On January 20th, US President Joe Biden completed his first year in office. Biden was elected at a time when the entire world had succumbed to and was facing the rigor of the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst also dealing with the isolationist yet controversial policies issued under President Trump. Despite the fact that Biden has officially completed his first year, the choices he had to make depending upon the situations were the toughest and most controversial for any president in the world.
Being a president is a tough job, and being a US president is one of the toughest jobs in the world. Over the years US has played a role as a leader in international affairs. The world order is based upon American democratic values and principles. However, since the dawn of 21st century, the misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan and continuous violation of international laws have been costly for US and has given rise to other states who have questioned role of US based world order and exerted their influence in international affairs. Among them are China, Russia and Iran. China, who’s rapid economic growth and corridor projects are seen as a threat to US supremacy in economy. Meanwhile, in case of Russia and Iran, the former is making a comeback to reclaim the glory of its predecessor U.S.S.R, and the latter’s nuclear ambitions are seen by the US as a threat to its national and global security. Biden has had to face all of these challenges during his first year and these are the issues along with climate change President Biden would face during his entire first term in office. To highlight how Biden addressed his first year, it’s time to take a look from his inaugural session till January 2022.
A cold welcome in the office
Just days before the Biden’s inaugural ceremony as US president, Protestors supporting Trump’s radical and populist agendas attacked capitol hill. Hence tarnishing the image of U.S as a peaceful democracy around the globe and as a result national emergency was imposed in Washington, DC. It was under these unfortunate circumstances that Biden had to appear for his formal inauguration as the 46th US president. For Biden the atmosphere during his inauguration day was cold, in weather as well as in the attitudes of members in US congress. President Trump did not even oblige to attend the swear-in ceremony of his successor-Joe Biden as president. He left during the early hours of the morning marking the first time a US president was absent in his successor’s inauguration ceremony in over 32 years. Biden, however, in his first day in office gave a swift response to Trump by bringing US back into Paris Climate Agreement and ensured proper protocols to be implemented to tackle with the covid-19 pandemic. Despite these circumstances, Biden promised the people of his country and around the world of a new approach towards ensuring peace and stability.
A controversial conclusion to the forever war
On April 15th, 2021, President Biden made the toughest decision of his life. He chose to end the war in Afghanistan and announced a complete withdrawal from the country by 31st August,2021. Biden lived up to his promise and before the commencement of the deadline US troops withdrew from Afghanistan. Weeks before the withdrawal process had concluded Taliban had already captured the country and had returned to the ruling seat. During the fall of Kabul US was forced to deploy additional troops for safe evacuation of its citizens and other people trying to escape the country. The situation looked similar to the US evacuation scenario during the fall of Saigon exactly 46 years before Kabul fell at the hands of the Taliban. Biden justified the evacuation and labelling US war on Afghanistan as an inexpensive war with no clear conclusion in sight. He was quick to place his blame Afghan forces who had previously surrendered to the Taliban. Biden was criticized at home and abroad for how he handled the withdrawal but Biden had no other option as he had inherited to end the longest war in US history from his predecessor. The decision to end the forever war was right but the way it was handled will haunt Biden for the rest of his life.
Curtailing the dragon
Containing China’s rise has been US’ top strategic priority. The Third-Offset strategy and National Security Strategy both released in 2018 were China centric. China has seen a drastic economic boost over the years. Its infamous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) under incumbent President XI Jinping is as a competitor and threat to US influence over the world. Most of Biden’s first year revolved around matters on dealing with China. During the G7 meeting held in May last year, President Biden along with leaders of other G7 countries announced plans for a $40 trillion project: Build Back Better (B3W). The aim of the project is to develop third world countries and to rival China’s BRI. As of yet B3W is on documents only but if it is implemented it would certainly outmatch BRI.
Moreover, the issue of Taiwan also Taiwan also concerns Biden. US thinks that China plans for an invasion of the Taiwan strait soon and would unify the strait with the mainland. To ensure that does not happen US has deployed additional troops in the Taiwan strait. US chose sides by not inviting China (calling it a totalitarian regime) and favoring Taiwan in its place when President Biden was hosting the summit for democracy. Biden’s video-conference with President Xi was to make sure that competition does not lead to a conflict. Biden seems skeptical in this matter; he does not want to start another trade war with China but also wants to contain its growth and influence. The dragon is awake and US should acknowledge that and see it as a friend rather than as a foe.
