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It is a just over a year since President Biden’s inauguration. Mr Biden promised a break with the foreign policy of his predecessor President Trump, declaring in his first major foreign policy speech that “America is back”.

Campaign promises

Some of the most significant foreign policy pledges Joe Biden committed to during his 2020 election campaign included:

  • To end to what he called the “forever wars” in Afghanistan and the Middle East
  • To uphold democratic values at home and abroad including a pledge to host a global Summit for Democracy
  • To elevate diplomacy, rebuilding the Department of State
  • To restore historic partnerships, and strengthen NATO
  • To re-join the Paris climate change agreement
  • To pursue an extension of the New START Treaty which restricts the strategic nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia
  • To re-enter the Iran nuclear deal and “strengthen” and extend it

Promises delivered

President Biden started the process of re-joining the Paris climate agreement in his first day of office. Although he has reinvigorated US diplomatic leadership on tackling climate change, implementing legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions has proven more difficult.

Mr Biden did extend the US-Russia New START nuclear arms control treaty as promised. He also followed through on hosting a Global Summit for Democracy, although there were criticisms over which countries were invited.

Work in progress

President Biden promised during his campaign to end the “forever wars” in the Middle East. While he did remove US troops from Afghanistan, the way in which this was executed was heavily criticised. The US combat mission in Iraq was ended in December 2021, but 2,500 troops remain to help advise Iraqi forces, though they are also providing help with air strikes against the remnants of the Islamic State.

On trade, President Biden has maintained President Trump’s strong line on China but has eased some of the trade restrictions placed on America’s allies like the EU and Japan.

The Biden administration has put a greater emphasis on multilateralism and recommitted its efforts to engage with the NATO alliance and the G7. The slow pace of his appointments to key ambassadorial posts like London, has come under criticism, however.

President Biden promised to re-join the Iran nuclear deal. Negotiations with Iran, which stopped complying with parts of the agreement after President Trump reimposed sanctions on the country, are ongoing but have so far not delivered a major breakthrough. If all sides fail to agree a deal, then the US may soon be forced to find other ways to prevent Iran from acquiring irreversible nuclear knowledge that renders the agreement meaningless.

Other developments

The US announced it was entering into a new security and defence partnership with Australia and the UK, “AUKUS”, which would among other things help Australia produce nuclear powered (but not armed) submarines. This agreement however, caused a major diplomatic row with France, who was already contracted to deliver a submarine programme for Australia.

Challenges ahead

President Biden faces major challenges ahead. Principally at the moment, the crisis in Ukraine, with Russia having built up significant military forces on the border.

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