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When the White House Changed Hands, It Changed Tone but Not Policies

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22.09.2021

U.S. President Joe Biden’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday seemed a throwback to happier times in which the United States and its allies were in lockstep. His renewed commitment to international cooperation against the world’s ills such as COVID-19, climate change, and creeping authoritarianism was a sharp break from former President Donald Trump’s naked isolationism—rhetorically, at least. In Biden’s telling, the United States is “back at the table,” and the country “will not go it alone.”

But eight months into his presidency, Biden has yet to turn that rhetoric into policy. He might have scorned Trump’s “America first” approach to the world, but he’s doing his best to carry on Trump’s legacy on everything from foreign policy to trade and immigration.

Biden’s promise not to “go it alone” must have sounded a little rich to the French, who are still seething over being blindsided by Washington’s deal with the United Kingdom to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. That secret deal nixed a French contract to build new submarines for Australia signed five years ago. After making efforts to woo European allies who’d been bruised by four years of the Trump administration, Biden’s handling of the matter was at best clumsy and at worst worthy of his predecessor.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday seemed a throwback to happier times in which the United States and its allies were in lockstep. His renewed commitment to international cooperation against the world’s ills such as COVID-19, climate change, and creeping authoritarianism was a sharp break from former President Donald Trump’s naked isolationism—rhetorically, at least. In Biden’s telling, the United States is “back at the table,” and the country “will not go it alone.”

But eight months into his presidency, Biden has yet to turn that rhetoric into policy. He might have scorned Trump’s “America first” approach to the world, but he’s doing his best to carry on Trump’s legacy on everything from foreign policy to trade and immigration.

Biden’s promise not to “go it alone” must have sounded a little rich to the French, who are still seething over being blindsided by Washington’s deal with the United Kingdom to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. That secret deal nixed a French contract to build new submarines for Australia signed five years ago. After making efforts to woo European allies who’d been bruised by four years of the Trump administration, Biden’s handling of the matter was at best clumsy and at worst worthy of his predecessor.

The deal irked France so much for several reasons. The contract was worth about $66 billion, and French President Emmanuel Macron hoped it would give him a boost in his upcoming campaign for reelection. But it’s more than just lost business: The new arrangement also completely upends France’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific, right when the United States says it is trying to get allies to help counter the rise of China across the entire region. France is one of the few European countries with any real presence in the Pacific (though Britain is sending ships there), and now it will redouble its desire to secure greater strategic autonomy.

“The........

© Foreign Policy


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