Joe Biden, the recently elected 46th President of the United States, has achieved somewhat stable domestic politics, but falls short abroad with the US’ two most important competitors: China and Russia. Recent events have shown a diplomatic deterioration of US-Russian and US-Sino relations.
An estrangement in the relations between global powers is never a good sign and can result in serious global consequences. US’ relations with both Russia and China are of significant importance in foreign policy; Russia is the third biggest military power and the first in terms of nuclear warheads, while China is the second biggest global economy and the second in military spending.
President Biden referred to Putin as a killer during an ABC news interview. While it was solely the president’s answer to a question asked by the interviewer, it was enough to incite a negative reaction by the Russians. In response, Russia called back its ambassador from Washington. President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, publicly critiqued the US president, stating that, "Mr. Biden's statements about Mr. Putin are not fitting of a president, and a president coming out and using such remarks against the president of a country like Russia is truly unacceptable, not something that can be stomached." Such a reaction is uncommon from a NATO ally. Putin proposed a debate between the two leaders, which was quickly rejected by the White House as not in the interest of Administration. But Biden’s frustration towards Russia is not unknown: he affirmed that Russia attempted to interfere with the 2020 elections of Donald Trump.
Concurrently, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Alaska, an unprecedented event in the last 4 years. Blinken flew to the summit after consulting with US allies Japan and South Korea to assure a stronger position during negotiations. The summit resulted in tough negotiations with both sides publicly highlighting issues pertaining to the other, like racial and ethnical tolerance in the United States, with the Black Lives Matter movement, and the detention of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and the abuse of Hong Kong’s autonomy. There is no consensus among experts as to how the Biden Administration should approach China, some warn not to continue Donald Trump’s harsh policy, while others consider being as direct as the last administration a great opportunity for further solutions.
As the anti-China rhetoric gains bipartisan support, it will be crucial for the Biden Administration to normalise bilateral relations with China, before regressing into a long-running Cold War style of rhetoric between the two countries. Neither side hoped to solve all existing issues at one summit, however, but both profited from the encounter. As China approaches becoming the largest global power, the summit was a good opportunity for Biden’s Administration to find a middle ground, one that will both protect US national interests and maintain strict policies for those in Washington who demand it.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov took a two day visit to China in order to discuss recent American hostility towards the two countries. As the two countries bond over shared American hostility, Biden will have to develop a foreign policy that can maintain bilateral relations without disrupting the balance of powers.