO treaty, in case of further acts of Russian aggression.
So much for the Democrat complaints that Putin had President Donald Trump “in his pocket,” and the never-proven accusations that in 2016, Trump or leaders of his presidential campaign had conspired with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton.
BIDEN’S NAIVE PERSONAL DIPLOMACY
Biden said he made his pleas to Putin on a personal basis: “I asked him how he’d feel if ransomware took over his pipelines.” Biden also wondered aloud about how Putin felt knowing that the rest of the world understands that Russia has repeatedly interfered in other countries’ elections.
In March, Biden shocked the international diplomatic community by calling Putin a “killer” in an ABC broadcast interview. But during a news conference two days before their Geneva summit, Biden gave Putin recognition as a legitimate world leader by calling him a “worthy adversary,” while refusing to repudiate his earlier, much harsher characterization.
One conservative media critic condemned “bumbling Biden’s” lame effort to appeal to Vladimir Putin’s heart during their summit as “a pathetically naïve approach to foreign policy. Russia (and China and Iran) won’t abandon authoritarianism to win admiration from the ‘international community.’ ‘America is back’ really means the White House is back in the hands of the establishment and desperate to please the Euro elite by pretending that the world’s villains can be faced down with finger-wagging.”
Biden was very sensitive to any media criticism of his personal approach to Putin. At his post-summit press conference, Biden lashed out at a CNN reporter who asked him why he was “so confident” Putin would agree to “change his behavior” towards the United States.
“I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior!” Biden responded angrily. “When did I say I was confident? I said what will change their [Russian] behavior is if the rest of the world reacted to them and they diminished their standing in the world… If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business.”
In other words, Biden’s foreign policy doctrine is based on his faith that negative global opinion alone will ultimately convince an evil dictator like Putin to mend their ways.
BIDEN’S LONG HISTORY OF FOREIGN POLICY MISTAKES
In an essay published by the American Spectator, conservative commentator George Neumayr recalled an incisive comment about Biden’s foreign policy proposals made by Robert Gates, who served as defense secretary under Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, and CIA director under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush: “I think he [Biden] has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” Gates said, referring to Biden’s long record on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, and as its chairman between 2001 and 2003, and again between 2006 and 2008.
Biden supported Jimmy Carter’s policy of encouraging a US détente with the Soviet Union and opposed Ronald Reagan’s unqualified moral condemnation of the Soviet system. After Reagan defeated Carter in the 1980 presidential election, Biden became one of the most prominent Democrat critics of Reagan’s push to expand the Pentagon budget and mocked Reagan’s support for a strengthened American nuclear shield as “one of the most reckless and irresponsible acts in the history of modern statecraft.”
Biden was an advocate for the pacifist-supported nuclear freeze movement. During the latter decades of the Cold War, Biden was with the liberal Democrats who rejected Reagan’s peace-through-strength policies and criticized him for publicly condemning the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” We now know that Biden was wrong about Reagan’s policies. They enabled the United States to defeat the Soviet Union, and win the Cold War without the need to fire a shot in anger.
Last week, Biden was expressing his alarm at the G7 meeting about the threat to the free world from the Russian-Chinese “autocracy.” But during the 1980s, Senator Biden condemned President Reagan for his administration’s support for the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua, and dismissed Republican concerns about Soviet expansionism as needless alarmism.
PAYING A HIGH PRICE FOR SMALL GAINS
Biden achieved only minor gains for the United States during his meeting with Putin last week.
Perhaps the world is a slightly safer place following their agreement to set up an agenda for a new round of nuclear arms limitation talks. The fact that the Russian ambassador will return to Washington and the US ambassador will return to Moscow is probably a good thing, overall, but doesn’t do much to help resolve the main differences between the two superpowers. It is also likely that Alexey Navalny is a little safer in his Russian prison cell now that Biden has spoken to Putin on his behalf, but don’t be too surprised if one day the Russian government announces that Navalny, like so many other former Putin critics, has died of “natural causes” or an “accident” under highly suspicious circumstances. These are, at best, small victories for President Biden for which the United States has already paid much too high a price to its sworn enemy, former KGB officer Vladimir Putin.
