US allies “very relieved” when Biden shows up, but they have also learned to be careful

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London – Donald Trump’s administration was not conventional in the view of many U.S. allies, and some of the inaugural day international responses to change in Washington did not follow diplomatic norms.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he was “very relieved that Joe Biden will be inaugurated as President and move into the White House”.

“After four long years, Europe has a friend in America,” said Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Union’s governing body.

Iran had a different attitude. President Hassan Rouhani, whose country has been hit by a series of harmful economic sanctions under Trump, said: “The era of a tyrant has come to an end today.”

In Moscow, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman insisted that “nothing will change for Russia”.

Perhaps the most frank comment came from Nicola Sturgeon, the head of government in Scotland, who said she was “very happy to say ‘Cheerio’ to Donald Trump” and added, “don’t hurry back.”

There have been suggestions that Mr Trump could seek refuge in one of his golf clubs in Scotland after the president. Such a visit was not only discouraged by Sturgeon himself because of the coronavirus.

But just as a change in administration was expected among America’s allies and opponents, no magic switch is thrown that alters all of the problems that – and in many cases – has existed was aggravated by – the outgoing US President.

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There is consensus in Europe and elsewhere that, of course, there will be no complete reversal in US foreign policy.

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Likewise, Mr. Biden’s team has announced that they will Bring the USA back into the Iranian nuclear deal when Tehran comes back into agreement. But what price could Tehran charge to cut down on nuclear fuel refining? What extension of this agreement to curb Iran’s disruptive non-nuclear activities, including state sponsorship of terrorism, could the new government insist on?

European allies certainly expect the Biden government to step back in and act more cooperatively in solving the world’s biggest problems. The incoming team has clearly indicated Intentions to do just that.

Biden meets Merkel
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) welcomes US Vice President Joe Biden in the Federal Chancellery in Berlin on a file photo dated February 1, 2013.

Maurizio Gambarini / Image Alliance / Getty


But these allies know that not every element of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy is being pushed back.

For example, Anthony Blinken, Mr. Biden’s election as Secretary of State, has confirmed that the U.S. embassy, ​​which was so controversially relocated to Jerusalem by the Trump administration in 2017, remains in office. Some of America’s closest European allies were quick to condemn this move.

Overall, America’s allies approach the new White House with optimism, but it is optimism that is mitigated by the caution learned over the past four years.

You know Trumpism and the 74 million Americans who voted for the last president are a real thing that won’t just go away after Wednesday’s Capitol swearing-in ceremony.

Behind every comment was America’s welcome on Wednesday an unspoken concern that many in the US have showed a happy willingness to sit outside this fold.

The hope is that the Biden Presidency will restore the balance and commonality of the post-World War II goals that have tied the United States to its allies. But there are no longer any illusions that the bond is unbreakable.

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