What will a Biden presidency mean?

Although there are still some lawsuits to be settled, and several recounts to be done, it appears that Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. (really), will be the 46th president of the United States. After four seismic years under Donald Trump, it will probably mean a lot. Although not entirely unmitigated, Obama’s presidency was largely a foreign-policy disaster. Territory in Europe was annexed by force for the first time since WW-II, China began militarizing the South China Sea, Syria was destroyed. I could go on. A least Trump didn’t start any new wars. And while you may be a believer in free trade, it’s hard to justify “free” trade that is actually completely lopsided, and Trump not only renegotiated NAFTA, but took a hard line with China. At a minimum, you can expect US relations to change substantially with China, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. The open question is, how much will Biden’s policies mirror Obamas, and how much will they be something completely new? The U.S. election was largely focused on getting Trump out of office for reasons of etiquette more than policy; and what policy discussions there were, were largely domestic. For sure, Biden will have his hands full with COVID and the associated economic fall-out; but from a global perspective, all of that matters a lot less than how he handles China and Russia. Approximately no one believes he’s going to go back to an Obama era “let’s not worry about China” policy; but equally, no one expects him to be as hawkish as Trump. How much of a free-rein he gives China in their current attempts to dramatically expand their global influence will affect everyone’s economy a lot more than just about anything else he does — and we have largely no idea what he’s going to do. So, watch this space. It will be very interesting to see what appointments he makes in the diplomatic core (and, to a lesser extent, the NSC) with respect to China and Russia. We don’t know what he’s going to do, but whatever it is, it will matter.

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