Joe Biden Says “America Is Back”

John Gast: American Progress // Public domain

During his first trip to Europe, Joe Biden kept repeating that “America is back”. We have to wait for the long-term effects of this visit, though. Only after some time will we see whether specific political decisions will follow handshakes and declarations.

Nevertheless, we can already see that America under its new leadership is more pragmatic, predictable, and surrounded by allies, and therefore stronger. Biden also confirmed his priorities and spoke openly about how he wanted to implement them.

First of all, in almost every speech, the American president emphasized the challenge posed by China, describing it as the primary subject of American concern. The rivalry with Beijing involves, among others, the economy and competition between Chinese companies, which are state-subsidized in the high-tech market, and those from the U.S. Moreover, the competition also involves broadly understood security – including the security of critical infrastructure.

Speaking of relations with China, Biden speaks on behalf of two major political parties in the United States. The determination not to allow the United States to be pushed off a pedestal is one of the few issues, on which Democrats and Republicans agree. Unlike his predecessor, however, Biden knows that he needs partners to be successful in achieving this goal.

The visit to Europe was supposed to gain their support and appease transatlantic relations, so that the American president could concentrate on what is the most important to him. Biden also does not hide that he will demand greater involvement in the global arena from his allies.

Nevertheless, the rivalry with China is not limited to economic, military, or digital rivalry. The U.S. wants to present the competition with Beijing not only as a geopolitical, economic and technological conflict, but as a choice between two worlds. One world is the world of democracy, predictability, respect for international standards, while the other one is the world of murder and autocracy.

Since it has been a global icon of the successful transformation from authoritarianism to democracy, Poland should be one of the main allies in the West camp. Nowadays, former President Barack Obama describes Poland as an authoritarian country. In 2014, however, during the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the June elections in Warsaw, he kept praising Poles and presented them as an example to follow.

Poland has a unique opportunity to use its “soft power” to promote its image and interests, or to decline to the status of a half-ally. Since Poles are dealing with a clash between democracy and authoritarianism, their country becomes a troublesome state and chooses the role of a half-ally.

It is even more striking that Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the Law and Justice party, claims that Russia is planning a war with Poland. Moreover, he states that the country is threatened with a wave of cyberattacks. If so, why is Law and Justice weakening its relations with a powerful ally who has a similar problem with Russia in this dramatic situation?

Biden spoke about it explicitly at the conference after his meeting with Vladimir Putin. He confirmed that he had provided Putin with a list of entities that constitute critically important U.S. infrastructure, and announced that a cyber-attack on it would be met with a proportionate response.

However, at the same time, he began the entire conference by speaking about the American commitment to human rights and democratic values.

“I told him that no president of the United States could keep faith with the American people if they did not speak out to defend our democratic values, to stand up for the universal and fundamental freedoms that all men and women have in our view.”

Thus, Biden spoke about Alexei Navalny, about the human rights violation in Belarus, and he confirmed his attachment to the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine.

Putin, on the other hand, reacted predictably during his press conference. He said that Americans themselves do not stick to the principles they preach, which is a repetition of the “argument” known since the times of the Soviet Union. Back then, people used to say that life in Russia may not have been perfect, but  that in the U.S. they “beat blacks”.

We all know that the United States is not an ideal country, which, just like other countries, not always lives up to the ideals it preaches. From Poland’s perspective, a different question is important – which side would Poland rather be on? Is it closer to the imperfect United States of Biden or to Putin’s Russia?

If we choose the first option, it is time to finally get out of the state of diplomatic immaturity into which the government has been driving us for six years. We should stop spotting absurd visions of great alliances with Turkey or China in the media.

We should stop complaining about how bad Biden is and how he ignores the Polish government. It is better to rebuild our alliance capabilities in the EU, so that the American president can no longer ignore us.

During his visit, Biden showed that he tries to be pragmatic in his foreign policy. Today, he decided that maintaining close relations with quasi-authoritarian Poland simply does not pay off. After all, the fact that the most important representatives of the American administration ignore PM Mateusz Morawiecki and President Andrzej Duda does not mean they do not like them personally. They have other figures to deal with.

Americans are sending signals to change policy. Gradual access is a classic method of reprimanding a smaller partner by a larger one. Moreover, it will probably stay that way until the Polish government changes its course in European and domestic policy.

It turned out that, in contrast to the Law and Justice’s assumption, buying billions of dollars’ worth American military equipment is not enough to gain access to the White House. It turned out also that there are more important goals and values than the interests of a few American companies.

It is high time to change!

The article was originally published in Polish at:

Translated by Natalia Banaś

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