April 08, 2021

It’s Still Hard to Be America’s Ally

By Richard Fontaine

U.S. President Joe Biden loves allies. When he took office, his first international phone calls were to allied heads of state: Canada’s Justin Trudeau, the United Kingdom’s Boris Johnson, and France’s Emmanuel Macron, along with Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The president’s “America is back” mantra has reintroduced the United States as a reliable, consistent, and trustworthy ally to friends in Europe and elsewhere—at least while Biden’s in office. The administration’s response to knotty questions—like what to do about China tariffs or how to deal with Iran—always contains a line about figuring it out alongside partners. Trump-era demands that foreign friends do more, pay more, and ask less have disappeared. “America First” has given way to “Allies First.”

The drive to enshrine a U.S. foreign policy for the American middle class may, in particular, pose new dilemmas for long-term allies.

Yet sometimes it’s hard to be an ally. The administration’s new approach is a breath of fresh air after four years of damage and disparagement, but complications will rise to the surface as soon as the honeymoon wears off. Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s gratuitous disputes with allies were self-defeating, but Biden’s welcome celebration of U.S. alliances raises its own set of ambiguities and contradictions. The drive to enshrine a U.S. foreign policy for the American middle class may, in particular, pose new dilemmas for long-term allies.

The tonal difference between the two presidents could hardly be clearer. Trump’s oft-articulated view that allies get rich under U.S. protection, refuse to pay their fair share, require U.S. commitment to areas of marginal importance, and generally take advantage of U.S. naiveté is out. In its place are messages like that of U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who has emphasized the current administration’s high regard for NATO, its willingness to listen to allies, and its desire to both consult and work with them.

Read the full article from Foreign Policy.

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