Even the New York Times, which has consistently portrayed the first five months of Biden’s administration in the most positive possible light, seemed disappointed with the results of Biden’s highly-anticipated meeting with Putin.
Its analysis also implied that Biden was naïve in approaching the summit as an opportunity to “find ways to reach a polite accommodation with Putin. But it is far from clear that any of the modest initiatives the two men described. . . after a stiff, three-hour summit meeting on the edge of Lake Geneva, will fundamentally change a bad dynamic.”
The Times story also quoted an unnamed senior Biden aide who seemed skeptical of Biden’s suggestion in his press conference that Putin may now “see advantage in changing course. . . despite a long history of efforts to undermine the Western alliance.”
The aide noted that Biden’s effort to portray his summit with Putin as a success was consistent with Biden’s nature, which “is perpetually optimistic.” But then the aide added darkly that the president “may be the only one” on the foreign policy team who views it that way.
BIDEN FAILED TO MOBILIZE OPPOSITION TO THE RUSSIA-CHINA ALLIANCE
At the G7 summit, Biden urged America’s European allies to stand up against concerted attempts by China and Russia to break the unity of the NATO alliance. “Russia and China are both seeking to drive a wedge in our transatlantic solidarity,” Biden said.
But far from discouraging China from growing its diplomatic and economic partnership with Russia, the Chinese government pledges to further strengthen its informal alliance with Putin’s Russia against the interests of the US and its allies.
“Any attempt to undermine China-Russia relations is doomed to fail. We hope they will not go further down the path of zero-sum game,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last week, adding that Biden’s concerns were unfounded because the China-Russia alliance is an “important force for stability in a turbulent world.”
Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping told reporters, “In the past six years, we have met nearly 30 times. Russia is the country that I have visited the most times, and President Putin is my best friend and colleague,” and then added, “we will strengthen our mutual support on key issues.”
Hal Brands of the American Enterprise Institute told Fox News that Putin has put the Biden administration in a “jam.”
“The United States would like its relationship with Russia to be more stable and quieter so it can focus on China. Putin knows that,” Brands explained. “That gives Putin an incentive to be disruptive so he can try and raise the price the United States has to pay for calm in its relationship with Russia.”
Brands said the Biden-Putin summit is unlikely to have much of an effect on China’s geopolitical strategy. “The drivers of China-Russia relations were pretty strong before the summit,” he said. “They have a shared geopolitical animus towards the United States and they have a shared ideological imperative in protecting dictatorial regimes in a largely democratic world.”
But Brands also argues that the current partnership between the Russia and China against the US as their common enemies is unlikely to last long, based upon historic considerations.
“They [Russia and China] have more often been rivals than partners,” Brand said. “If you go back and look at the Cold War, communist China and communist Soviet Union had lots of geopolitical and ideological reasons to maintain a good relationship…and they couldn’t do it.”
Another problem with their long-term relationship is that Russia today is a military power with a dysfunctional economy and serious internal social problems, while China is an up and coming, but overpopulated, global economic and military power, bordering on the vast but mostly empty wastelands of Russian Siberia. How long can that unstable situation last?
BIDEN’S WARM G7 RECEPTION WAS LESS THAN IT SEEMED
The New York Times coverage of the G7 summit featured glowing reports of Biden’s efforts to ingratiate himself with Western Europe’s leaders, including the Queen of England, in an attempt to mend some of the diplomatic fences that had been broken by Donald Trump.
But the story also quoted a warning from Rosa Balfour, the director of Carnegie Europe, an EU-centric foreign policy think tank, who wrote, “Don’t underestimate the Trump years as a shock to the EU. There is the shadow of his return and the EU will be left in the cold again. So the EU is more cautious in embracing US demands.”
The same story also provided a less than enthusiastic assessment of Biden’s effort to get America’s European allies to join him in forging a stronger joint response to the economic, technological and military challenges posed by China. It noted that French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel still prefer to “treat China as a partner first and a competitor second.”
