During his first European trip in 2017, US President Donald Trump startled Washington’s Western allies by lecturing them for not paying their “fair share” of defense spending, physically shoving one prime minister aside, and publicly white-knuckling another leader.
Joe Biden’s words of camaraderie and assurance that “America is back” as he meets Western allies this week and next are a welcome respite after four rocky years for the transatlantic alliance under Donald Trump.
Diplomats and foreign policy specialists, however, argue that they are insufficient.
Biden stated that all US forces would leave Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the start of America’s longest conflict. Officials from the United States have stated that the pullout will be completed before then.
Several Western diplomats said the timeframe caused friends to scramble to catch up, and that the move was intended for home consumption.
Both Biden and his senior diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have stated that the United States’ foreign policy should assist the middle class first and foremost.
That sounds like a euphemism for Trump’s isolationist “America First” motto to many European governments. “America first will undoubtedly stay,” a western diplomatic source said.
Many observers believe that a major underlying concern for many foreign allies is a fundamental one: their faith in American democracy has been damaged.
Trump has been making bogus claims about winning the Nov. 3 election for months, and on Jan. 6 he encouraged followers to march to the US Capitol when Congress were recognizing Biden’s victory.
The riot, which resulted in the building’s evacuation and the deaths of five people, astonished international leaders.
Jamie Shea, a former senior NATO official who now works at the Brussels-based Friends of Europe think tank, told Reuters that he is concerned that the next US president may follow in Trump’s footsteps.
G7 Finance Ministers agreed to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s plan to pursue a worldwide minimum tax rate of at least 15% and empower countries to tax approximately 100 major, high-profit corporations in a historic agreement. The proposal was quickly rejected by top Senate Republicans.
“It just goes to demonstrate how difficult it is to get anything done in such a divided Congress,” one diplomatic source said.
A Pew Research Center survey released Thursday indicated that while people in 12 European and Asian countries still regard the United States as a “somewhat reliable” partner, few believe that American democracy in its current shape is presenting a good example of democratic values.