After days of angry phone calls and public statements from France, Macron took the extraordinary step of recalling the French ambassador to the US for the first time in modern history. Biden had been receiving regular briefings on the results by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and by Sunday the president had told his advisers he wanted to speak with Macron, assuming direct talks would smooth things out. Might help to make .
The debacle is the latest in a series of foreign policy crises that have erupted over the past several weeks for Biden, which both foreign diplomats and US officials have said were completely avoidable. The gaffes have left sources inside and outside the administration disappointed and puzzled, with some even comparing the lapse to what they expected from former President Trump.
US and foreign officials say they are shocked and shocked by the Biden administration’s two recent major diplomatic failures – first in executing its withdrawal from Afghanistan and then keeping the country in the dark, angering its oldest ally, France. Submarine deal, known as Aukas.
Some administration officials have protested that the French would be angry regardless of when and how the US informed them of the deal, with one describing the French response as “angry rage”.
But many believe it could have been handled better.
“This brutal, one-sided and unexpected decision reminds me a lot of what Mr Trump used to do,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Franceinfo radio. “I am angry and bitter. This is not done between colleagues.”
Addressing the nation last month, Biden said his administration did not expect Kabul to collapse so quickly. “We were clear about the risks. We had planned for every contingency. But I had always promised the American people that I would be straight with you. The truth is, it turned out to be much faster than we expected.”
An administration official said that despite criticism of Afghanistan’s withdrawal, the administration communicated its plans to withdraw to NATO allies.
“There are not enough people in their chairs”
Some sources pointed to failures in coordination and communication between the National Security Council and the State Department, which is usually the main point of contact for foreign partners. But others said they believe a major problem is the lack of Senate-confirmed ambassadors and State Department officials who can serve as a check on the hugely powerful NSC inside the White House.
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a hearing this week that nearly 80 nominations are still pending.
“The slow pace and many obstacles to move the nominees are unacceptable,” he said. “It’s dangerous. We’re less safe when our national security agencies have so few personnel. We have to fix this problem.”
One diplomat said that even overseas, there is a perception that some foreign policy decisions are more concentrated in the NSC, with the slow pace of Senate confirmations of State Department officials. A source close to the White House echoed that assessment, noting that the NSC has attempted to “micro-manage” important national security decisions primarily because “there are not enough people in their chairs.”
For example, the source noted that Karen Donfried – Biden’s nominee as assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs – would have been a key voice in shaping the AUKUS deal and avoiding diplomatic dust-up with France. But Donfried, along with dozens of other nominees, has yet to be confirmed, and the NSC led the negotiations, several officials said.
“We have an extremely powerful NSC as there are very few certain ambassadors and experienced diplomats who can offer an alternative view,” the source said. “Just a few years in a think tank is not enough.”
An official said that even within the NSC, some voices are more powerful than others. “The NSC is extremely unbalanced in terms of personality,” the official said. “On one hand, you have people like (NSC coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs) Kurt Campbell and (NSC coordinator for the Middle East) Brett McGurk who are much larger and more powerful than life, who can communicate with heads of state. and have extensive contacts in their respective fields.” The official said that he is also politically savvy.
But so far, the official said, there are no real equivalent bigwigs directing Europe or South and Central Asia departments across the administration.
A diplomat said that in fact, there is a perception among many foreign allies that inside the NSC, there are a lot of civil servants who are “super minded” but may lack “political instincts”. The diplomat said it was not clear to the European envoys in Washington whether the Asia team at the NSC, which worked on the Aukas deal, even included or briefed his colleagues working in France and Europe.
The confirmation process is, of course, out of Biden’s hands. But many nominations have been withheld by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz because of another major foreign policy issue by the administration – the Russia-Germany gas pipeline called Nord Stream 2, which Biden decided against directly approving because of how it The decision could have impacted US-Germany relations, the decision was also driven by the NSC, the sources said, and sparked an immediate bipartisan backlash.
As such, an ongoing debate among some European diplomats is that recent missteps are really just driven by attitudes – the high-handed authority of a global superpower – versus personnel shortages.
“If it’s not a shortage of personnel, it’s a very different conversation,” said a second diplomat.
Strong focus on China
US officials and lawmakers told Granthshala they believe that, more broadly, the administration’s intense focus on China has resulted in other important issues – such as proper planning before Afghanistan’s withdrawal and difficult negotiations with European allies. Diplomatic work – being neglected.
The White House is working to arrange a summit between Biden and Macron in Europe next month, possibly on the margins of the Group of 20 summit in Rome. Biden’s aides had once hoped to arrange a personal meeting with Xi Jinping at that gathering, in another sign – with the AUKUS partnership – to refocus US foreign policy on countering China. Biden’s desire. But Xi has indicated that he will not attend the conference in person.
“There are so many terrible things happening in the world, most of which are not Joe Biden’s fault, but Joe argues for America to do something bold and beautiful to get back our mojo and reassure friends and allies.” That America is ready to play its part,” said Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, deputy chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who served at the State Department while Biden was vice president.
erosion of trust
In any case, many diplomats said that the events in Afghanistan – where the Biden administration pulled out hastily from Bagram Air Base, with little or no warning to allies – and the AUUKUS debacle badly eroded trust in the US. Have given. The chaotic rush of Afghanistan’s withdrawal has particularly left US allies scrambling to ensure the safety of their own citizens and deeply deprived of a seemingly poor American plan.
After several European diplomats told Granthshala that the Biden administration received a warm welcome from international partners during its first few months, foreign diplomats are now second-guessing their belief that the Biden administration will be much better than the Trump administration.
There is a real concern, for example, after the AUKUS debacle, that the US could step in and steal military deals from Europe, one diplomat said. (According to a September 2020 statement by the European Parliament, the European Union is the world’s second largest arms dealer after the US.)
Diplomats say the flaws have been even more shocking, as the Biden administration was seen as more capable and sympathetic than the Trump administration.
“This is not the style of decision-making we expected,” said one diplomat.
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