Reviving the deal that matters the most
When Biden came into office, he quickly announced to engage with Iran and revive the former JCPOA, a deal US made under Obama’s administration and later on withdrew under Trump’s administration. US withdrawal hit Iran so hard that it started facing severe economic repercussions from sanctions imposed by other states due to pressure from US. Iran on the other hand withdrew from the treaty and resumed enrichment of its Uranium deposits and so far, it has made tremendous amounts of progress. Biden during his first year, and still is making efforts to revive the former JCPOA deal under renewed circumstances. Iran, however, has been skeptical this time and is closer to becoming a nuclear power, having enriched Uranium to 25kg and its new president is more conservative than its predecessor-the reformist Hassan Rouhani. For Biden it is the need of the hour to revive the deal to help Iran overcome its economic situation and for US to become less conscious of Iran in its long list of international challenges. Time is of the essence and Biden must at any cost revive the deal in his second year to preserve international peace and stability.
Increasing tensions with Russia
In July, Biden met Vladmir Putin for the first time as president. Both presidents greeted each other warmly, discussed matters pertaining to international security and complimented each other with respect and good feelings. However, their second meeting held via a video conference was quite the opposite. This time the situation was different as tensions were heightened in East-Europe when Russia deployed troops near its border with Ukraine which led experts and analysts to believe that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine. In the video conference Putin refused this stance but did lay down some proposals for Biden including for Ukraine’s refusal to join NATO and limiting the organizations expansion into East-Europe. Biden has threatened Putin with severe consequences if he ever plans for an invasion. Moreover, Biden has sent military assistance to Ukraine and has alerted NATO members to stay prepared if matters are not resolved diplomatically. Despite the fact that Biden wants to ensure peace, he still has to give-in to some of the demands handed out by Putin so that Russia could back down without any escalation of conflict. But should also make sure that Putin does not behave the exact same way again in the future or else he would reap the consequences without any second thoughts.
Hit hard at home: Rising Inflation and the omicron variant
A US President always keeps a hawkish attitude when engaging with the world. However, he is skeptical when it comes to home. Currently US is facing economic challenges which has increased inflation in the country. And not to mention the emergence of another deadly variant of covid-19 having high infection rate. This dynamic duo is wreaking havoc in the US by harming the economic and health sectors the most. Throughout his first year, President Biden pleaded with the people of the US to get vaccinated. Now that most people were vaccinated, they were confident enough to go outside and spend, causing imbalance in the supply and the demand which resulted in price hikes and 7% inflation-highest seen in the US over the last forty years. The omicron is another challenge for the US as the new variant seems to be unstoppable at the moment and just two days prior to Biden’s completion of his first year, US set a new global for record for daily a staggering 1.1 million covid-19 cases. Despite the fact that people are getting vaccinated and booster shots are also available, daily trends in the cases highlight that the virus is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Tackling the Climate Threat
Climate Change is a global phenomenon and only recently states have started to acknowledge the threat it contains. Tackling climate change in the US has been different through out the years. Companies like ExxonMobil refused to accept climate change at first. Many of the influential personalities and companies were climate deniers. Former President Donald Trump was amongst them and withdrew US from the Paris Climate Agreement. Biden, however, on his first day in office pulled US back into the deal and acknowledged climate change as a regional as well as a global threat that is having adverse impacts on US security. During COP 26, Biden acknowledged the fact that US is amongst the world’s largest polluters and pledged to cut its emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. President Biden has made climate change his top most priority. He has cancelled permits of various major oil companies, encouraged use of renewable energy resources and etc. However, this is not enough and the president should make more efforts to tackle the climate crises and urge other states to do the same.
Towards the second year
Biden had to face a tough and controversial first year. The obstacles thrown at him by his predecessor has tarnished his reputation. But Biden is experienced and even though US seems is perceived as becoming weak, it is certainly not the case. It is still the worlds most powerful military and economic. Biden spend most of his first year confronting many challenges. He had to face a pandemic, climate change, end the war in Afghanistan and deal with Taliban’s takeover of Kabul, trying to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, competing against China, and dealing with Russia’s unusual behavior. These issues will continue in his second year and it is in Biden’s hands to make sure the deal with Iran is settled, Afghanistan is saved from the disaster that is wreaking havoc on its economy and has created a severe economic crisis, not to make competition with China a conflict and rather lead it towards cooperation and harmony, make climate change the world’s only priority, and end Russian aggression in Ukraine through diplomatic efforts. But the question is how will Biden address these challenges? Only time will tell.