Their reluctance to join Biden in directly confronting China was highlighted by a telling comment from Merkel, who said, “If you look at the cyberthreats and the hybrid threats, if you look at the cooperation between Russia and China, you cannot simply ignore China. [But] one must not overrate it, either. We need to find the right balance.”
FEAR OF CHINA BEHIND THE BOEING-AIRBUS TRADE AGREEMENT
The only significant joint trade policy move against China announced during Biden’s European visit was an agreement to set aside a tariff dispute dating back to 2004 between the West’s two largest commercial jet aircraft makers, Boeing and Airbus, over subsidies from their respective governments.
The deal was reached in an effort to protect the international market share of both companies against a challenge from China’s new C919 narrow-body jetliner. The heavily state-subsidized Chinese aircraft is expected to enter commercial service within the next year in direct competition with Boeing’s 737 MAX and the Airbus A321 neo jetliners. The new plane starts off with a large built in-domestic market from Chinese government-controlled airlines, which plan to order hundreds of the home-built jets over the next decade. China and Russia are also jointly developing a new widebody jetliner called the CR929. It is expected to enter commercial service around 2026 and directly compete with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350.
In announcing the end of the Boeing-Airbus dispute, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said, “we are putting away our litigation briefcases [because the US and EU are now focused on] what is going to be best for competition between us in the context of a world where our industries and workers will be facing competition like we’ve never seen before.”
Last week, the US and the EU also unveiled a new high-level Trade and Technology Council to cooperate in efforts to catch up with China and protect and better compete in critical emerging technologies, such as microchips, cellular communications, and solar energy, in which China now dominates international markets and supply chains.
But while these developments towards Biden’s goal of making the US and EU more competitive with China in these crucial areas are encouraging, they are still largely symbolic.
James Lindsay, the director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that while “Biden has gotten words from the Europeans, he hasn’t gotten deeds. Settling some trade issues is a very good start. But it’s not how you start, but how you finish, how you translate the sentiments in the communiqués into common policies — and that will be very difficult.’”
EUROPEANS UNCOMFORTABLE WITH BIDEN’S HUMAN RIGHTS RHETORIC
The New York Times coverage also noted “the discomfort of some European leaders with Biden’s repeated declarations that the struggle of the age is ‘democracy versus autocracy.” For example, the Europeans have not yet joined Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s public condemnation of the Beijing government for its genocidal oppression of China’s predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities, including the native Uyghur population in Xinjiang province.
In his most recent telephone conversation with China’s President Xi in February, Biden emphasized eight major areas of US concern, which included China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and its menacing of Taiwan, along with its coercive global trade practices, aggressive actions in the Western Pacific, and other issues related to the origins of the Covid virus, greenhouse gas emissions, and international weapons proliferation.
Michael Pillsbury, a senior fellow and director for Chinese strategy at the Hudson Institute think tank, told Fox News that so far, there has been “no sign of progress” from Xi on any of those issues, and adding that to succeed, Biden needs to find a way to “develop more leverage on China.”
BIDEN FACING A MORE HOSTILE NEW IRANIAN PRESIDENT
Now that Biden has mended his fences with Europe’s leaders, and reached a tacit agreement with Putin to keep tense US-Russian relations from boiling over in the near future, he has returned home to face the simultaneous challenges of dealing with a new Israeli prime minister with an unstable government coalition and an increasingly intransigent Iran, whose leader sees no further reason to cater to over-delicate American feelings.
Iran’s ruling Ayatollah Khamenei has so little respect for Biden’s resolve that he has dropped all pretense at moderation and arranged for the rigged election last week of a new president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, who is notorious for committing crimes against humanity. According to the official election results, Raisi won nearly 62% of the 28.9 million votes cast. But tens of millions of Iranians boycotted the vote in protest against the limited selection of candidates who received the required approval from the ayatollahs. An additional 3.7 million ballots which were cast were disqualified by Iranian election officials.
