While President-elect Joe Biden’s immediate focus is likely to be on the troubled domestic situation with the Covid-19 pandemic and the political divide in the United States, the Trump administration has also chosen as part of its final action to give him a series of new international diplomatic dilemmas. In some cases, these are life or death situations.
These movements, announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, mean that Biden will begin his presidency with several important foreign affairs imbued with controversy thanks to the policies his predecessor has set.
“The Trump administration locks in a series of conflicts that change the starting point for Biden, who enters the office on the world stage,”
But since Washington established formal diplomatic ties with Beijing in 1979, it has resisted official diplomatic relations with Taipei to avoid a confrontation with the mainland communist leadership, which still sees the island – home to about 24 million people – as part of it. of China.
Critics fear this week’s move from the Trump administration will give Beijing leverage over the upcoming Biden administration, though strengthened US support for Taiwan against an increasingly confident China has largely been a two-party consensus in Washington.
“If the United States decides, for example, that it will cooperate with China on climate change, China may demand that the United States reverse its stance on Taiwan,” Pantucci said.
And whether or not China hackers in the U.S. like it or not, Biden may be able to work with China to tackle climate change, global terrorism and all sorts of other issues.
Analysts had long expected Biden to maintain a hawkish position in China, but they believed he would work with international allies to build a cohesive coalition rather than maintain Trump’s maximum pressure.
“What Biden needs to do is work with European allies to have a tailored strategy for China, but to do that you need some time to build it,” said Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the United States and America program. at Chatham House. “You do not need more immediate problems that get in the way.”
Getting partners – especially those in Europe – to share a common position with China was already a difficult task.
“European nations have very different views on China, with some – like Britain – very concerned and others – like Italy and Germany – more focused on China as an export market,” said Tom Tugendhat, chairman of Britain’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
While it is tempting to suggest that Biden could simply turn politics around when he takes office, it ignores the lost-loss situation in which Trump has left the president-elect.
As Pantucci points out, capitulation would “cost Biden political capital at home”, where the anti-China sentiment is quite strong across the political corridor. If Biden reintroduces restrictions on contacts with Taiwan, it will also allow Beijing to claim that the United States had accepted its status as a province of China.
This “could have major consequences for Taiwan’s democracy itself, as Xi and his allies have not been hesitant to assert their authority when given the opportunity to do so,” Pantucci added. While China is “very unlikely to attack Taipei,” Pantucci warned that there could be “more interference”. [by Beijing] in politics, interfere financially “if Trump’s policies remain in place.
Bullying of the Houthis is ‘a fantasy’
The situation in Yemen is just as dire and as a result of the actions of the Trump administration potentially more deadly.
The war in Yemen has continued since 2014. Diplomatic avenues to end the conflict between the Saudi government and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have so far failed.
It has been described by UNICEF as “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world with more than 24 million people – about 80 percent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 12 million children.”
“The designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization does not in any way help to resolve this conflict and actually risks prolonging it,” said Chris Doyle, director of the Council on Arab-British Understanding.
“There is a risk that the Houthi hardliners will feel empowered to turn more towards Iran. They will not be willing to engage in diplomatic processes or back channels to Saudi Arabia.”
The longer the crisis continues, the worse things will get for those in need of humanitarian aid, analysts said.
The terror designation will only make it more difficult for aid groups to supply food and medical supplies to the country. It will also “make it difficult for aid organizations to have staff on site, as the Houthis can control the two main entrances to Yemen,” Doyle said.
“By choosing one side in a conflict, you can really hurt civilians, and that’s very irresponsible,” Doyle added. “The idea that you can bully the Houthis to soften their stance is a fantasy.”
Nails in the coffin of Obama’s Cuba policy
Pompeo’s redesign of Cuba as a sponsor of state terror is likely to have the least material impact, but it represents a personal loss for Biden and a significant political victory for Trumpism.
Thus, Trump is hammering the last nail in the coffin of Barack Obama’s efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.
Stories are and will continue to be written about how Trump’s hard line with Cuba’s communist leaders played well with the Latino vote in Florida. This last act may well leave a legacy for the one who carries the Trump torch in 2024.
“If the United States now goes to Cuba and says it wants to reset back to where things were at the end of the Obama administration, Cuba can legitimately ask why it should bother when it is possible that someone like Trump could become elected again in 2024, “Pantucci said.
And a reset, even if it was not at the top of his priority list, could have been something that Biden would consider, provided he was Obama’s vice president.
The inheritance problem is something that Vinjamuri places special emphasis on.
“These are really the dying days of the Trump administration, and they really seem to be laying the groundwork for something they can build on,” she said, suggesting that Pompeo’s last move could be an attempt to burn out his hardline credentials. a race in the 2024 presidential election.
The bite will be sworn in on January 20th. Trump will be gone – at least for now – but his influence on the world will be felt in the years to come.
And it could take an entire period for the new administration to loosen the eleven-hour decisions made by its predecessor.