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

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Heather Cox Richardson November 14, 2022
…the outcome of the [midterms] had huge implications for foreign policy. As today’s column by conservative columnist Max Boot of the Washington Post notes, “Republicans lost the election—and so did [Russian president Vladimir] Putin, MBS [Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman], and [former/incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”
Autocrats and hard-right leaders liked Trump at the head of the U.S. government, for he was far more inclined to operate transactionally on the basis of financial benefits, while Biden and his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, have advanced a foreign policy based on democratic values. Leaders like MBS have ignored Biden or denigrated him, expecting that a reelected Trump in 2024 would revert to the system they preferred. Now those calculations have hit a snag.
Indeed, Russia put its bots and trolls back to work before the election to weaken Biden in the hope that a Republican Congress would cut aid to Ukraine, as Republican leaders had suggested they would. The Russian army is in terrible trouble in Ukraine, and its best bet for a lift is for the international coalition the U.S. anchors to fall apart. Russian propagandists suggested that Putin suppressed news that the Russians were withdrawing from the Ukrainian city of Kherson until after the election to avoid giving the Democrats a boost in the polls.
Also today, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved a resolution saying that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine violated international law and that Russia must pay war reparations. In Germany and Poland, the governments separately announced they were taking over natural gas companies that had been tied to Russia’s huge energy company, Gazprom, in order to guarantee energy supplies to their people.
On Friday, November 11, Biden spoke at the United Nations climate change conference in Egypt. He was the only leader of a major polluting nation to go to the meeting, and there he stressed U.S. leadership, pointing to the Inflation Reduction Act’s $370 billion investment in the U.S. shift to clean energy and other climate-positive changes.
From Egypt, the president traveled to Cambodia for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. In the past year, the U.S. has announced more than $250 million in new initiatives with ASEAN, investing especially in infrastructure in an apparent attempt to disrupt China’s dominance of the region by supporting counterweights in the region. The U.S. is now elevating the cooperation with ASEAN to a comprehensive strategic partnership to support a rules-based Indo-Pacific region, maritime cooperation, economic and technological cooperation, and sustainable development. “ASEAN is the heart of my administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy, and we continue to strengthen our commitment to work in lockstep with an empowered, unified ASEAN,” Biden said.

30 October
The Atlantic Council: The new administration will initiate an abrupt policy shift for Latin America’s biggest country both at home and abroad—and the transition could be rocky, as Bolsonaro has sought to undermine the legitimacy of the vote. How will this all play out on the world stage?
Jason Marczak: A critical moment to shore up US-Brazil ties
As in Colombia, the Biden administration will hopefully send a steady stream of high-level representatives to Brazil to meet with Lula and his team. It’s an essential moment to shore up the importance of US-Brazil ties. The White House took an important step in that direction with a quick statement congratulating Lula soon after he was declared the winner. With concerns about whether the results would be as expected, this was an important move by the United States; many European and Latin American governments have done the same. Lula has made it clear that he sees the United States and Europe as valuable partners for Brazil, especially in the areas of trade and environmental cooperation. In the next administration, Brazil’s engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean will depend on ideological affinity but also on pragmatic areas of collaboration.

24 October
Our Foreign Policy Leaders Are a Danger to the World
Political appointees have too little experience and too many delusions.
(Politico) A system which depends heavily on short-term officeholders imposes a sense of urgency on itself. And urgency is dangerous when, say, negotiating arms accords — or deciding just how to evacuate Kabul or Saigon. Appointees — often focused, clever and determined people — are able to push their priorities through bureaucracies that are less certain or obsessed. These officials may be comparative amateurs. Yet they must act right now before competing urgencies are tabled, or their administration is swept from office.

September/October 2022
The Dangerous Decade – A Foreign Policy for a World in Crisis
By Richard Haass
(Foreign Affairs) As with other historical hinges, the danger today stems from a sharp decline in world order. But more than at any other recent moment, that decline threatens to become especially steep, owing to a confluence of old and new threats that have begun to intersect at a moment the United States is ill positioned to contend with them.
The frightening gap between global challenges and the world’s responses, the increased prospects for major-power wars in Europe and the Indo-Pacific, and the growing potential for Iran to cause instability in the Middle East have come together to produce the most dangerous moment since World War II. Call it a perfect—or, more accurately, an imperfect—storm.
The task for U.S. policymakers, then, is to rediscover the principles and practice of statecraft: to marshal national power and collective action against the tendency toward disorder. The goal must be to manage the collision of old geopolitics and new challenges, to act with discipline in what is sought, and to build arrangements or, better yet, institutions where there is sufficient consensus. To do all that, Washington will have to prioritize establishing order over fostering democracy abroad—at the same time as it works to shore up democracy at home.

