Donald Trump as president has shaken up US foreign policy. The superpower is often isolated, Trump is seen as unpredictable. What would change if Joe Biden was elected? Some scenarios.

US President Donald Trump’s tenure began under the sign of a central foreign policy slogan: America First. But almost four years later, in the latest outbreak of the election campaign, hardly anyone is interested in foreign policy. This has traditionally been the case in US elections, but is reinforced by the corona pandemic, a looming economic crisis and protests against racism and police brutality.

Aside from his battle slogan, Trump’s interest in foreign policy has often been limited: in recent years, he has often lacked a plan and strategy for international affairs – he wanted to become a businessman and a “deal maker,” not a diplomat. His policy was a total political loss, especially in his relations with Western allies and NATO partners. Trump’s Twitter policy has tarnished the style of US foreign policy, pledges are no longer considered reliable by international partners due to the president’s volatile nature, and his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, tweeted Trump as “stupid”. The superpower is internationally isolated on many points, the loss of confidence is enormous.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden: Both opponents will fight for the US presidency on November 3. (Source: dpa)

His opponent in the running for president, Joe Biden, is a politician in foreign affairs and, as Vice President during President Barack Obama’s tenure, he had a strong international focus. Central differences between Trump and Biden become especially evident in foreign policy: under Trump, US isolation would further increase, Biden would end America-First policy and, with a more traditional US foreign policy, lead the country. role in the world. claim – with limitations.

An overview of the central foreign policy issues – and how a Trump or Biden election victory would affect them:

1. Structural mess

Under President Trump, the structural area of ​​US foreign policy was chaotic. After taking office, hundreds of posts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs remained vacant for months. In many countries in the Middle East, the United States no longer has an ambassador. International partners cannot find a contact for some questions.

What are the scenarios?

Biden would like to structurally strengthen US foreign policy, more than would be expected under Trump. The problem: By switching from a Republican to a Democratic president, Republicans would have to leave the State Department – so Biden would have to fill even more positions. The strong domestic political focus brought on by the pandemic will also draw the future president’s attention to foreign policy. Biden therefore announced that he would undertake “repair work” on US foreign policy and strengthen international cooperation. But this quickly requires efficient structures.

2. US troops withdraw from crisis areas

Trump sees the withdrawal of soldiers from war and crisis zones as a success of his foreign policy. But there are often only troop withdrawals on paper because they could not be reached at the speed Trump wanted. The US president actually wanted to bring home all the soldiers from Afghanistan, but by the end of the year, that number will have been reduced from 12,000 to 4,000. The US government once again had to send soldiers to Syria to protect oil wells in the northeast of the country.

A US special forces unit in Afghanistan: Trump and Biden want to get the troops home as soon as possible. (Source: Image Images)A US special forces unit in Afghanistan: Trump and Biden want to get the troops home as soon as possible. (Source: Image Images)

What are the scenarios?

Under Trump: American soldiers would be withdrawn from war and crisis areas as soon as possible. So Trump would also agree with the will of the American people, the majority of whom are tired of war.

Under Biden: Even the Democrat wants to end endless wars. At the time, he campaigned against Obama to increase the number of soldiers in Afghanistan – without success. According to Biden, troop withdrawals should only be gradual if strategically justified.

3. Dispute over military expenditure

The US has been arguing with its European partners over NATO’s two percent target for years. Member States have pledged to spend at least two percent of their gross domestic product on defense. In 2019, however, Germany only achieved 1.3 percent.

What are the scenarios?

Under Trump: Under intense pressure and extortion, the incumbent US president would continue to push NATO partners to stick to the 2 percent target. The American government also expects that this will yield good business with the sale of armaments.

Under Biden: The argument would continue with Joe Biden in the White House. The Democrat is campaigning to involve Europeans more in security policy. But he relies on friendly pressure rather than threats. In any case, the US remains a difficult ally on this issue.

4. Hardship against China

Trade dispute, economic sanctions, conflicts in the Pacific, corona pandemic: tensions between the US and China are growing, the dispute will also take up a lot of space in the coming term. Trump and Biden are already trying to outdo each other in the election campaign.

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping from China at the G20 summit in Japan: The dispute with China is the top priority in US foreign policy. (Source: Image Images)Donald Trump and Xi Jinping from China at the G20 summit in Japan: The dispute with China is the top priority in US foreign policy. (Source: Image Images)

What are the scenarios?

Under Trump: The incumbent US government relies primarily on economic pressure and sanctions, with access to the lucrative US market as a lever. Trump is also campaigning for companies to stop manufacturing in China and return to the US.

Under Biden: The Democrat will also want to show harshness towards China. Biden has decided to focus in particular on the topic of human rights in China. He also wants to mobilize support from Europe so that we can act together against Beijing.

