Unlike Trump four years ago, Biden is a known quantity to American allies, having served as vice president and, before that, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in itself a reassuring fact for those countries.
But experts warn that after four years of Trump, Biden simply won’t be able to revert to the pre-2016 status quo.
“Campaigns are always watched very closely by allies, partners and adversaries of the United States for clues as to how an administration could potentially address a certain set of issues,” said Mark Simakovsky, a former Pentagon official. under the Obama administration who is now a senior official in the Atlantic Council.
“There won’t be a light switch turned where Biden can come in and fundamentally improve ties overnight,” he added. “Incredible damage has been done to transatlantic relations.”
The Biden campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this story. But Biden and campaign advisers have already spoken of restoring relations with traditional United States allies.
“One of the most profound tragedies, at least for me, of recent years has been the dismay of our closest allies and partners and the accession of autocrats around the world,” Antony Blinken, foreign policy adviser for Biden’s campaign and former State Department official said this month during a virtual appearance at the Aspen Security Forum.
Blinken said Biden would work with his allies to “strengthen and extend” the Iran nuclear deal, arguing that the Trump administration could have achieved its goal of extending the ban on conventional weapons to Iran by staying within the agreement and presenting a “united front with our allies.” ”
Blinken also called Trump’s decision to pull thousands of US troops out of Germany as “part of a long continuum of actions that have undermined” the NATO alliance, which he said Trump “has. tend to treat… like a protection racket. ”
Dealing with China “from a position of strength” also requires “reinvesting in our own alliances,” he added.
In an editorial for Foreign Affairs earlier this year, Biden himself wrote that he would “take immediate steps to renew democracy and American alliances” if elected.
“As President, I will do more than just restore our historic partnerships; I will lead the effort to reinvent them for the world we face today, ”Biden wrote. “Working in cooperation with other nations who share our values and goals does not make America a fool. This makes us safer and more efficient. ”
The Democratic Platform Project also calls for “reinventing alliances”, saying the party “will not only mend our alliances, but will reinvent them to advance mutual priorities and meet new challenges.”
Conventions and presidential races are usually based on national issues, not foreign policy, and this year is about to be the same.
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior foreign policy researcher at the Brookings Institution, said that while “many allies will listen” to the convention, it would behoove Biden not to focus too much on the foreign public as he tried to win over. votes of Americans.
Yet, O’Hanlon said, there are areas where Biden can and should differentiate himself from Trump.
Biden “only needs to talk about alliances to the extent that summoning and strengthening them can help Americans,” O’Hanlon said in an email. “Two concrete examples where allied cooperation / coordination can help, and where Trump fails, are the containment of Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs.”
Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal was opposed by European allies of the United States, which pushed back the Trump administration’s so-called maximum pressure campaign against Tehran. More recently, allies have snubbed the Trump administration’s efforts to renew an arms embargo on Iran due to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
In North Korea, Trump’s efforts to secure a denuclearization deal have failed. O’Hanlon said the only chance to get a deal with Pyongyang is if “Seoul and Washington are united in a common vision”.
But just like with NATO, Trump has upset South Korea with demands for a major increase in the amount Seoul pays for US troops based there.
Simakovsky, at the Atlantic Council, said he would expect Biden to continue to pressure his allies to increase the share they are paying for defense.
The difference, Simakovsky added, would be Biden’s approach, which he said would involve “subtle diplomacy” and “a lot more consistency and consistency”.
“I just don’t think Vice President Biden will seek to punch Europeans in the face to achieve this, while at the same time trying to get their cooperation on China,” Simakovsky said. “You just won’t achieve both goals in a way that protects American interests.”
The experiences of American allies with the Trump administration, however, have anchored a distrust of the United States that will be difficult to repair, said Heather Conley, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Our allies are now preparing for another US administration that will overturn everything the Biden administration does,” she said.
To protect against this mistrust, she said, Biden will need to build lasting policies by leading a broad conversation between Congress and the American people about what the role of the United States in the world should be.
“If the vice president wins the election, he will not come back to the situation in 2016,” Conley said. “The pottery has been broken and there isn’t enough super glue to put it back as it was. It really needs to be rebuilt and modernized for the 21st century. “