U.S. International relations and foreign policy January 2022-

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The Foreign Service and American Public Opinion
(Rand Corporation) The authors surveyed members of the American public in 2020 and 2021 to understand current attitudes about those who conduct U.S. diplomacy, the members of the U.S. Foreign Service, and other American officials who represent the nation abroad, help citizens in trouble, and seek to advance American interests in a changing world.
The authors found generally favorable public opinion attitudes toward American diplomats but also found limited understanding of what diplomats do, how they are selected, and how diplomacy interacts with other elements of America’s national security establishment. Survey respondents and focus group participants considered support for American citizens abroad to be a core — and much valued — function for diplomats. Survey respondents and focus group participants were less aware that diplomats abroad have export promotion and business support responsibilities. The authors found worrisome levels of opinion that American diplomats, while trustworthy, were politically biased. The finding that the American public had greater confidence in career ambassadors than political appointees also implies that the public would support reduced politicization of State Department positions. Finally, there was a clear preference for diplomats to lead in foreign policy, as opposed to military leaders. (8 June 2022)

31 May-2 June
President Biden: What America Will and Will Not Do in Ukraine
(NYT) America’s goal is straightforward: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.
As President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine has said, ultimately this war “will only definitively end through diplomacy.” Every negotiation reflects the facts on the ground. We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table.
That’s why I’ve decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.
(CBC The Current) As Russia’s invasion enters its fourth month, U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to send advanced rocket systems to Ukraine. Matt Galloway discusses Biden’s plans and their potential impact on the war, with political science professor and Ukraine expert Lucan Way; and security expert and retired U.S. Marine colonel Mark Cancian. (audio -starts at 1 min. 30 seconds)

26 May
The secret planning that kept the White House a step ahead of Russia
By David Ignatius
The Biden administration’s organization of this coalition to support Ukraine may look simple in retrospect. But it was a complicated coordination of diplomatic, military and intelligence resources that pulled together dozens of nations at what may prove to be a hinge point in modern history. Putin thought he could roll through Biden and the West to an easy victory in Kyiv. The Russian leader made a catastrophic mistake in overvaluing his own strength and underestimating the resolve of Biden and his team
(WaPo Opinion) The Biden administration’s secret planning began in April 2021 when Russia massed about 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. The buildup turned out to be a feint, but Blinken and other officials discussed U.S. intelligence about Russia’s actions with leaders of Britain, France and Germany at a NATO meeting in Brussels that month. Their message was, “We need to get ourselves prepared,” a senior State Department official said.
… The Ukraine threat got red-hot in October, when the United States gathered intelligence about a renewed Russian buildup on the border, along with “some detail about what Russian plans for those forces actually were,” Blinken said. This operational detail “was really the eye opener.” The Group of 20 nations were meeting at the end of October in Rome, and Biden pulled aside the leaders of Britain, France and Germany and gave them a detailed readout on the top-secret evidence.
… Threatening sanctions can be an empty diplomatic ritual. But in December, Blinken and his colleagues began seriously discussing with allies what steps they would take. The initial venue was a Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting in Liverpool, England, on Dec. 11. The attendees publicly committed that there would be “massive consequences and severe costs,” Blinken remembered. As a result, he said, “when the aggression actually happened, we were able to move immediately.
NATO military planning accelerated along with the diplomacy. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, the NATO commander, told me that his colleagues began preparing in December and January the “ground lines of communication” that would allow rapid shipment of arms into Ukraine.

U.S. Policy Toward the Taliban: Engage, Isolate, or Oppose?
(Rand Corporation) With the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and a growing humanitarian crisis, the United States faces several policy options. While isolation is the usual response to an unwelcome regime change, engagement offers the only prospect to advance U.S. interests in the country, mainly counterterrorism and humanitarian relief.

