Foreign Affairs
Biden’s Legacy in US Foreign Policy

In 2024, the US faces a significant challenge in its foreign policy due to the compulsions of two wars in Europe and West Asia. The Biden administration’s strong support for Ukraine and Israel may signal the US’s commitment to sovereignty, democracy preservation, and counterterrorism. However, internally, the Biden administration has struggled to translate these efforts into political support, with polls suggesting that Biden may be one of the least favoured US presidents in a long time.

The Democratic Party’s concern is that former president Donald Trump leads in almost all polls, which could impact the US’s foreign policy posture and orientation for at least half a decade.In 2023, the US has faced both opportunities and challenges in asserting leadership amid a shifting geopolitical landscape. Legislative initiatives like the CHIPS and Sciences Act and strategic steps in the Indo-Pacific have been implemented, but rival powers like Russia and China have increasingly tested the US. China has been a defining foreign policy issue, and managing its growing military, economic, and technological assertiveness is a long-term challenge.

The US passed the CHIPS and Science Act last year to boost domestic manufacturing capacity and competitiveness in semiconductor production, despite losing ground to Asia in cutting-edge fabrication and design innovation. The US has been working to counter China’s growing regional influence by strengthening the Quad, AUKUS, and forming the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) trade partnership with 12 regional partners. However, China’s economic diplomacy has deepened ties with Russia and Iran, providing economic lifelines to Tehran and Moscow.

The US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action deal in 2018 and its 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan has created a strategic vacuum in the region, leading to widening regional fractures. China has managed to create some regional space by normalizing diplomatic relationships between Saudi and Iran. At the November 2023 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, President Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping discussed initiatives like the ‘Global Gateway’ agenda and the Digital Connectivity Partnership for the Indo-Pacific.

Despite rivalry, the US recognizes shared interests in tackling transnational challenges multilaterally and promotes high-standard digital rules and sustainable infrastructure investment. The Russia-Ukraine war has exacerbated instability across Europe and highlighted the limitations of US power and deterrence credibility among NATO allies. In 2023, Washington aimed to expand strategic ties with India, but faced challenges in managing tensions between India and Pakistan.

The US policy left gaps for other players like Russia and China in West Asia, and reversals in democracy and human rights, such as the Taliban’s repression of women and girls in Afghanistan, highlighted the limits of America’s democracy dissemination. The January 6, 2021 insurrection also provided ammunition for autocratic rivals like China and Russia to exploit. The foreign policy landscape of the Biden administration leaves an ambivalent legacy for American statecraft and leadership.

While US global military primacy and strategic advantages remain unrivaled, the complexity of challenges to US interests continues to expand and shift. Navigating China’s ascent to global power status is the most urgent long-term task, while managing a shrinking yet nuclear-armed Russia, rejuvenating traditional diplomatic tools, and catalyzing new collective security frameworks for the disruptive technologies age are also crucial. With adaptiveness, principled pragmatism, and renewed investments, US foreign policy can sustain leadership in this more complex world.

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