Shortly after becoming president, Joe Biden vowed an adjustment to the course of U.S. foreign policy that would “better unite our democratic values with our diplomatic leadership”.
It’s part of an effort to move a line under the Trump era, undermining Washington’s overall role, its support for human rights and coordination with democratic allies. Where Donald Trump’s “America First” policy accompanies the unprecedented arrival of autocratic leaders, Biden has signaled that he will build U.S. moral leadership to defend democracies around the world. .
Biden’s commitment to place democratic values essential to U.S. foreign policy has been questioned in the wake of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. norm-busting seizure on a commercial flight brought in an opposition activist.
Later on Friday, the U.S. moved to punish Minsk for the atrocity, saying it had joined the EU in compiling a broader list of measures against the Lukashenko regime and planning its own new sanctions. .
But critics say the White House’s response to one of the most shocking human rights violations in Biden’s time has been slow and hesitant – coming days after the quick move from Brussels – and the damage has been compounded by agreed at a high-profile summit of the president of Russia. Vladimir Putin.
“In the Soviet and of course the Russian tradition, a summit with the president of the United States is almost universal,” said Leon Aron, Russia’s director of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, arguing that the meeting would give Putin international testimony as his struggles hung in the house.
A senior administration official acknowledged that the White House has been forced to balance its push to restore democratic principles around the world with a more considerate mindset, meaning that Biden’s human rights record to date “is not perfect “.
“Of course sometimes there are trade-offs in terms of the national requirement that we work for in this administration,” the Financial Times official said.
But the official disputed statements that Belarus was part of an even greater trend to withdraw from the launch of democratic principles abroad. In China, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and everywhere, the administration took away the fundamental principles of human rights, the official insisted.
Especially after Lukashenko’s strong play, the Biden-Putin summit will be even more watched for signs that the U.S. president will continue his commitment to push for democratic values.
Andrea Prasow of Human Rights Watch said it would be a “huge disappointment” if Biden did not use the meeting to send a strong human rights message, especially as Russia has renewed its saber ban on Ukraine and the treatment of pro-democracy opposition leader Alexei Navalny. , who remains in prison following allegations that Russian intelligence tried to kill him.
Despite those actions, as well as allowing Europeans to take the lead in punishing Belarus for the hijacked plane, the Biden administration also abandoned the punitive grounds of Nord Stream 2, a Russian gas pipeline project favored by Putin, to avoid angering Germany.
Aaron said agreeing a summit with Putin after his violation of human rights at home and abroad was a significant policy mistake, especially at a time when the Russian president was battling declining popularity, low economic growth and domestic protests. about Navalny’s treatment. “For them, a meeting proves that they are respected and feared,” he said.
The senior administration official said Biden would make “heavy” talks about human rights and democracy with Putin and did not view the meeting as a concession. But the official acknowledged that the incident could be hostage to Russia’s “spin”.
“Of course he will use it for what he can get from the terms of domestic validation,” the official said of Putin.
Efforts to push a more principled approach toward Russia have found in the practical fact that Washington needs the Kremlin for a number of security priorities, including the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, strategic control. weapons, also releasing Iran’s nuclear deal and climate policy.
Andrew Weiss, a former Russian director of the National Security Council, said previous administrations had also experienced similar restrictions. In 2014, the Obama administration tried to cut high -level contacts with Moscow after Russia invaded Ukraine, but the policy “started to fall apart” once the crisis in Syria – which Russia continues to make an outsize role in supporting the President. Bashar al -Assad – needs bilateral talks next year.
“The Biden administration has decided that it needs a direct line to the Kremlin,” Weiss said, adding that punitive actions against Belarus risked ineffectiveness and pushed the regime closer to Moscow.
Rhetorically, Biden also took a heavier line than Barack Obama or Trump did before their presidency, telling an interviewer that he viewed Putin as a “murderer. “, prompting the return of both US and Russian ambassadors. Biden met Putin in 2011 as vice president; she later remembered telling him no soul.
However, critics have argued that Belarus’s response was about a pattern, coupled with Biden’s failure to impose sanctions on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after publishing a U.S. intelligence review he conducted. -approved an operation that led to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Perhaps the most frustrating part of these incidents is the idea that the launch of human rights is not always in the interest of the U.S.,” Prasow said, adding that Biden’s failure to prevent Israel from atrocities its attack on Gaza this month shows that human rights seem to have “fallen by the wayside in favor of other so -called US interests”.
Biden holds office with a strong track record of promoting human rights and democracy, occasionally fighting many “realist” Obama White House officials when he was vice president.
But Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser who also worked with the Obama administration, told the FT recently that Biden has always looked at U.S. foreign policy pushed by “Enlightened self -interest”, with a “naked” self -interest in the service of the American middle class working in conjunction with the pursuit of more interests.
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