24 May
Will Biden’s Asia trip help the US meet its strategic objectives?
(Brookings) President Joe Biden’s inaugural trip to Asia provides an important milestone to assess the direction and effectiveness of American policy in the Indo-Pacific — a region identified by Republican and Democratic administrations alike as holding a key to American prosperity and security. The Asia tour came on the heels of the president hosting Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders in Washington and comprised stops in Seoul and Tokyo for bilateral meetings and participation in the second Quad leaders’ meeting. This full-court diplomatic engagement was crucial, given the importance of the objectives at stake: buttressing the rules-based order across Eurasia; deepening strategic relations with and between the United States’ Asian allies; and launching the economic track of the administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

22 May
Taiwan not included in launch of new Biden Indo-Pacific pact
(Politico) President Joe Biden is expected to unveil a list of nations on Monday who will be joining a long anticipated Indo-Pacific trade pact.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed that Taiwan isn’t among the governments signed up for the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a trade pact that’s meant to allow the U.S. to work more closely with key Asian economies on issues including supply chains, digital trade, clean energy and anticorruption. The U.S. president is slated to highlight the launch of the framework as he meets with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday.
“We are looking to deepen our economic partnership with Taiwan including on high technology issues, including on semiconductor supply,” Sullivan said. “But we’re pursuing that in the first instance on a bilateral basis.”

19 May
David Ignatius: Biden seeks a new opening in a rattled Asia
President Biden is traveling this week to Asia to project U.S. diplomatic and economic power in a region that has been rattled by the blunders of America’s two most powerful rivals, Russia and China.
Outrage about Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is a global phenomenon, Biden administration officials believe. The unprovoked attack by President Vladimir Putin rocked Europe, but it also sent shock waves through Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan, which have rushed to aid Kyiv. China, deeply embarrassed by Russia’s assault, has seen its influence diminish in Europe and Asia

11 May
Threading the Needle in Southeast Asia
How Biden Can Work With Countries That Can’t Afford to Alienate China
By Bilahari Kausikan, former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore.
(Foreign Affairs) An in-person summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will be held this week in Washington, as U.S. President Joe Biden seeks to better position his country in the wider geopolitical competition with China. The summit’s significance lies in its timing; it is being held as war rages in Ukraine, demonstrating that the United States has not lost its focus on the Indo-Pacific. But even though U.S. officials ritually invoke the importance and “centrality” of ASEAN, the regional organization is not as central to U.S. policy as many once thought it to be.
High-ranking U.S. officials have met with Southeast Asian leaders and toured the region. Biden attended a joint virtual summit with ASEAN in October 2021, the first U.S.-ASEAN summit since 2016. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines in July 2021 and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited Singapore and Vietnam in August 2021. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo visited Singapore and Malaysia in November, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Malaysia and Indonesia in December 2021.
the Biden administration’s approach to the region does not necessarily prioritize ASEAN, Southeast Asia’s only region-wide organization. Biden has focused on building up the security partnership between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States, known as the Quad, as well as the announcement of strong new ties with Australia and the United Kingdom under the AUKUS security pact.
If the Biden administration is to really to build on its promising start in Southeast Asia, it must embrace two realities of the region. The focus in Washington on maritime competition with China misses the importance of the land; without greater U.S. engagement, Beijing’s dam-building along the upper reaches of the Mekong River gives it a potential stranglehold over the five ASEAN members through which the river runs. Relationships with capitals in the region could also be in jeopardy if the Biden administration pushes the ideological dimensions of its rivalry with China too insistently.

6 May
Putin and Xi are accelerating their push against democracy. Here’s how the US can fight back.
(Atlantic Council) There are two steps that can keep the West ahead of Putin and Xi as they shift their promotion of authoritarianism into overdrive.
First, the United States must secure the resources necessary to protect democracy from Beijing and Moscow—in Eastern Europe and beyond.
From Ukraine to Taiwan, Central African Republic to El Salvador, Putin and Xi use a multiplicity of political, economic, and diplomatic tactics to exert influence and undermine fledgling and established democracies.
Democracy has not faced as significant a challenge from expansionist authoritarianism in decades—yet the US budget to protect and promote democracy by non-military means is a mere $3.2 billion, or less than one-quarter of the cost of a single aircraft carrier.
Congress must address this discrepancy between today’s threat profile and the resources at the disposal of the United States. Swiftly passing legislation such as the bipartisan Democracy in the 21st Century Act, introduced late last year by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chris Coons (D-DE), would be a good place to start: The bill provides forty million dollars to a “Fund to Defend Democracy Globally.” These modest funds could go a long way toward girding vulnerable democracies against adversaries’ attempts to undermine institutions, discredit elections, spread disinformation, and co-opt elites.
Second, the United States also must capitalize on Europe’s newfound recognition of the protracted contest it faces with both Russia and China, having watched Beijing’s craven response to the tragedy in Ukraine. They must collectively amplify a powerful allied narrative about the need to protect democracy and punish adversaries who seek to undermine it

