U.S. Foreign Policy on the Verge of a New Path

Title (other)Внешняя политика США на пороге нового этапа
Publication type Article
Status Published
Affiliation: Institute for the U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameISTORIYA
EditionModern History in Case of the Social Sciences and Humanities

In the course of the election campaign, a heated contest between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden revolved around the most acute problems of the United States. However, some foreign policy issues, primarily linked with Russia and China, occasionally emerged in their debates. The outcome of the presidential election of 2020 marked a watershed in the political fight for the White House between Republicans and Democrats, and it will have a tremendous impact on international affairs. The election campaign was unfolding amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Responding to the challenge has revealed a discord between the United States and the European Union on how to tackle the crisis and their opposite perceptions of the WHO’s role. President-elect J. Biden is about to cancel D. Trump’s dubious decisions on U.S. withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal, the Paris accord on climate, the World Health Organization. This reversal may lead to a more alignment between the United States and the European Union, but it can’t prevent ongoing erosion of the USA global hegemony. Biden’s election is in no way a guarantor for overcoming of transatlantic disagreements. American presidents come and go but diverging and conflicting interests of the United States and the EU remain.

Abstract (other)Хотя предвыборные кампании Д. Трампа и Дж. Байдена 2020 г. были сосредоточены в основном на злободневных внутренних проблемах США, международная тематика также не была обойдена вниманием двух главных претендентов на президентский пост. Д. Трамп старался использовать сюжеты, связанные с Китаем, чтобы дискредитировать своего политического противника, который в свою очередь пытался приписать действующему президенту подозрительную мягкость в отношении России. Результаты президентских выборов в США подвели черту под «эпохой Трампа» в американской внешней политике. Дж. Байден намерен аннулировать резонансные решения своего предшественника по ряду ключевых международных проблем, в том числе о выходе из иранской ядерной сделки, Парижского соглашения по климату, Всемирной организации здравоохранения. Это приведёт к сближению США и Европы, но не остановит процесс разрушения американской глобальной гегемонии. Демократам вряд ли удастся полностью искоренить влияние трамповского курса, учитывая степень его поддержки в американском обществе – почти 47 % избирателей (74,2 млн человек) проголосовали за республиканского кандидата. Да и в трансатлантическом сообществе избрание Дж. Байдена не гарантирует преодоления разногласий по международным вопросам и разрешения проблем в двусторонних отношениях. Президенты приходят и уходят, а соперничающие политические и экономические интересы США и ЕС остаются.
KeywordsD. Trump, J. Biden, U.S. presidential election, U.S. foreign policy, the European Union, transatlantic relationship, pandemic COVID-19
Keywords list (other)Д. Трамп, Дж. Байден, президентские выборы, американская внешняя политика, ЕС, трансатлантические отношения, пандемия COVID-19
AcknowledgmentThis article is a translation of: Приходько О. В. Внешняя политика США на пороге нового этапа // США & Канада: экономика, политика, культура. 2021. № 2. C. 18—37. DOI: 10.31857/S268667300013565-1
Publication date31.03.2021
Number of characters50746
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Presidential elections in the United States have almost always had a significant influence on the American foreign policy. But it is hard to remember any time in the recent decades when they would attract such close attention of the world community as in 2020.The outcome of the vote which took place amid a political crisis and the rampant COVID-19 pandemic, in many ways determines the prospect of international relations for the foreseeable future since D. Trump and J. Biden personify fundamentally different approaches to the positioning of the United States in the world. The elections were followed with particular concern in Europe, where opinions were expressed that that the re-election of the 45th President of the United States would prove fatal for NATO, aggravating internal disagreements that could lead to its split, while the success of the Democratic candidate, on the contrary, would breathe new life into the Alliance. Many Western political scientists, champions of the ideas of neoliberalism, saw in Trump the gravedigger of the liberal international order. Critics of Trump saw great risks for the future of transatlantic relations in the potentially unfavorable outcome of the vote, worrying that, if re-elected, he might try to fulfill his intention to withdraw the United States from NATO [1]. However, most American pundits still believed that “the entrenched foreign policy consensus on U.S. policy toward NATO is likely to survive Trump”. [Sperling J., 2019: 421].

2 Admitting the possibility of D. Trump's win in the elections, the French political scientist F. Heisbourg stated several months before the vote: “There is currently no unity of vision between the US and its European partners: Trump has been consistent in his transactional and (wherever possible) unilateral approach. He is unlikely to change, and whether he will be defeated in the November 2020 presidential election remains highly uncertain” [Heisbourg F., 2020: 15]. According to F. Heisbourg, if the trends of recent years continue, “Trump’s ‘America First’ policy would morph into more broadly based isolationism”. F. Heisbourg assumed that if J. Biden wins, he will be preoccupied with the country's pressing problems: “Even if Trump’s successor were the functional equivalent of Roosevelt, it is wise to remember that the New Deal president’s first two terms were hardly internationalist” [Heisbourg F., 2020: 17].
3 U.S. administrations replace each other as the result of elections but national interests remain. The defeat of Trump, who in the liberal Europe was associated with the threat of a split in the Atlantic community, does not automatically mean an accommodation of the conflicting interests of the United States and the EU. However, it was J. Biden's victory that the leaders of the major European powers as well as the leaders of the EU and NATO hoped for, who rushed to send him congratulations a few days after the elections, without waiting for the official elections results. Many countries of Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Hungary, used to seeing Trump as their ally in the disputes with Brussels, were in favor of his re-election.
4 Due to the extremely tense atmosphere of the election campaign, the situation around the coronavirus pandemic in the United States acquired a highly politicized character, which was also reflected in D. Trump's response to the crisis, including its international aspects — from the closure of the borders and accusations against China to the severing of relations with WHO. Judging by J. Biden’s statements, the U.S. approach to this issue will change, and his predecessor’s most controversial decisions will be revised. At the same time, the new administration cannot ignore the fact that the race for leadership in the production of vaccines and drugs for COVID-19 between the U.S., EU, China and Russia is gaining momentum, since international prestige and immense income from the sales of coronavirus drugs in the global market is at stake.



The most acute internal problems of the United States were at the forefront in the election campaigns of the two leading contenders for the presidency — the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and the overcoming of its consequences, eradicating of racism, competing proposals by Republicans and Democrats for the change of the tax system and the national energy strategy. Foreign policy issues were also present in the contest between D. Trump and J. Biden, though the verbal duel between them often slid into mutual accusations of indulgence towards the enemies of the United States instead of a meaningful discussion of the issues. The campaign headquarters of the Democratic candidate reminded voters that J. Biden had a long track record of participation in foreign affairs, first as a Senator and then as Vice President. However, this experience, according to the former Defense Secretary R. Gates, did not help J. Biden to correctly perceive the international problems that the Obama administration faced.

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