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Biden’s realism will drive competition among US allies


The US president appears determined to remove sentiment from foreign policy, instead combining minilateralism and multilateralism to achieve his objectives.

Joe Biden’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was certainly powerful, proclaiming the world is at ‘an inflection point in history’, underscoring the urgency of challenges which ‘hold the keys to our collective future’, stating democracy is ‘everywhere’ and remains the best tool to ‘unleash our full human potential’, and rejecting allegations that the US is seeking a Cold War.

But as he approaches the final quarter of his first year as US president, Biden’s sheer determination to deliver on his own foreign policy priorities is apparent, as are the implications of them for the closest partners of the US. Chief among these is that the US will act to defend itself in partnership with allies but only, as the president said, ‘whenever possible’.

Biden’s speech came hard on the heels of a summer of disruptions as the US moved decisively to deliver a long-promised reorientation of its global commitments. Just weeks after the dramatic exit from Afghanistan came the AUKUS announcement, as the US, Australia, and the UK forged a new strategic partnership which includes a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia to secure its position in the South China Sea.

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