19 October
White House taking every step possible to avoid direct Biden-Putin encounter at G-20
(Politico) U.S. and Chinese officials, meanwhile, have been quietly working to set up a meeting between Xi and Biden, though it has not yet been announced and officials concede that it could still collapse.
Biden has long defined the 21st century as a rivalry between the U.S. and China and his agenda for a meeting with Xi would likely be lengthy, including economic warnings to Beijing as well as a broadside to not try to seize Taiwan. He also could use the meeting to push Xi to further isolate Putin, officials said.
Biden will depart for Asia the day after the midterm elections, with the balance of power in Congress perhaps not yet known. His first stop on the continent will be a summit of Southeast Asian nations being held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, before traveling to Indonesia. Many of the world leaders will then move on to another Pacific States summit in Bangkok, but Biden will return to Washington for the White House wedding of his granddaughter Naomi.

27 September
TTC, IPEF, and the road to an Indo-Pacific trade deal: A new model
By Clete R. Willems and Niels Graham
(Atlantic Council) After nearly two years of uncertainty and speculation, the Biden administration’s “trade policy for the middle class” is taking shape. Exemplified by the US-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), its central thrust appears to be “beyond-the-border” issues, such as regulatory alignment and standard setting (especially on digital issues and emerging technologies), attempts to improve supply chain resilience, and efforts to promote high labor and environmental standards. However, the administration’s approach assiduously avoids elements contained in traditional free trade agreements (FTAs), such as the pursuit of new market access in the form of tariff reduction.
The Biden administration should be applauded for an agenda that seeks to work with an unprecedented number of allies and partners and includes novel flexibilities to accommodate varying levels of development.
…the Biden administration should also raise the level of ambition within individual trade agreements and seriously consider adding traditional market access components. Market access is critical to provide new opportunities for US businesses and workers as well as to create an incentive for other countries to “trade off” substantial economic reforms as part of the agreement.

21 September
Five key takeaways from Joe Biden’s UNGA speech
In wide-reaching UN address, US president slams Russia and says Washington not seeking ‘cold war’ with Beijing
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Russia seeks to ‘extinguish’ Ukraine’s right to exist
Biden kicked off his remarks by condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an unjustified act of aggression.
Calls for reforming UN Security Council
Biden called for reforms to the UN Security Council (UNSC) to make it more inclusive and better equipped to respond to global challenges.
US not seeking cold war with China
…the US president said Washington wants to avoid confrontation with Beijing.
Reaffirms support for two-state solution
A staunch supporter of Israel, Biden on Wednesday reaffirmed his administration’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
US will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon
Amid stalled negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, Biden pledged on Wednesday that Washington will not let Iran obtain a nuclear weapon

18 September
Biden, in London, honors the queen and avoids diplomatic disputes
During closely watched visit, the president focused on the royal family, opting to push meeting with new Prime Minister Liz Truss to next week
Biden was initially on a list of foreign leaders the British government said Truss would meet ahead of the funeral, but the White House said Saturday that the meeting would instead take place next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
He will attend the queen’s funeral in Westminster Abbey on Monday before returning to Washington and embarking on a week of high-stakes diplomacy at the United Nations. White House aides say Biden will wait until the General Assembly, which he will attend in New York starting Tuesday, to push his foreign policy vision among his fellow world leaders.

9 September
Biden Administration Outlines Scope of Asian Economic Pact
Officials from 14 countries met in Los Angeles this week to discuss a potential economic agreement covering digital trade, secure supply chains, decarbonization and other issues.
(NYT) The Biden administration on Friday concluded its first round of in-person negotiations for a proposed trade pact with more than a dozen Asian nations, the initial steps toward an agreement that officials said would reassert American influence in the Pacific and counter China’s dominance of the region.
Officials from 14 countries, including India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, met in Los Angeles on Thursday and Friday to begin negotiations on the plan, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
The countries — which account for roughly 40 percent of the world economy — laid out the major areas of discussion, such as trade, climate change and the direction for future discussion, officials said in a news conference Friday.
Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, said the goal was to establish a modern economic relationship that delivered “broad-based economic connectivity and benefits our workers, combats climate change, builds resilient supply chains and levels the playing field for our companies, big and small.”
The framework, abbreviated as IPEF, is different from traditional trade deals, which have offered foreign countries more access to the U.S. market by lowering the tariffs charged on goods at the U.S. border. Instead, the pact focuses on setting standards for digital commerce and environmental protection, and cooperating on issues like supply chain disruptions.

Blinken, in Kyiv, unveils $2B in US military aid for Europe
(AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken paid an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Thursday as the Biden administration announced major new military aid worth more than $2.8 billion for Ukraine and other European countries threatened by Russia.
In meetings with senior Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Blinken said the Biden administration had notified Congress of its intent to provide $2.2 billion in long-term military financing to Ukraine and 18 of its neighbors, including NATO members and regional security partners, that are “potentially at risk of future Russian aggression.”
“President (Joe) Biden has been clear we will support the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Blinken said in a statement. “I reiterated this message to President Zelenskyy and his team today in Kyiv, which remains ̶ and will remain ̶ the capital of a sovereign, independent Ukraine.”