Raisi is currently under US sanctions for his involvement in Iran’s mass execution of an estimated 5,000 political prisoners in 1988. His victory in the rigged election prompted the secretary-general of Amnesty International to say, “That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran.”
Unlike the outgoing Iranian president, Rouhani, Raisi does not pretend to be a moderate, nor does he have any respect for the norms of international diplomacy or civilized behavior. Hand-picked by the ayatollahs, Raisi is widely known as an unapologetic Islamic hard-liner who does not try to hide his hatred for the United States and his intentions to destroy Israel.
ISRAEL MAKING NEW PREPARATIONS FOR WAR WITH IRAN
At the first regular Sunday cabinet meeting of the newly elected Israeli government, Prime Minister Naftoli Bennett said, “It was not the Iranian public, but Ayatollah Khamenei who chose ‘the executioner from Tehran’ as Iran’s new president. Raisi’s election is the last signal to the superpowers to wake up and understand with whom they are dealing: A regime of executioners must not be allowed to get its hands on weapons of mass destruction. This is the position of the Israeli government.”
Previously, Israel’s new foreign minister, Yair Lapid, tweeted that “Iran’s new president, known as the Butcher of Tehran, is an extremist responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iranians. He is committed to the regime’s nuclear ambitions and to its campaign of global terror.”
Lapid added that the “election should prompt renewed determination to immediately halt Iran’s nuclear program and put an end to its destructive regional ambitions.”
A delegation of senior Israeli army officers, led by IDF chief of staff General Aviv Kochavi, flew to Washington over the weekend to meet with senior Pentagon officials to “discuss…current shared security challenges, including matters dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat, Iran’s efforts to entrench itself militarily in the Middle East, Hezbollah’s rearmament efforts, the consequences of the threat of precision-guided missiles and joint force build-up.”
Israeli media reports claim that senior Israeli military and intelligence officials have been ordered to make urgent preparations for the launching of a preemptive first strike aimed at destroying Iran’s nuclear program. The order anticipates the failure of the current negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, followed by an Iranian decision to further accelerate their efforts to build nuclear weapons with which to attack Israel.
BIDEN STILL EAGER TO RETURN TO THE NUCLEAR DEAL WITH IRAN
Yet a spokesman for the State Department confirmed that the Biden administration is still determined to continue with negotiations even after the new Iranian government takes power.
Since the US pulled out of the agreement in 2018, Iran has continued to violate the deal’s restrictions, one by one, on Iran’s nuclear program. At this point, few believe that the Iranians will be willing to give up the large illegal stockpile of highly enriched uranium that it has generated, or abide by the other restrictions on their nuclear program in the original 2015 agreement — such as the usage of more advanced enrichment centrifuges — that it has already broken.
The revival of the flawed nuclear deal, which was the only significant diplomatic achievement of the Obama administration, is now the central goal of Biden’s foreign policy. It is widely expected that Biden and his Obama-era foreign policy negotiators will again cave in to Iran’s demands while getting nothing of significance in return for saving Iran from the devastating impact of Trump’s sanctions on their oil sales, and restoring Iran’s access to international financial markets.
On Sunday, the six signatories to the nuclear deal with Iran, also known as the JCPOA, including the US, Great Britain, France, Germany China and Russia, reconvened in Vienna for their sixth round of indirect talks, which started in April, to clarify the outstanding issues between the US and Iran standing in the way of renewing the agreement, and then adjourned to allow the delegates to consult with the governments.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the parties were “now closer than ever” to a deal, but added that bridging the remaining distance between them was “not an easy job.” In an interview, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed that there was “still a fair distance to travel” to resolve the remaining issues between the US and Iran, including the lifting of sanctions on Iran’s economy in return for the new commitments the US wants Iran to make on both nuclear and non-nuclear issues.
However, in a news conference on Monday, Iran’s newly elected President Raisi said that he would not be willing to meet with President Biden, and that the other issues upon which the US wants Iranian concessions, including the ending of its ballistic missile program and its support for regional Shiite militias and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, were all “non-negotiable.”