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Analysis: Why Biden is unlikely to find much political relief abroad in 2022

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The United States is facing at least two possible national security crises that could erupt in the near future. First, you must try to avoid a possible invasion Ukraine for Russia in what would be The most daring offer in Moscow still to reshape the post-Cold War order. And unless talks bear fruit soon, Iran could reach the threshold of being a nuclear weapon power and leave Biden with an unbearable choice to respond with military action that could lead the United States back to a conflagration. of the Middle East.
As serious as each situation may be, both are somehow a distraction from the enigma of 21st century U.S. foreign policy: how to manage a China increasingly powerful and aggressive. The intense diplomatic and military attention that Washington should devote to a confrontation with Iran or Russia would delight Beijing, after its rise to prominence coincided with the American screens in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of course, a restless world could present Biden with unexpected problems. For example, no president, possibly since Bill Clinton in the 1990s, has thwarted North Korea’s nuclear march. And the Stalinist state, commemorating 10 years under a volatile dictator Kim Jong Un, is advancing with missiles that could drop its nuclear bombs on American soil.
But Pyongyang is not the only one to challenge the US. Biden’s political fortunes at home have been partly eroded by rising gasoline prices following his failure to persuade major Gulf oil producers to pump more crude. Meanwhile, the pandemic threatens to cause more overseas disruptions that could affect U.S. national security. And the rise of Omicron could once again hamper global supply chains, raising inflation that threatens Biden Democrats to midterm elections next year.

Not all has been bad news for the president, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who boasted of his election campaign. There was some diplomatic skill in his first year in office. Declaring “America is back,” Biden calmed allies wounded by the outbursts and insults of former President Donald Trump. He has persuaded Western governments to devise a discouraging package of punishments for Russia to dissuade it from breaking Ukraine’s borders, and is offering security talks in Moscow in a long-term attempt to ease tensions. Earlier last year, it seemed to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin after a previous build-up in Ukraine. And while Trump has re-established the U.S.’s stance on a confrontational stance toward China, Biden has done better in getting U.S. allies in Europe and the Pacific to support U.S. strategy.

But his diplomacy has yet to change the nationalist and expansionist path of President Xi Jinping, after crushing Hong Kongthe remaining democracy and growing fears that it will eventually try to reunite Taiwan with the mainland by force, a move that could suck the United States into a disastrous war with its Asian rival.

Immediate testing when the new year begins

The credibility of Biden’s foreign policy will be scrutinized early in 2022.

His administration’s most intense diplomatic offensive to date is trying to persuade Putin to crack down on tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine. The integrity of NATO and the health of its own political position depend on Biden disabling the crisis without yielding to the security guarantees demanded by the Russian leader. Putin, for example, wants NATO to withdraw forces from the former Warsaw Pact nations that joined the alliance, a condition that could destroy Western credibility and further encourage Russian adventurism.

In the latest news, the White House said on Tuesday that U.S. and Russian officials would meet on Jan. 10. US, Russian and NATO officials will also be in touch in the coming days. Russia has been stirring up another Biden-Putin summit, a piece of diplomatic choreography that would evoke old Cold War meetings. But Biden must follow a fine line, as he could be accused of appeasing Putin if he finally moves to Ukraine, while finding a way out for the Russian leader to save his face. The confrontation has profound political implications for both Biden and Putin. And the Russian leader, who sees a historic task of restoring Russian power at the expense of the United States, is a cunning adversary who has overtaken the last three American presidents.

As its European counterparts try to avoid a war on the continent, U.S. nuclear negotiators are struggling to reactivate the 2015 nuclear deal involving the U.S. and Iran, which was fractured by Trump’s departure.

Despite some optimism expressed by Russian negotiators at the last round of talks in Vienna on Monday, the United States has been deeply skeptical that the diplomatic route will be followed. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday it was “too early to tell” whether Iran’s new hardline government has returned to the table interested in negotiating. And any progress has yet to reach Iran’s “accelerated nuclear steps,” Price added.

The new talks, in which the United States and Iran do not meet directly, are unfolding after US negotiator Robert Malley issued a terrible warning days before Christmas. He told CNN’s Becky Anderson that increasing Tehran’s uranium enrichment meant time was running out to reach an agreement.

“If they continue at their current pace, we have a few weeks left, but not much more than that, at which point, I think, the conclusion will be that there is no agreement to reactivate.” said Malley, the U.S. envoy to Iran. U.S. officials believe Iran is now just a few months away from acquiring materials for a nuclear bomb. Some Israelis talk for weeks.

Iran calls on the United States to lift all sanctions before reversing enrichment. The US offers a sequenced approach. His position is complicated by the inability of the Biden administration to promise that a future Republican administration would honor any agreement. Iran has said it is now enriching uranium to 60% purity, its highest level ever and much closer to the 90% threshold needed to build a nuclear bomb. His progress exposes the total failure of Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy, introduced when Iran was complying with the Obama administration’s pact to limit its nuclear program.

If diplomacy fails now, Biden – or more immediately, Israel – will face the question of whether to launch a military attack on Tehran’s facilities that could set the Middle East on fire again.

Biden’s destiny at home and abroad is intertwined

Much of Biden’s overseas influence in the coming days depends on how he is perceived by US allies and enemies after a year in office.

The biggest stain on its record so far is the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The president had promised the Americans that there would be no Saigon-style exit from Kabul, but that is what happened. The administration claims that the hasty evacuation was a massive success was undermined by video footage of what was really happening, and the death of 13 members of the American service and many more Afghans in a suicide bombing outside the airport.

The debacle affected Biden’s authority at home and abroad, despite Democrats’ claims that Americans did not care how American troops left the country’s longest-running war and only wanted them at home. . The mess also offered Republicans a chance to call the new president an incursion, though GOP critics were silent when Trump knelt with global tyrants. In foreign capitals, the retreat that came with little notice to the Allies raised new questions about US permanence. Like Biden’s cold view of U.S. interests.

Biden struggles with an unforeseen Covid-19 test failure
Tortured domestic politics also make it difficult for Biden to make a mark on the world. While his quick return to the Paris climate deal pleased American friends, his ability to meet commitments is in doubt after West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said he could not vote for the President’s Build Back Better plan, which includes a historic $ 500 billion investment to fight global warming. Meanwhile, Biden’s attempt to enlist the world’s democracies in his quest to preserve the liberal world order is constantly being undermined by Trump’s relentless attempts to destroy American democracy. And the prospect of the 45th president returning to the White House in 2025 makes many foreign powers doubt Biden’s promise that America will return.

Presidents under fire at home often look for easy victories abroad, but Biden lacks that luxury as it serves when U.S. global power is more challenged than at any time since World War II. At the same time, the raging U.S. political divisions in the United States offer openings to adversaries like Putin and Xi. It is a vicious circle that plays into the hands of Republicans determined to portray Biden as a weak failure. So no matter how much Biden promises to be at home in 2022, he is unlikely to get much relief abroad.

CNN’s Natasha Bertrand and Kyle Feldscher contributed to this report.

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