Fareed: Is Biden Just Trump 2.0?

For all of Joe Biden’s criticisms of Donald Trump on the campaign trail, the current US President hasn’t departed too starkly from his predecessor’s foreign policies, Fareed writes in his latest Washington Post column. Biden’s speech next Tuesday at the UN General Assembly, which convened a new session in New York this week, is an opportunity to offer a new vision.

“After almost eight months … many foreign observers have been surprised—even shocked—to discover that, in area after area, Biden’s foreign policy is a faithful continuation of Donald Trump’s and a repudiation of Barack Obama’s,” Fareed writes. Biden has kept Trump’s promise to leave Afghanistan, maintained Trump-era tariffs on allies, failed to return to the Iran nuclear deal, and hewed to Trump’s hard line on Cuba.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Fareed writes. “Trump’s selfishness should be the aberration. Biden can use the U.N. pulpit to return to his deep roots as an internationalist who understands that countries don’t simply ally with America out of fear, bribes or narrow security concerns. … If Joe Biden continues his current course, though, historians might one day look back on him as the president who normalized Donald Trump’s foreign policy.”

What’s in a Doctrine?

Does US President Joe Biden have a foreign-policy “doctrine”? Attempts to answer that have produced vague results, The Economist’s Lexington column writes, arguing it may not be the right question, anyway. With practically every recent US president assigned a foreign-policy “doctrine” in his name, The Economist warns of “doctrine inflation” and of “mistak[ing] presidential aspirations for outcomes.” Pointing to the Soviet president Andrey Gromyko’s observation that the US had so “many doctrines and concepts proclaimed at different times” that it couldn’t manage “a solid, coherent and consistent policy,” the magazine suggests America’s outward view is still miasmic.

The magazine turns, rather, to the current moment: “American hegemony is over; China’s bid for supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region is unignorable. The failed ‘war on terror’ … is no longer a priority. It therefore falls to Mr Biden, a longtime foreign-policy bungler yet arguably the first grown-up president of the post-unipolar age, to construct an appropriately weighty response. … There is little doubt that grappling with [the challenge of China] is the administration’s priority … But again, noble aspirations do not predict successful outcomes. A Biden Doctrine worthy of the name may yet emerge. It hasn’t yet.”

‘Living With Covid’ Gets a Test in Singapore

In Southeast Asia and Oceania, countries once lauded for staying relatively free of Covid-19 have downshifted into attempts to coexist with the virus, as the Delta variant proves more difficult to stamp out. That approach is being tested in Singapore, Kentaro Iwamoto and Dylan Loh report for Nikkei Asia, as cases have proliferated nearly sevenfold since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the island city-state’s vaccination rate had reached 80% three weeks ago.

How is Singapore handling it? “Given the outbreaks in workplaces, the government has banned social gatherings at places of business, such as in canteens,” write Iwamoto and Loh. “Otherwise, it has not imposed significant restrictions, simply calling on residents to reduce social interactions themselves. Meanwhile, officials have ramped up coronavirus testing, requiring more employers to test workers regularly. In addition, the government this week started ‘booster’ shots for seniors. … The government remains committed to moving beyond its past ‘zero COVID-19’ approach, treating the virus as a risk to be managed like less-threatening endemic illnesses such as influenza. It hopes to continue reopening while keeping infections in check.”

Russia Votes

“Voting in the Russian parliamentary elections begins on Friday and ends on Sunday,” Alexey Kovalev writes for Foreign Policy, “and it’s one of the strangest elections Russia has seen in a long history of rotten elections.” Citing the presence of “doppelganger candidates” and the suspected staging of faux events to discredit various factions, Kovalev writes that Russia’s electoral “shenanigans” are in full swing.

At the Financial times, an essay by Max Seddon notes sagging popularity for President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party; Seddon also points to Russian pressure on US tech companies to remove from their app stores the “Smart Voting” app that opposition activist Alexey Navalny’s allies have promoted, with some success in the past, to supply voters with names of non-United Russia candidates seen as most likely to win their voting districts, as a way to rally a strategic, anyone-but-Putin vote. Putin’s party is expected to retain power but with fewer seats than it had, Seddon writes, with one expert casting United Russia’s pre-election zeal as a signal that efforts to squash dissent will continue after.

Europe Scratches Its Head Over Firefighting

After a summer of intense wildfires, European countries are seeking to concoct national plans for fighting them, Jan Petter writes for Der Spiegel. The EU “is planning to throw more money at the problem,” and it already has a fleet of 73 Canadair planes that can land on water or land and can “onload six tons of water within just a few seconds.” So far, countries “have found it challenging to do much more than just buy more and newer equipment,” Petter writes. “But time is running out: Fires across the continent have been increasing both in size and number.”

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