Joe Biden’s ‘Values-Based’ Foreign Policy is a Loser

This article originally appeared in Brandon J. Weichert’s November 5, 2020 op-ed column at The Washington Times.

Should former Vice President Joe Biden be made the 46th president of the United States, one can expect a return to the Obama-type “values-based foreign policy” toward America’s enemies (except for China) from a Biden administration.

Thus, critical geopolitical opportunities will be missed by the United States when dealing with the unstable nations of Eurasia. Meanwhile, China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are likely to coalesce into an anti-American bloc on Eurasia — a region with most of the world’s population, natural resources and arable land. This is a nightmare scenario for U.S. grand strategy, as control of Eurasia is essential for the United States to maintain its hard-won superpower status. 

At a time when Eurasia is burning, the United States was actually making solid progress in ending some of its long-standing tensions with the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. No new Middle East wars have erupted since Donald Trump became president. Russia has not invaded the Baltics, as many of us fretted about four years ago. North Korea is also quiet. Both Iran and China, however, are in the catbird seat: Mr. Trump has employed a “maximum pressure” strategy with both China and Iran which has brought them to their knees. 

If Mr. Biden is, in fact, the next president, things will flip. The United States will yet again prioritize its rivalry with Russia, a country that has a GDP roughly equivalent to that of Italy and a state in which its population is in terminal decline. According to The Moscow Times, Mr. Biden has a long history of empowering opposition movements in Russia (and the former Soviet bloc states). Of course, Russia is not run by moral men. But few countries are. Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of land; with a massive and modern nuclear weapons arsenal. In essence, Russia is unlikely to be cowed by Mr. Biden’s pedantic “values-based” foreign policy. 

Meanwhile, the Chinese will have been given a much-needed reprieve. One can anticipate, over the next year or so, tensions between Beijing and Washington will lower at the precise moment that the maximum pressure campaign on China was working. Predatory Chinese trade practices will resume and their illegal annexation of the South and East China Seas will continue unabated. One can even anticipate America’s eventual abandonment of Taiwan, as Chinese power grows relative to that of the United States in the Indo-Pacific. 

Similarly, a Biden administration will return the United States to the ill-advised nuclear arms agreement that former President Obama initiated in 2015 (and that President Trump abandoned in 2018). This, at a time when the Israelis and Sunni Arabs were finally making headway in forming an anti-Iranian alliance. All of that progress is now in jeopardy.

If the region’s players believe that the United States is running toward the exits while handing off the region to a nuclear-arming Iran, the Sunni Arab states will make different calculations — any of which could eventually harm U.S. national interests in the region. A Biden foreign policy could precipitate a major conflict in the region. Or, Mr. Biden’s “value-based” foreign policy could ensure that Israel is the one holding the small straw when the dust settles and Iran is ascendant. 

North Korea, too, is a phenomenal diplomatic success story that the Trump administration should hang its hat on. Most Americans do not realize how close to a full-blown war the United States was with North Korea over its illicit nuclear weapons arsenal in 2017. I do. As an occasional subject matter expert for the Pentagon, I distinctly remember the conversations at the time when the Pentagon was contemplating how best to defeat a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Needless to say, it was not good for the United States (or for South Korea and Japan). A Trumpian Hail Mary play mitigated the probability of a nuclear war. In response, North Korea did cool its war talk against the United States. While North Korea has continued with its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program since 2018, tensions have become markedly lower — mostly because of the personal rapport that both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim have with each other.

This would change upon Mr. Biden’s swearing-in as the next president. 

Under the eight years of the Obama administration, when the conventional wisdom of isolating North Korea and not talking to it prevailed, Pyongyang made stunning progress on its nuclear weapons arsenal. This could have been avoided had Mr. Obama taken a gamble at the peace table the way that Mr. Trump had done with Kim Jong-un. The fact that Mr. Kim was a lover of American pop culture, and Mr. Trump was a pop cultural icon for many years, likely helped to ameliorate much of the tension in the relationship in the early meetings between the two sides. 

That will all be gone come January 2021, if Mr. Biden is sworn in. 

One can anticipate a Biden “values-based” foreign policy will push America’s foes closer together while alienating America from its allies. Ultimately, Mr. Biden’s “values-based” foreign policy will lead to fights over inconsequential issues and turn rivals into enemies and enemies into fanatics opposed to American power. 

• Brandon J. Weichert is the author of “Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower” (Republic Book Publishers). He can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

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