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Biden administration looking shaky on the international scene

Both China and Russia taking increased liberties with the US

By Ricky Browne

The Joe Biden US administration is finding itself in increasingly choppy waters – challenging  both Russia and China in a way it hasn’t for years.

If this were the Donald Trump administration, and the President challenged the two major opposing states in the same way, there would be a lot of criticism.

But in fact, despite his bombastic verbal approach, Trump was perhaps the most peaceful US President since Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s.

Under Trump there was an uneasy peace with China and Russia and North Korea and even Iran.

But under this President, who it was assumed would be a much better President for global stability – the opposite seems to be true.

First, on the border with Mexico, the Democrats made a lot of noise over Trump’s policy of wanting to build a wall, of making it harder for people to stay illegally in the US and of putting children in cages. The fact that it was President Barack Obama who first started that cages policy, and the fact that the cages in question were really large areas that were fenced off, and not the little chicken coops they were imagined to be, was ignored.

Putin and Biden as Russian dolls

But Biden has so far largely continued Trump’s immigration and border policies, presumably without continuing the extension of the wall or fence. His Vice President went to Central America and told people that might be considering crossing the border illegally “do not come, do not come”.

So not much has changed on that front, except more of a mixed message of appearing to welcome illegal immigrants on one hand, while sending them back with the other. And the children in cages has changed – from now being behind plastic rather than fencing. No more cages – now plastic boxes. Much more humane.

Then there was Afghanistan. Trump had said that he would pull out all American troops from Afghanistan and started the process before leaving office. But Biden continued that policy – blaming Trump for forcing him to do it on one hand, but then taking the credit for ending America’s “longest war” on the other.

Who will forget this image of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan?

As President, Joe Biden was not necessarily obligated to continue any Trump policy, including the Afghanistan withdrawal. So he should own it, for its benefits and faults.

Unfortunately, the faults seem to have way out-weighed the benefits, with the Taliban taking over at rapid speed, and the complete chaos of the withdrawal stunning the whole world.

One result of the withdrawal was that America now looks weak to much of the world, and has perhaps allowed strongmen in other countries to push the envelope to an extent that they would not have dared do in previous administrations… including the Trump administration.

So first you had Belarus– basically a satellite state of Russia – pushing its weight around, especially on Poland, a member of the European Union. Apart from its own human rights abuses, the country has been taking in refugees and then pushing them towards the Polish border – probably in cahoots with Russia.

But you also had China pushing its weight around on Taiwan, and on its continued roll out of its One Road, One Belt programme – taking control of strategic ports in developing countries in Africa and Asia. Lets not even talk about it continued human rights abuses of its own people, including in Tibet, the Uighurs and in Hong Kong.

There was uproar in the US when Trump suggested that Covid-19 would be better called the “China” or “Wuhan” virus. But that was perhaps the trickiest moment between the two states during Trump’s administration.

Where is Peng Shui?

But since then, China has been much more forward about its disregard for human rights among its own people. The case of the silencing of an internationally-known Chinese tennis player Peng Shui who accused a top ranking member of the government of rape is a case in point.

The US says it will now boycott the Winter Olympics in China in protest at the country’s deteriorating human rights. But China is likely to care about as much as the USSR did when the US boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980 – ie, not much.

Now you have Russia massing more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border looking like its ready to invade at any moment.

Russian troops are amassing at the Ukrainian border

Putin and Biden are currently in a video call as this is being written. Putin may use this as leverage to get better deals from the US and EU – but it is of note that the last time Russia tried anything like this was back in the Obama administration when it took control of Crimea. The US and EU did nothing at that time that to dissuade Russia from upping the ante now —  as is being demonstrated.

Meanwhile, North Korea is being quiet for the moment – a few improvements of its nuclear capability. But there are rumours that its leader is unwell, and might not be around much longer. So things may remain quiet for a little more time to come.

If it did start to kick up again – would Biden seek to have the kind of dialog that Trump had with North Korea? Trump was heavily criticized and ridiculed for being too friendly to Kim Jong-un – but the discussions did neutralize the threat. Would Biden risk facing that criticism if he too went that route – or would he instead choose to kick the can down the road, as was the policy of all other US Presidents before Trump?

US Space Force insignia

Then there is space, with both Russia and China showing off their improving capability – with Russia destroying one of its own satellites from Earth and China said to be developing its capability at twice the rate of the US. China has now landed on the dark side of the moon and on Mars.

Those moves seem to support Trump’s creation of a US Space Force – which was much ridiculed by many Democrats at the time.

The fact that Biden is now 79 years old – the oldest US President in history – and looking physically frail, amplifies the appearance that this is a weak US administration. Questions have also been asked about his mental fitness for the job – though not as loudly as they were with Trump. And the fact that Biden’s popularity is now below Trump’s current popularity, and stands at about 32 percent contributes to the image of the US being weak.

Kamala Harris’s chances of becoming US President don’t look great right now

And the fact that Vice President Harris is even less popular than Biden, with a favourability of about 27 percent – one of the lowest scores of any modern day Vice President – also contributes to the image of weakness.

So Putin and Xi will continue to push the envelope and see how much they can get away with as they try to increase their global power.

How will Biden react? What happens if Russia invades the Ukraine? What happens if China invades Taiwan?

The risk of war seems much higher now than it ever did under Trump – even though, or maybe because, Biden seems to be more of an appeaser than a combatant.

Under Trump people criticized his loud words, but when it came to action there wasn’t much to condemn. Under Biden the words are much more level-headed, but how will his actions measure up.

Friends?

With not yet a year in office, it looks like the Biden administration is shaping up to be far more risky on a global level than the Trump with its “America First” policy ever was.

As for the 2024 elections, the lack of clarity over who will represent the Democrat ticket is another contributor to the image of weakness. Biden says that he intends to run – but given his frailty it looks doubtful.

If he does, it opens the door for Trump to take another run at it, as he will be five years younger than Biden.

If he doesn’t, it would normally be expected that the Vice President would make the run – but with the stunning unpopularity of Harris, that would open the door for any Republican candidate, including Trump, to easily win.

If it isn’t her, that would mean a battle within the Democrat party for a new leader, which could weaken the party – especially at a time when there is already a divide between the centrists represented by Biden and the further left, represented by people like AOC and Bernie Saunders. So Russia and China are likely to continue testing the resolve of the US for some time to come, confident

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