Three quarters of a century ago, when the Cold War began with the Soviet Union, US President Harry Truman proclaimed what came to be known as the Truman Doctrine. The goal of US foreign policy, it said, was to “support free peoples who resist attempts at subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure.” This mission defined America’s attitude to the world for the next four decades.
No one would have wished for another cold war, but today a similar turning point has been reached. In his State of the Union address last month, President Joe Biden warned that the world is in the midst of a struggle between “democracies and autocracies” in which “freedom will always triumph over tyranny.” It is not yet clear whether that will actually happen. However, the US could do a lot to influence the direction of the world in the coming decades if the White House could use this moment to formulate a new and more coherent foreign policy.
Biden has the wind at his back here. He was clearly right when he distanced himself from Donald Trump’s stance that NATO was no longer important. Russia’s aggression reminds us how crucial NATO is and how powerful the US and Europe can be if they are aligned not only militarily but also economically. Germany’s new willingness to increase its own defense spending to 2 percent of economic output will not only bolster NATO, but will also be an incentive for Biden, as the US has long been lobbying more European countries to put in more money. pump the alliance.
The unity with which Europe and the US have approached financial sanctions against Russia also underscores the strength of the dollar-based financial system. In the 21st century, economic power — especially in the form of financial, trade and energy networks — is just as important as military power. Biden should capitalize on this by emphasizing the need to work more closely with Europe and other allies on a shared technology and trade framework for the future. Also in light of China’s rise, this framework should protect the values of liberal democracies and ensure that open markets do not become a game where the winner has to win everything.
This could mean working with the EU on a joint energy strategy to ensure that Europe can move away from Russian oil and gas in a safe and sustainable way. It could mean shared industrial strategies and standards in high-growth areas such as clean technology. It should certainly include a common approach to technical regulation, ensuring both privacy and fair market access.
The White House must also be honest about the inflationary effects of the geopolitical moment. The past 40 years of globalization have lowered prices. A more fragmented world will raise them, at least in the short term. But a poll of US consumers conducted in early March found that 71 percent said they would be willing to pay more for fuel if they knew it would benefit Ukrainians.
This sense of solidarity has been sorely missed in US foreign policy and domestic politics alike. Americans are watching what’s happening in Europe in a way they haven’t for decades. They also long for a renewed sense of impartial leadership and of America’s place in the world.
This is an ideal time for Biden to articulate not only the strength of US military and economic networks, but also the strength of Western values - the rule of law, democracy, respect for the individual, property rights, pluralism and open markets. As the war in Ukraine showed us, these are worth fighting for today, just as they were in Truman’s time.
This post Joe Biden’s Chance to Formulate a New US Foreign Policy was original published at “https://www.ft.com/content/019bfae2-cb10-42f5-8392-b915b30e2a2b”