It’s been all smiles and cheers for Joe Biden on his first foreign tour rolling out a foreign-policy agenda focused on China. And, for the most part, European leaders are playing along with the script.
The narrative for the G-7 and NATO summits is about substitution of the affable Biden for former President Donald Trump, whom most Europeans despised. With Biden, traditional allies are to be charmed and reassured that America loves and respects them as in pre-Trump days of yore.
But there are a couple of problems with that storyline.
The first is that Biden’s bumbling is creating new and damaging controversies. The second is that his supposedly Euro-friendly agenda isn’t actually good for Europe or reaffirming traditional alliances, even if the vibes from the meetings are less hostile than they would be if Trump were still playing a bull in a European china shop.
China is actually a big part of the problem.
Biden wants to convince Europe to help curb China’s growing influence and military assertiveness. And he wants NATO to focus on Chinese security.
That makes sense, but the problem is that, lip service notwithstanding, the Europeans have even less stomach for standing up to China than they do about stopping the Iranian nuclear threat.
The Euros are thrilled at the prospect of being free to go back to doing business with Iran after Biden dismantles Trump’s sanctions on that Islamist regime. They’re even happier about his planned retreat from Afghanistan which will also relieve NATO of its commitment to fight the Taliban.
They’re also baffled as to why Biden is so soft on Russia, which Democrats spent the last four years claiming is an existential threat. Few think the meeting between a desperate-to-be-liked Biden and Putin right after the NATO summit will result in the dressing-down of the Russian that Trump’s critics claimed was necessary.
Nor is that all that is wrong with the notion that Biden is healing the wounds supposedly left behind by Trump.
The first thing Biden did when he crossed The Pond was to send a message that the “special relationship” between the US and Britain was history.
Biden’s tour is the work of an administration in love with multilateral institutions like the European Union and the UN, not America’s allies.
Rather than reassure the world that “America is back,” Biden’s obvious confusion on the world stage is undermining alliances and strengthening America’s foes.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS.org.