BGR INSIGHT, August 21, 2020


Foreign policy was a big focus of the Democratic Convention on night two, as the Democrats sought to make a distinction between a second Trump term and a Biden administration. The DNC brought out former Bush Administration Secretary of State Colin Powell, talked about Biden’s relationship with Senator John McCain, and showed a video of former ambassadors, generals, and national security experts, including former Special Presidential Envoy for Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie L. Yovanovitch, former Defense Secretary and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and former Deputy Secretary General of NATO Rose Gottemoeller, who criticized Trump’s mistreatment of allies and “cozy” treatment of dictators, including refusing to stand up to Putin over the issue of bounties on American troops.

The speakers all reflected on Biden’s strength in foreign policy and a career, in the Senate and as Vice President, that focused on ensuring the U.S. role as a global leader. In a March/April Foreign Policy article, Biden laid out his own wide-ranging and ambitious foreign policy goals and presented his argument for why the U.S. must restore its standing in the world. In Biden’s own words, “President Donald Trump has belittled, undermined, and in some cases abandoned U.S. allies and partners. He has turned on our own intelligence professionals, diplomats, and troops. He has emboldened our adversaries and squandered our leverage to contend with national security challenges…”

If Biden wins in November, we can expect the central theme of his foreign policy agenda to be alliance building and restoring American leadership around the world. Throughout his campaign, he has touted his deep relationships with international leaders. We will see a President Biden working towards reestablishing the NATO alliance, partnering with multilateral organizations to advance U.S. interests, shoring up partnerships with key security partners like Korea and Japan to counter a rising China, and promoting democracy and human rights globally. In May, former Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a key foreign policy advisor for the Biden campaign, said Biden would “bring aid back to the center of our foreign policy,” with an emphasis on diplomacy, democracy, and development, returning to the idea of America as a global leader and a champion for allies and developing nations.

Biden has also called for a “foreign policy for the middle class,” which will help Americans succeed in the global economy and compete against China and others on a fair playing field. Jake Sullivan, national security advisor to then-Vice President Biden, noted in May it is time for foreign policymakers to embrace economics in their key decisions “in order to support a more effective grand strategy.” We should expect Biden to implement a well-rounded, full-toolbox approach that marries domestic and foreign policy objectives and places the United States at the forefront of global leadership.

Militarily, the NATO alliance has served as a bulwark for defending U.S. interests against Russia and has played a key role in efforts in Afghanistan. While working to end “forever wars,” Biden has said diplomacy should be the first instrument of U.S. power. His commitment to a fine balance between military and diplomacy was on display at this week’s DNC, where Former Secretary of State and retired four-star General Colin Powell spoke for Biden, saying, “with Joe Biden in the White House, you will never doubt that he will stand with our friends and stand up to our adversaries.” The DNC’s video highlighting Biden’s relationship with the late Republican Sen. John McCain also demonstrated Biden’s ability to work across the aisle on topics from foreign policy and diplomacy to the military to domestic policy, in an increasingly partisan Washington.