As Joe Biden takes over the US, does the world trust him?

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: Feb 09, 2021, 08:15 AM IST
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For most governments, the US President Joe Biden is a predictable and conventional president

The world likes Joe Biden, but it is losing faith in America. These are the findings of a poll conducted in 12 countries in December 2020 — Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Kenya, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and the United States.

Respondents in these countries say they support Joe Biden, but they don't trust America's ability to deliver. Another poll was conducted in Europe and they found that Biden's popularity or acceptability is undermined by pessimism against the US. Europeans believe the US Political system is broken and the world cannot rely on Washington to protect allies.

Recent decisions offer some clues into Biden's thinking and they also offer insights into the problems Biden is not thinking about such as Afghanistan — no clear statement on America's longest-ever war.

Biden wants to remain tough on China. Recently, the US President gave his first interview.

He described the Chinese president Xi Jinping as "He's very bright. He's very tough. He doesn't have — and I don't mean it as a criticism, just the reality — he doesn't have a democratic, small bone in his body. But he is the question is, I've said to him all along, that we need to not have a conflict. But there's going to be extreme competition. And I'm not going to do it the way that he knows."

Two takeaways from that statement are that America isn't looking for a conflict with China but it does fear "extreme competition". Second, America wants to stop China from forcing its authoritarianism on the world. The question is how do you do that with a country like China without a conflict?

America's new secretary of state, Antony Blinken has said something similar. He had his first call with his counterpart in China and it wasn't pleasant. Blinken was quite straightforward. He told China that the US will hold Beijing accountable for its abuses in the international system and for its efforts to threaten stability in the Indo-pacific. During the call, Blinken said the US wants to raise issues of human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.

Blinken pressed China to condemn the military coup in Myanmar. Obviously, China won't take all of this lying down. So, it blamed America for the breakdown in their relationship and asking it to "strictly" follow the one-China policy on Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

Not surprisingly, China refused to recognise the indo-pacific as well. The Chinese statement uses the phrase "Asia pacific" instead.

Where does team Biden stand on India?

The American president didn't mention India in his speech last week but the Biden administration has dropped some hints mostly on the quad — the quadrilateral alliance of India, the US, Japan and Australia. Reports say the US Has proposed a quad summit — an online meeting with the leaders of Australia, Japan and India.

America's national security adviser Jack Sullivan issued a statement last week, saying the quad is "Fundamental, a foundation upon which to build substantial American policy in the indo-pacific region". New Delhi has something to look forward to here, but it must also prepare for scrutiny especially on the issue of the farmer protests.

What about Iran?

President Biden has sent a clear message to Tehran that the sanctions won't be lifted. It will have to first comply with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal and stop the enrichment of uranium. So, for now, Biden is keeping the Trump-era sanctions on Iran.

Iran's leader, Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei has rejected Biden's demand. "If they want Iran to return to its JCPOA commitments, America must completely lift sanctions, and not just in words or on paper," he said. "They must be lifted in action, and then we will verify and see if they have been properly lifted, and then return to these JCPOA commitments. This is the Islamic republic's definite policy." After that, he tweeted "The post-U.S. era has started"

This is a clear message to Washington that Khamenei wants the US to come to the table first.

West Asia remains a quagmire for America and Biden's first steps on Saudi Arabia won't make his job any easier.

Last week Biden put Saudi Arabia on notice. He declared the war in Yemen a “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe” and withdrew America's support to the Saudi-led coalition, meaning America will no longer support the Saudi offensive in Yemen, an end to the military aid, curbs on weapons supplies.

Reports say America could cut off supplies of munitions and spare parts to Saudi Arabia, stop maintaining the aircraft of the Saudi Air Force and limit sharing military advice. The US has also moved to de-list the Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organisation. Saudi Arabia has led a military intervention against the Houthis since 2015.

This is quite a shake-up after Trump's very successful peace deals between the Arabs and the Israelis.