By Arab News
By Maria Maalouf*
When Joe Biden ran for president in 2020, he built his foreign policy doctrine on four main themes: Countering China’s growing influence around the world, reinvesting at home, the importance of democracy triumphing over authoritarianism, and restoring a world order that had been turned upside down. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exposed these pillars to the harshest of attacks and imposed a perilous new chapter on Biden’s presidency, which will be a major test of his campaign promises to defend democracy globally.
The US is currently witnessing the worst fighting in Europe since the Second World War. Although American forces are not directly involved, the conflict is testing the limits of its power and the guarantees of the Biden campaign to restore America’s standing on the international stage. The president tried to prevent the war in Ukraine by threatening sanctions and exposing Russia’s ploy. This grim scenario forced Biden to turn toward complex plans to punish Russia economically.
A poll conducted by Ipsos between March 18 and March 21 showed that 52 percent of Americans believe that Biden is not handling the war well, compared to 36 percent who believe he is doing well (including 62 percent of Democrats and just 11 percent of Republicans). Many (45 percent, including 60 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Democrats) think the president has been too cautious in his support of Ukraine, even though most are wary of provoking a broader conflict. A majority believe the Biden administration has done a good job of avoiding direct military conflict with Russia (58 percent) and putting economic pressure on Moscow (54 percent).
Some political analysts think the Ukraine war could be exploited by Biden in light of the decline in his popularity to its lowest levels. And because the president is a politician with deep foreign policy experience and has embraced the traditional American role of entrenching the transatlantic alliance, he is almost uniquely qualified to take on a leadership position, which in turn will bolster his administration.
This means that the war represents an opportunity for the US president to prove the skeptics wrong. The Biden administration can use it to build alliances and strengthen relations with European countries and other nations around the world, which former President Donald Trump had weakened. For example, Trump scorned America’s long alliances in Europe. For his part, Biden imposed unprecedented financial and export sanctions on Russia in coordination with allies in Europe, Asia and the Pacific.
Strengthening transatlantic relations is one of the president’s declared strategic goals. The Ukraine crisis has led to a clash between Russia and European countries, with the US playing a vital supporting role as NATO’s main military backer. The war provides another opportunity for Biden to make good on his promise that America will restore the world order. The coming days and weeks will likely test Biden’s pledge that his foreign policy will focus on restoring American leadership in the world.
The great threats that Europe is facing as a result of the Russian military escalation against Ukraine has led to security concerns, which have prompted European countries to strengthen their defenses. This means increased opportunities for US arms sales to Europe. And American arms companies will also have space to exploit the Ukrainian arena to promote and publicize new technologies and weapons, which will contribute to increasing their sales around the world.
Since the beginning of the crisis, Washington has waged a fierce economic war against Moscow, through which it sought to isolate Russia from the world. This cast a shadow on the international economic arena, with disruptions in supply chains and high prices for goods, products and services. Again, this may ultimately enhance the sales of American products. For years, the US has been the world’s second-largest exporter of wheat, flour and wheat products in terms of export volume, after Russia. At the beginning of this year, it managed to take the title of the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas as a result of the increase in deliveries to Europe.
In conclusion, it can be said that the Ukraine war is an opportunity for the Biden administration to play a major role in a foreign conflict, even if US forces are not actually fighting on the ground. Biden should focus on the US role there, given his low approval ratings and faltering domestic agenda, including education initiatives and climate programs. This comes at a time when the Democratic Party is already likely to lose control of Congress in the November midterm elections.
- Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher and writer. She has a master’s degree in political sociology from the University of Lyon. Twitter: @bilarakib