December 6, 2020

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Ten foreign policy areas where Boris Johnson is closer to Joe Biden than Donald Trump

Boris Johnson spoke to Joe Biden on the phone this week and the pair share a number of foreign policy objectives - ANDREW PARSONS
Boris Johnson spoke to Joe Biden on the phone this week and the pair share a number of foreign policy objectives – ANDREW PARSONS

Much was made of Boris Johnson and Joe Biden’s differences on Brexit. The former was the face of the campaign that delivered a Leave vote in 2016, the latter was a vocal critic.

It was the most obvious policy clash between the two men and potential joint-world leaders as the US election approached, especially given Donald Trump’s vehement Brexit support.

Now, with the result called for Mr Biden, focus is falling on the many foreign policy areas where the president-elect is actually closer to Mr Johnson’s stance than Mr Trump was. Here are ten of them. 

Iran

Mr Trump called the Iran nuclear deal the “worst” in history and withdrew America from the agreement, which capped Tehran’s nuclear development in return for lifting sanctions.

Mr Johnson had spearheaded Britain’s attempts to keep the US in the deal while he was foreign secretary, appearing on Fox News to argue Britain’s case – ultimately to no success.

Mr Biden, however, is a firm believer in the agreement. He was vice president when it was struck and wants to revive it. That is in line with the Prime Minister’s original stance, even if Mr Johnson has matched Mr Trump’s rhetoric on the issue more since entering No 10. 

Joe Biden and Barack Obama announcing the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 - REUTERS
Joe Biden and Barack Obama announcing the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 – REUTERS

Nato

Anyone who doubted the depth of disregard Mr Trump has for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation should read his former national security adviser John Bolton’s book.

Mr Bolton described how Mr Trump wanted to threaten to pull America out of Nato, a bedrock of the post-World War Two US-Europe military alliance. 

Mr Biden, in contrast, is a strong supporter of the alliance, as is Mr Johnson. It is telling that they discussed the issue on their first call since Mr Biden became president-elect.

Read more: How Trump changed the world: German garrison towns say ‘auf wiedersehen’ to a generation of American GIs

Climate change

Mr Trump had a joke he liked to deploy both before and during his presidency. When it was snowy he would tweet something like “what happened to all that global warming”.

That deeply felt scepticism of the man-made causes of global warming is not shared by Mr Biden, who will return America to the Paris climate change agreement and wants big reforms.

Mr Johnson has a similar outlook. UK officials see hosting the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow next year as a chance to make progress and cement the Biden-Boris link.

Read more: Climate change likely to be the best way for Johnson to connect with Biden administration

Climate activists in London last year. The environmental emergency is high on the list of priorities for the US and the UK - GETTY IMAGES
Climate activists in London last year. The environmental emergency is high on the list of priorities for the US and the UK – GETTY IMAGES

Trade

Mr Trump had no hesitation about putting tariffs on allies. In fact, in the case of the European Union, he seemed to relish it, at one time dubbing the EU a “foe” in terms of trade.

Mr Biden does not think the same. He is largely a defender of free trade, though Democratic policy is shifting to a more nuanced stance given criticism of globalisation sending jobs overseas. 

Mr Johnson and the Tories have always positioned themselves as the great defenders of free trade, even while leaving the vast EU trading bloc and erecting new barriers with the Continent. 

Read more: Exclusive: Joe Biden ‘will not prioritise UK-US trade deal in first 100 days’

Middle East

Mr Trump wants rapid US troop withdrawals across the board in the Middle East. The mantra of “time to bring the troops home” has been said often and loudly during his presidency.

Mr Biden, like almost all the Democrats who ran for the 2020 presidential nominee, also wants to wind down the Middle Eastern wars and bring home soldiers.

But he has avoided hard timelines and wants to do so with maximum preparation. He also wants to leave a cohort of US soldiers in the region. That chimes more with Mr Johnson’s stance than Mr Trump’s speedy withdrawal.

Russia

Mr Trump’s reluctance to push back on Vladimir Putin has been a curious and much discussed feature of his presidency. It is not one likely to be repeated by Mr Biden.

The president-elect made clear during his campaign that he would be willing to call out the Russian president on issues like Russian bounties on US soldiers and election meddling.

Mr Johnson has described his own conversion from once trying to re-establish ties with Moscow when foreign secretary to a more hard-line position. Both Mr Johnson and Mr Biden are Russia sceptics.

Read more: US intelligence warns China opposes Trump’s re-election but Russia is working against Biden

Joe Biden with Vladimir Putin in 2011. US intelligence officials said Russia was trying to prevent Mr Biden's election victory - AP
Joe Biden with Vladimir Putin in 2011. US intelligence officials said Russia was trying to prevent Mr Biden’s election victory – AP

China

Mr Trump’s relations with Beijing have been multifaceted. On the one hand, fiercely critical on trade and Covid-19. On the other, praise-worthy of his “friend” president Xi Jinping.

In many areas Mr Biden will be closer to Mr Johnson’s position. The Democrat is critical of Beijing’s persecution of the Uighurs, to name one. He also does not call Covid-19 the “China virus” and is less keen on a vast trade war.

However that does not mean all will be well on this front. Washington across political lines is adopting a much tougher line on China than in the consensus yet in Westminster. More tensions could be coming, despite the leadership change. 

Read more: How communists pounced on Trump’s efforts to stand up to Asia

North Korea

Britain’s concerns about Mr Trump’s actions towards North Korea fall into the same category as in many other strands of the Trump foreign policy. Namely, unease about the unorthodox approach.  

There was private concern from UK officials over the “fire and fury” rhetoric. There was unease too about the meeting with Kim Jong-un, whether too much was being given away for the photo op. 

Mr Biden’s approach is unknown. It will likely revolve around hard steps towards denuclearisation being taken by Pyongyang before benefits are given (see Mr Biden’s comments about North Korea in the presidential debates in the video below). The UK and US will be more in step on that point. 

Read more: Lowering the tone? How Trump’s tweets have torn up centuries of polite diplomacy

Human rights

It is telling that when Mr Johnson listed shared foreign policy goals between him and Mr Biden while speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday first on the list was “human rights”.

That has not been the guiding principle of Mr Trump’s “America First” foreign policy. He said little about the recent pro-democracy protests in Belarus, to mention just one prominent example.

Mr Biden will put more emphasis on human rights in his foreign policy approach than Mr Trump did. Of course it very much remains to be seen if that translates into hard success, as human rights groups will be quick to point out. 

Democratic norms

Freedom of the press. Free elections. Free speech. These were the hallmarks of the post-Second World War order shaped in no small part by Britain and America.

Mr Trump has been rattling those foundations. His “fake news” narrative is so often cited it has become a cliche. He continues to insist the US election was “stolen” from him

Mr Johnson and Mr Biden articulate a foreign policy that has those democratic norms at their core. Mr Trump’s, in actuality, never did. That will be a major difference. 

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Original News : https://news.yahoo.com/ten-foreign-policy-areas-where-222931923.html

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