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Biden’s hypocrisy shows his values-based foreign policy is in tatters

Updated: May 23

When United States President Joe Biden was elected in 2021, he promised to pursue a values-based foreign policy focusing on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This was supposed to be contrary to his predecessor, Donald Trump's foreign policy, which was more transactional and embracive of autocrats. Trump's 'America First' ethos also miffed European allies and undermined the international institutions that form the vital cog of global US power. Biden ensured that the US rejoined the Paris Climate Accords and re-engaged with the World Health Organisation, which Trump respectively withdrew and attempted to withdraw the US from, setting the stage for a unified global position once again led by America.

Biden's foreign policy has been tested by major global events like the Russia-Ukraine war and the war between Israel and Hamas that broke out on October 7th. The Biden administration's contrary approach to these wars tears his values-based approach into tatters.

Biden has been the most ardent supporter of Ukraine ever since the war broke out. He rallied the Europeans, who were initially sceptical, to support Ukraine financially and militarily. Rhetorically, Biden has likewise been at the forefront. During the outbreak of the war, Biden stated, "We are engaged anew in a great battle for freedom. A battle between democracy and autocracy. Between liberty and repression." The Biden administration has been championing the 'democracy vs autocracy' narrative to garner diplomatic support for Ukraine. 

However, they have been met with stiff resistance from many non-western countries. China and other friendly countries from the Global South, such as India, Brazil and South Africa, have refused to condemn and impose sanctions on Russia outrightly. They cite US aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya when asked to condemn Russia. India and China have even scooped up vast amounts of discounted Russian oil. It is clear that Biden's value-based foreign policy nor the 'democracy vs autocracy' narrative resonates globally.

Biden was forced to reckon with this reality when the Russia-Ukraine war broke out. As gas prices were increasing in the US, Biden paid a visit to Saudi Arabia and fist-bumped Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, a leader whom he promised to make a pariah during his campaign speeches due to the latter's involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Biden hoped his meeting with Mohammed Bin Salman would increase oil exports to the US to help him domestically and reduce Russia's oil revenues. Instead, Saudi Arabia and Russia, part of OPEC Plus, decided to cut oil production by more than 2 million barrels per day. It largely embarrassed Biden since it came after he embraced Mohammed Bin Salman and further proved the 'democracy vs autocracy' narrative to be shrill rhetoric.

His Israel policy has finally buried any shred of credibility that was remaining in his values-based foreign policy approach. Ever since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out on October 7th, the Biden administration has been a steadfast supporter of Israel despite comments by Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant, who called the denial of basic human needs such as water, medicine and fuel to Palestinians in Gaza.


The US and its European allies will back Israel until it achieves its stated aims, being the destruction of Hamas and the return of all hostages. However, the humanitarian cost rought as it seeks to achieve these aims will make the Biden administration complicit in Israeli war crimes and look hypocritical in the face of Biden's relentless attacks against Putin. When the war began, Biden stated that Putin should face trial for war crimes and that "this man cannot remain in power".

The Biden administration has had an uneasy relationship with Netanyahu since he regained power last year. Biden has refused to invite Netanyahu to the White House. When Netanyahu's government instituted the controversial judicial reforms this year, Biden criticised Netanyahu and stated that 'democratic principles' were the bedrock of the US-Israel relationship. Now that Israel has killed 10,000 Palestinian civilians while completely ignoring international law and democratic principles, Biden will have to seriously reflect on his values-based foreign policy.

The Biden administration has been forced to change the tone of their statements on Israel after mass demonstrations in Western cities from New York to Paris. They are now demanding that Israel respect international humanitarian law. People on social media are already sharing videos highlighting the difference in tone and tenor of US statements on the killing of Ukranian and Palestinian civilians. As the human toll increases in Palestine, the hypocrisy of the Biden administration's different approach to Ukraine as opposed to Israel will not be lost on world leaders next time he speaks about democracy, human rights and respect for international law.

Image: The White House

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