4 May
The War in Ukraine Calls for a Reset of Biden’s Foreign Policy
America Can’t Support Democracy Only When It’s Convenient
By Matthew Duss
(Foreign Affairs) Considering how that post-9/11 unity was put to use, its invocation now should be viewed more as a warning than as encouragement. The United States and its allies made many disastrously wrong choices in the wake of 9/11, choices that had far-reaching consequences: the declaration of a global “war on terror,” the decision to turn the initial military intervention in Afghanistan into a long-term state-building operation, the invasion of Iraq, a worldwide campaign of kidnapping, torture, and assassination, to name a few. With those mistakes and abuses in mind, the United States must tread carefully as it responds to this new geopolitical turning point. It is desperately important that it makes the right choices this time around.
There is no doubt Russia’s horrendous war in Ukraine has engendered a sense of unity and purpose among many U.S. foreign-policy makers who have struggled to respond to the United States’ relative but steady decline in power. Russian aggression has also reinvigorated a moribund transatlantic alliance. The danger is that rather than develop a new paradigm for this era, policymakers will simply attempt to exhume an old “us versus them” Cold War model, shock it back to life, and put a tuxedo on it.
Exhortations to “call Putin’s bluff” by ignoring his nuclear saber rattling and dramatically ramping up military support for Ukraine may be emotionally satisfying to pundits, but the deterrent effect of Russia’s thousands of nuclear weapons cannot be simply wished away: that arsenal must factor into the decision-making in Washington and allied capitals as leaders work to support Ukraine’s defense while avoiding unnecessary escalation.
The administration’s rallying of European allies and Asian partners such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan around a set of stringent sanctions has also been impressive. But the United States should make distinctions among the different sanctions it applies. Washington should strengthen sanctions that target regime officials with decision-making power and deny access to materials and technology necessary for Russia’s war effort. But broad-based sanctions that only further immiserate ordinary working people in Russia by cratering the economy should face more scrutiny.
The United States should also be aware of the compounding impact of both the war and the sanctions (along with, of course, climate change) on global food supplies. Ukraine and Russia are both major exporters of fertilizer, grain, and wheat, and shortages are already having a cascading effect on the most vulnerable populations across the globe. There are few things that can inflame conflict as quickly as food scarcity. The world could be facing a mounting set of crises if a formula for bringing these exports back online is not found quickly.
In the meantime, while military and humanitarian supplies remain the most urgent need, Washington and its allies can do far more for Ukraine. Among these steps would be forgiving its foreign debt, a measure advocated by a number of Ukrainian officials and a wider coalition of activists. This also points to a widening of the aperture that should take place in the U.S. approach to global security. Ukraine is not the only country in the world whose government is saddled with crippling debt, forced to spend the country’s limited wealth filling the coffers of the International Monetary Fund rather than improving conditions for its own people. A more expansive program of international debt forgiveness would put the United States in a much better position to turn the reinvigorated transatlantic alliance toward a more genuine and sustainable global unity.