21 July
Middle Eastern Autocrats Embarrassed Biden at Will
America’s supposed allies feel entitled to humiliate the president.
By Shadi Hamid
America is being manipulated by the very countries that depend on it for their security. Somehow, the United States has managed the unlikely feat of undermining both its values and its interests. As it turns out, in the Middle East, the two cannot be separated.
(The Atlantic) President Joe Biden’s much-touted trip to the Middle East—his first as president—was almost entirely devoid of drama or excitement. It produced no significant deliverables, nor was it meant to. To be underwhelmed, however, is to miss a more troubling story. The visit may have been pointless and performative, but it was also a major setback for American interests, confirming what many long suspected: Supposed allies can disrespect, embarrass, and undermine the United States at will.
The costs are already evident. On Saturday, less than 24 hours after Biden left the region, the United Arab Emirates sentenced an American citizen, Asim Ghafoor, to three years in prison on nebulous charges. Ghafoor, a lawyer for the slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, was detained only two days prior while transiting through Dubai International Airport.
The United States is a superpower—and, for now at least, the superpower. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are, to use an impolitic term, client states. In other words, they depend on American power for their security and survival. Their armies would be grounded in short order if the United States were to suspend all military provisions, including spare parts and maintenance for equipment as well as training and logistical support. At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, they need us more than we need them. Yet if an extraterrestrial descended from outer space and witnessed last week’s events without the benefit of prior knowledge, they might have assumed the opposite—that the United States was the junior partner paying tribute to its superpower patrons.

US President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday [20 July] that he will be hosting a summit of African leaders in Washington in mid-December. He said that the US-Africa Leaders Summit will “underscore the importance of US-Africa relations and increased cooperation on shared global priorities.” That includes new economic engagement, promoting food security, collaboration on human rights and managing the effects of COVID-19 and future pandemics.
Statement by President Biden on the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

8-10 July
Reviving US partnerships in the Middle East
Joe Biden has a tough task ahead of him with his trip to the Middle East. From Iranian missile strikes to Russian military actions in the region, Daniel Byman outlines key issues at play and explains what the best outcomes of the trip might be for the Biden administration
(Brookings) As President Joe Biden prepares to travel to the Middle East, his administration faces several challenges in its relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other regional (non-treaty) allies. At the most basic level, the United States and these allies do not share the same priorities. Part of why Biden is traveling to Saudi Arabia is to convince the country’s leaders
to pump more oil as global prices soar. In addition, the United States seeks to
maintain pressure on the Islamic State group (IS) to prevent the terror organization from rebuilding. Yet both the Russia-Ukraine war and the struggle against the remnants of IS are ancillary concerns for regional states, and they are concerned that the U.S. focus on Asia and Europe will make the United States a less useful security partner.
Joe Biden: Why I’m going to Saudi Arabia
(aPo) A more secure and integrated Middle East benefits Americans in many ways. Its waterways are essential to global trade and the supply chains we rely on. Its energy resources are vital for mitigating the impact on global supplies of Russia’s war in Ukraine. And a region that’s coming together through diplomacy and cooperation — rather than coming apart through conflict — is less likely to give rise to violent extremism that threatens our homeland or new wars that could place new burdens on U.S. military forces and their families.
Avoiding that scenario is of paramount importance to me. I’ll pursue diplomacy intensely — including through face-to-face meetings — to achieve our goals.
Saudi trip captures competing demands of rights agenda, ‘great power’ contest
“It has to be said that having President Biden shake hands with Mohammed bin Salman on his trip to Saudi Arabia this month is going to be a pretty searing image, not just for Khashoggi’s family, but for human rights defenders in the region and everyone around the world,” said Michael Breen, president of Human Rights First.
The visit, however, is taking place against a backdrop of competition in the region with China. Beijing has vowed to deepen ties with Saudi Arabia while the Gulf kingdom, amid a prolonged rift with the United States, has increased its arms purchases from China and explored denominating some of its massive oil sales to China in yuan, potentially threatening the preeminence of the dollar.

6 July
G-20 meeting may lead to wider divisions over war in Ukraine
(AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi are set to attend the Group of 20 meeting in the Indonesian resort of Bali, which will set the stage for a summit of G-20 leaders at the same venue in November.
It will mark the first time Blinken and Lavrov have been in the same room, let alone the same city, since January. There’s no indication the two will meet separately, but even without a one-on-one with Lavrov, Blinken could find himself in some difficult discussions.
The State Department announced Tuesday that Blinken will hold separate talks with Wang at a time when already extremely tense U.S.-China relations have been worsened by Beijing’s friendly ties with Moscow.
[American officials] want to see the G-20 put its weight behind a U.N.-backed initiative to free up some 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain for export mainly to the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
”We would like the G-20 to hold Russia accountable and insist that it support this initiative,” said Ramin Toloui, the assistant secretary of state for Economic and Business Affairs.
While a variety of nations, including G-20 host Indonesia, are pushing for Russia to ease its blockade in the Black Sea to allow grain to enter the global market, they remain wary of antagonizing Moscow and its friends in Beijing. …
In the meantime, the U.S. and China are separately at severe odds over numerous issues ranging from trade and human rights to Taiwan and disputes in the South China Sea.
Blinken’s meeting with Wang was announced after China’s trade envoy with Washington expressed concern about U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports in a call with with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. Neither side gave any indication that progress has been made on the matter and U.S. officials downplayed the chances for any breakthroughs in the short term.

8 June

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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