The unexpected results of the US midterm elections have surprised pundits both in the US and abroad. There was no red wave at the polls and the Democrats were able to keep the Senate, while giving the Republicans a slim majority at the House of Representatives. The outcome will keep analysts busy for a while as they try to figure out what exactly happened.
While the outcome of the elections will determine the future of relations between the Biden White House and Congress, especially over the president’s domestic agenda, the results are equally important for America’s allies and foes.
A red wave would have rendered Joe Biden a lame duck president for the coming two years and would have sealed the fate of the 2024 presidential elections.
That now seems unlikely. Almost all populist candidates that Trump had endorsed lost; sending a message that Republican voters no longer subscribe to his fiery brand of politics.
There seems to be a move to restore the Grand Old Party (GOP) having lost it to supremacists, misogynists and fanatics. It is too early to tell if the party will remain united as Trump has put his hat in the ring again.
But for now President Biden’s presidency is back on track — or at least so it seems. The coming two years should not be similar to the first two of his term, at least where foreign policy goals are concerned.
Two more years of Biden may ruffle the feathers of some of America’s allies as well as most of its foes. The first two years did not bring about special achievements by the resident of the White House.
The US was taken aback by Russia-Ukraine conflict that started in February. But before that there was little attempt by Biden to restore ties with Vladimir Putin who remained sceptical of Nato’s true motives in Ukraine. Still Biden was able to bring in the Europeans to his side and supply Ukraine with weapons and support to stand up to the Russians.
That united front is teetering. Europe is facing an unprecedented perfect storm: acute energy shortages, rampant inflation and biting recession. Europeans are becoming fed up with having to toe the US line as the world verges on the brink of a nuclear war.
The US made the mistake of trying to recruit its allies and friends into an anti-Russia camp. And when several countries say that they will not take sides in a superpower struggle, the White House was shaken.
Serving their own interests
The US soon realised that nations, while adhering to international law and rejecting the violation of the sovereignty of a UN member state, have their own independent foreign policy positions that are anchored on the principle of preserving and serving their own interests.
And thus while the majority of countries stand together on the question of Ukraine; they make it clear that they will not engage in an anti-Russia campaign. The reality of today’s world underlines the need for every country to follow its own sovereign policy.
The need for the Biden White House to rethink its foreign policy goals is crucial. The need to recalibrate and reset have never been greater. Biden remains free to chart a new course for the US foreign policy goals; ones that are in line with international law and the interests of its allies.
Perhaps such a reset mentality was boosted by the outcome of the midterm elections. In Bali, Indonesia, Biden and China’s Xi Jinping moved closer to reaching an understanding to work together to defuse rather than escalate. This is an important sign.
The Biden administration needs to adopt a similar line of thinking with its Gulf allies who have kept their lines open with China and Russia without compromising the principles of international law.
And when it comes to Ukraine, the US should look beyond the day-to-day events on the ground and think of a way to negotiate an end to a war that has no clear winner and promises to divide a weakened European Union and wreak havoc on vulnerable countries.
A new approach to Ukraine will earn the support of America’s allies. And this could be Biden’s long lasting legacy as well.
Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.