The Folly of Biden’s Elite Diplomatic Team

After the chaos left behind by the Trump administration, there was a time when the world had high hopes with the arrival of Joe Biden’s team of diplomats. However, with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, as well as incidents in Eastern Ukraine and the Middle East, conflicts continue, leaving a trail of issues similar to those encountered by the Trump administration. If there is a distinction, it is that the U.S. has made it clear that it does not wish to become involved in global affairs.

To me, this is a predictable outcome. Before Biden took office, Mr. Jake Sullivan and Mr. Antony Blinken wrote an article or two, which caught my attention because they showed some shortcomings. They fail to display a higher level of thinking and a valid definition of a strategic problem. Some people only need a small amount of abnormality to see the outcome, whereas others, primarily lay people, require a large number of so-called “evidences” to see it.

Once we identify the flaws of Biden’s diplomatic team, it will be easier to understand today’s problems. The real standard of the diplomatic team can be seen from how it uses sanctions as a geopolitical weapon, how it masters its resources and tools, or to what extent. Sanctions are, therefore, by no means merely about intimidation.

Biden said last week that he would consider a rare move to directly sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin if Russia invaded Ukraine. Biden was asked at the time whether he would sanction Putin if he ordered an invasion of Ukraine. “Yes, I would see that”, he replied. At the time, Biden said that he might, soon, mobilize some of the 8,500 U.S. troops already on standby, but he vowed not to deploy U.S. troops in Ukraine. This is a self-humiliating denial that has become the main feature of Biden’s college-elite diplomatic team. It is also becoming the core of Biden’s diplomatic language format.

While the U.S. generally does not impose sanctions on foreign leaders, there is a long list of those who faced sanctions. For example, in 2017, then U.S. President Trump imposed sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, and in 2019 on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hence, it is not a surprise for Biden to inform the journalists that he had emphasized to Putin that if he orders an invasion of Ukraine, there will be “severe consequences”.

Biden’s speech is almost certainly propaganda. While Ukraine’s current president visited the United States several times, the latter needed to focus on and comprehend the situation in East Ukraine and Europe. Yet, the Biden team took it lightly and Biden himself even dozed off during one of the meetings. To Putin, the American intentions towards Ukraine are obvious.

This is tantamount to encouraging Putin to engage in brinkmanship, and it appears that Putin is convinced that even if it cannot address the issues created by the U.S. government and frighten the American political elites, it will draw attention in European society and American societies. This is especially true for the press there, which is constantly looking for hot spots to survive. As a matter of fact, all these are terrifying to the Europeans and the Americans.

In subsequent discussions about sanctions, both the U.S. and Europe had proposed shutting down the Swift system to punish Russia. Swift is crucial in international financial transactions. Russia’s response was immediate. It said that if the U.S. shut down the Swift system, Moscow would respond with the atomic weapon. This horrified the U.S. diplomatic team, who abandoned the idea subsequently.

Europe certainly depends on Russia for its energy. The U.S. claims to help Europeans break away from their dependence on Russia, but this is merely empty talk. Even if it is true, it will take more than a decade for it to happen. The U.S. is now clueless on what measures should be taken. The root of this issue lies in Germany, which has shut down its nuclear power plant and caused the reliance on Russian natural gas. France does not have this problem because its nuclear power plants are operational. There has been no progress in the policy coordination between Biden and Germany. The U.S. has so far been one of the largest markets for German cars. Trump used this bargaining chip to restrain the Germans, but Biden’s diplomatic team seems to focus more on etiquette than actual diplomatic outcomes, so they now have little leverage over the Germans.

Biden’s diplomatic team threatens if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. would impose sanctions on the Russian President. While this sounds terrifying, it is almost entirely public relations propaganda. Many in American society cannot distinguish between sensationalism and facts and would find such a move impressive. The reality is that, even if Biden has won in terms of domestic influence, he has little control over the world outside.

Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Blinken of Biden’s diplomatic team are graduates from elite schools, but based on their performance in Afghanistan, they severely lack foresight about the fluidity of the situation. More often than not, they are in a quagmire of perplexity, passing on their own confusion to the President of the United States in the form of flowery academic presentations.

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ANBOUND

ANBOUND is a multinational independent think tank, specializing in public policy research, incl. economy, urban and industry, geopolitical issues. Est. 1993.