top of page

No End in Sight for Biden's Foreign Policy Crises as US Election Approaches

Updated: May 23

The last few months have proven that President Joe Biden is not the foreign policy expert his career makes him out to be. This myth followed him into his presidency but has been busted by two major foreign policy crises, the Russia-Ukraine war and the Israel-Hamas war. As he heads into an election year, the two conflicts have no end in sight and present new and worsening dilemmas for the Biden administration every day.

The Russia-Ukraine war has taken a backseat, rhetorically, to the Israel-Hamas war. Ukraine's inability to conclusively breach Russia's defences in their counter-offensive has led to a stalemate, made worse by the onset of winter. The stagnation has sowed doubt in the minds of Kyiv's backers in Washington, London, and the continental European capitals. The Republican Party was already refusing to pass funding to Ukraine before the Israel-Hamas war even broke out. After the war in the Levant started, the Biden administration tried to pin Ukrainian aid on to the Israel aid package but was unsuccessful in persuading the Republican Party.

In the first week of December, Democrats in the US Senate failed to muster the 60 votes needed to pass an emergency bill that could have granted $110.5 billion to Ukraine, Israel and other national security requirements. Even Senator Lindsey Graham, a steadfast advocate of aid to Ukraine, mentioned that the bill would not pass unless the Biden administration caved to Republican pressure on border issues. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson has also voiced various demands on areas of border policy such as asylum and parole applications. Democrats consider most of these harsh immigration proposals as non-starters. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's impromptu visit to the US did nothing to move Republicans toward passing aid for Ukraine. Without aid from its chief supporter, Ukraine will likely encounter problems procuring much-needed ammunition and air defence systems, which deter a resurgent Russian army offensive. But, of course, President Biden has promised not to abandon Ukraine, urged Congress to pass the funding, and said that we cannot let "Putin win". 

In the Israel-Hamas war, the US has been unable to deter Israel from its indiscriminate violence. The violence in Gaza has taken a turn for the worse. After the four-day humanitarian ceasefire broke down on December 1st, Israel killed some 4,000 more people, bringing the total death toll to more than 18,000. Public pressure, including immense criticism for vetoing a UN Security Council call for a ceasefire, has pushed the US to caution Israel on civilian deaths openly. 

Their position on the Israel-Palestine conflict compared to Russia-Ukraine is hypocritical. So much for that country that took the lead in condemning Russia for civilian deaths in Ukraine. Israeli politicians are publicly defying calls from the intentional community, and now the US, too, stop being overly aggressive and stop its indiscriminate airstrikes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that the war will continue until "Israel achieves all its aims". Defence Minister Yaov Gallant publicly contradicted US national security adviser Jake Sullivan - who suggested that Israel bring an end to intense fighting in a matter of weeks - after Gallant said that the war would not end in weeks but months. 

Ukraine's lacklustre performance on the battlefield and dwindling public support in the West could mean that aid next year will fall. The possibility of the Ukrainian army reclaiming large swathes of land with depleted funding seems a pipedream. This could well pressure Zelensky into accepting a peace deal with Russia, even if it humiliates his country. 

Furthermore, civilian casualties in Gaza are rising by the day, and the US - and, more broadly, the Western hegemony - is unable to control Netanyahu's behaviour. The possibility of either war ending amicably remains slim. 

Biden heads into an election year dealing with two major foreign policy crises, and opinion polls show former President Donald Trump is likely to win the key swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Concerns about Biden's age continue to be raised in and out of the Democratic party. The primary hope of the Democrats is Trump's perennial legal woes. However, could the foreign policy debacles all but end Democratic hope of stymying Trump's return? Foreign policy rarely decides an election, but for next year's elections, it symbolises voters' concerns about the American economy and the decision-making of the US' oldest-ever President.

The question is, will he be able to be decisive and create change using his decades-long experience as a Senator, or will this crisis in foreign policy be remembered as a debacle that cost him the presidency?

Image: Office of Public Affairs from Washington DC

156 views0 comments


bottom of page