27 April
U.S. war aims shift in Ukraine — and bring additional risks
(NPR) … after meeting Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was blunt about U.S. goals.”We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” he said Monday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken…has repeatedly said the war in Ukraine would be a “strategic defeat” for Russian President Vladimir Putin and will leave Russia weakened.
This marks a shift for the U.S. in its war aims, which originally were to help Ukraine defend itself against a larger, stronger power, and now involve defeating Russia.
The shift is aided by massive U.S. arms shipments to the Ukrainian forces. That raises the risk of potentially widening the conflict, analysts say. It increases the threat of a weakened Russia resorting to the use of nuclear weapons and could further destabilize an already fragile global economy.
At some point, Ukraine might want the U.S. to ease up on sanctions against Russia if that will help Kyiv reach a negotiated settlement with Moscow.
The sanctions and arms shipments could also provoke a more direct confrontation between Russia and NATO. It is difficult to know where Russia’s red line is “Nobody knows what step … will send Putin over the edge,” [Samuel Charap of Rand Corp] says.

Heather Cox Richardson April 26, 2022
Secretary of State Antony Blinken … spoke to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reminding it that he, the secretary of state, had spoken to the committee 100 times. He thanked it for its support and talked of the recent visit he and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had made to Kyiv, where they had gone to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to the government and the people of Ukraine. He described the countryside and cities coming back to life after the carnage Russia visited on them, and he hailed the extraordinary determination of the Ukrainians.
There is a lesson in that determination for the U.S., he suggested. “Moscow’s war of aggression against Ukraine has underscored the power and purpose of American diplomacy. Our diplomacy is rallying allies and partners around the world to join us in supporting Ukraine with security, economic, humanitarian assistance; imposing massive costs on the Kremlin; strengthening our collective security and defense; addressing the war’s mounting global consequences, including the refugee and food crises….”

25 April
US promises more Ukraine aid, Biden announces veteran envoy
(AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday after a secrecy-shrouded visit to Kyiv that Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy is committed to winning his country’s fight against Russia and that the United States will help him achieve that goal.
“He has the mindset that they want to win, and we have the mindset that we want to help them win,” Austin told reporters in Poland, the day after the three-hour face-to-face meeting with Zelenskyy in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, as expected, President Joe Biden announced on Monday his nomination of Bridget Brink to serve as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Brink, a career foreign service officer, has served since 2019 as ambassador to Slovakia. She previously held assignments in Serbia, Cyprus, Georgia and Uzbekistan as well as with the White House National Security Council. The post requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
The announcement comes as American diplomats prepare to return to Ukraine this coming week, although the U.S. embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for now.

22 April
President Biden, don’t pass up the opportunity for a reset with Shahbaz Sharif’s Pakistan
Bruce Riedel and Madiha Afzal
(Brookings) The end of American involvement in Afghanistan and the change in leadership in Pakistan presents the United States with an opportunity to
reset its long-troubled relationship with the world’s fifth most populous country. President Joe Biden should initiate a high-level dialogue with new Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who will be in power for up to a year before the next election is held.
For most of the last 40 years, American policy toward Pakistan revolved around our interests in the wars in Afghanistan. In the 1980s, we partnered with the military dictator Zia ul-Haq to arm the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets. Then we sought Pakistani cooperation to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban, often with mixed results. Karachi port was crucial in both wars to get supplies to our Afghan allies and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Pursuing these wars was Washington’s top priority, edging out all other issues.
Because our policy was focused on fighting wars in Afghanistan, our primary partners in Pakistan were the intelligence service and the military. Less attention was devoted to the civilian government. Unintentionally this helped destabilize the always fraught civil-military balance in Pakistan, bolstering Pakistan’s military at the expense of its civilian governments.

6 January
U.S. aims to step up economic ties in Indo-Pacific in year ahead
By Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom
(Reuters) – The United States needs to “step up its game” on economic engagement in Asia, White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said on Thursday, calling such outreach the defining element of U.S. policy in the region for the year ahead.
Campbell, at a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace webinar, said President Joe Biden had made clear the United States needs to be instrumental in the framing of economic and commercial engagement and trade practices in the Indo-Pacific as China’s influence grows.
“That’s an area where the United States, indeed, needs to step up its game,” Campbell said, adding that the U.S. role must go beyond traditional trade and include digital engagement and technological standard setting.
“We’ve got to make clear that not only are we deeply engaged diplomatically, militarily, comprehensively, strategically – that we have an open, engaged, optimistic approach to commercial interactions, investment in the Indo Pacific,” Campbell said.

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