Trump’s closeness to despots

After a new US president takes office, his first trips usually go to Canada or Mexico. Not with Donald Trump, he was the first to visit Saudi Arabia and was given a saber by the royal family at a party. In contrast, he often insults closer allies, calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest and weak” or British Prime Minister Theresa May “foolish”.

What are the scenarios?

Under Trump: Donald Trump would remain on good terms with despots. He is politically close to politicians like Viktor Orbán from Hungary and praises them publicly. He often hopes this will do business for the US economy.

Under Biden: The challenger sharply criticizes Trump’s approach and especially wants to improve relations with strategic allies. Still, the US will continue to negotiate major arms deals with Saudi Arabia, including Biden in the White House. It remains to be seen to what extent the Democrat will stand up for human rights.

6. Nuclear conflict with North Korea

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un first met in 2018, a historic moment in relations between the two countries. But the hoped-for solution to the nuclear dispute has not yet come true, and nuclear weapons are still in the Korean peninsula.

Trump meets Kim Jong-un in Singapore: North Korea still has nuclear weapons despite several personal conversations. (Source: Image Images)Trump meets Kim Jong-un in Singapore: North Korea still has nuclear weapons despite several personal conversations. (Source: Image Images)

What are the scenarios?

Under Trump: The Republicans repeatedly emphasize a good relationship with the dictator in North Korea, but nothing more than symbolic politics can be achieved. North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons, they are the regime’s guarantee of security.

Under Biden: As president, Biden certainly wouldn’t exchange fancy letters with ruler Kim Jong Un, as Trump did in the past. Under him, however, North Korean policy of the US would not lead to nuclear disarmament, nor would Biden have many options.

7. International treaties and treaties

The US under Donald Trump has withdrawn from many international treaties. Especially after the abandonment of the Paris Climate Agreement, indignation was great in many countries. The US president saw a bad deal for the US in the nuclear deal with Iran, and in the midst of the corona pandemic, the US government has announced its withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO).

What are the scenarios?

Under Trump: In a subsequent term in office, Trump would further disconnect the US from international obligations. For him, these agreements are not a balancing of interests between two or more countries. Instead, the US should take advantage of a deal.

Under Biden: Joe Biden embodies a completely different approach to politics. He wants to immediately lead the US back to the Paris climate agreement and has ambitious goals to save CO2. The United States would not leave the WHO either. He would revive the deal with Iran, but would like to negotiate a new treaty.

8. Trade Agreement

Trump didn’t see much for his country in many trade deals either. The TTIP between the European Union and the US was not further negotiated. Nafta (with Canada and Mexico) has renegotiated the US government and has also reached a bilateral agreement with China. This is a success for Trump, even if it was mostly bought through blackmail with US economic might.

What are the scenarios?

Under Trump: The US president would also rely on protectionism in a second term to bring production and jobs back to the US. This would also threaten sanctions and import tariffs.

Under Biden: Biden remains low when it comes to international trade deals. The Democrat is also campaigning for companies from abroad to return to the US. He calls it “Buy America”. So far it is unclear whether he would revive TTIP and TPP.

9. USA and Russia

The Russia affair continued to haunt Trump throughout his tenure. In 2018 he met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Beforehand, he embarrassed himself by asking if Finland belonged to Russia. But things got worse: Trump believed Putin that Russia had not interfered with the US election, expressing his distrust of US intelligence. In general, Trump always avoided harsh criticism of Putin, but Congress passed tough laws and sanctions against Russia during his tenure.

Meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki: The US president expressed confidence in his Russian counterpart in Finland and stabbed his secret services in the back. (Source: Image Images)Meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki: the US president expressed confidence in his Russian counterpart in Finland and stabbed his secret services in the back. (Source: Image Images)

Which scenarios are possible?

Under Trump: The Republican hopes to improve relations with Russia. Reports of Russian interference in the presidential election keep him on hold. He could try again after he was reelected.

Under Biden: Joe Biden, on the other hand, stands for a tougher policy against Russia. Especially if the Senate and Congress were democratically dominated post-election, even tougher measures could be taken if Russian interference in the election were confirmed.

10. Transatlantic Relationship

Transatlantic relations have been damaged during Donald Trump’s tenure, and it has rarely been so cool between the EU and the US. The federal government should not make election recommendations, but Berlin is hoping for Joe Biden.

Which scenarios are possible?

Under Trump: Donald Trump would also become a burden to the transatlantic alliance in a second term. Protectionism and the related trade disputes could rather lead to a deepening of the gap between the EU and the US.

Under Biden: The Democrat advocates rebuilding the transatlantic alliance and wants to restore confidence. “We will be back. We must not turn our backs on the world and our closest allies,” Biden said at the 2019 Munich Security Conference.

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