Vitalii Portnikov

Biden in a Middle Eastern Trap

The political fortunes of US presidential candidates are often shaped by domestic issues. American diplomats are accustomed to patiently explaining to foreign politicians that American voters prioritize economic interests over foreign policy stances. This is why, in the months leading up to presidential elections, foreign policy often takes a back seat in Washington.

However, President Joe Biden finds himself ensnared in a genuine foreign policy trap. This divide is evident within the traditional Democratic electorate. Many American Jews and Israel supporters feel neglected by their fellow Democrats, who participate in pro-Palestinian demonstrations but do not recall the events of October 7. On the other hand, the pro-Palestinian camp believes Biden is too lenient towards Israel. What economic strategy can keep both groups within the Democratic candidate’s camp?

A similar trap awaits Biden concerning the war in Ukraine. Although it is not as sensitive electorally, the lack of a clear US strategy for ensuring Ukraine’s success in its prolonged war with Russia highlights the president’s perceived weakness. This indecisiveness is why the White House is unsure about Biden’s participation in the “peace summit” in Switzerland. This meeting was meant to showcase the diplomatic efforts of Ukraine and the West and to gain support from the Global South. However, it risks demonstrating a lack of unified approach and vision. Meanwhile, Putin is gathering his allies for an alternative summit in Moscow and seems to have secured China’s support.

President Biden has always considered his political experience a significant asset in his re-election campaign. Yet, he possesses another crucial quality linked to this experience: caution. In the current political climate, this famed trait might prove futile. Even Biden’s staff demands more decisiveness from him. For example, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, after his visit to Kyiv, questioned the lack of permission for Ukraine to use American weapons to strike Russian military targets.  Yet, Biden has not made a decision. It seems unnecessary to mention that the administration’s Middle Eastern policy also requires more decisiveness and clarity.

In these conditions, Donald Trump’s main trump card may be decisiveness, and not economics.

About the Author
Vitalii Portnikov is a Ukrainian publicist, writer, TV presenter and member of the Ukrainian PEN. He is also an author and renowned journalist working in democratic media in Central and Eastern Europe for more than three decades. He is the author of hundreds of analytical articles in Ukrainian, Belarusian, Polish, Russian, Israeli, Baltic media. He hosts television programs and his own analytical channels on YouTube. He is currently broadcasting at the office of the Espreso TV channel and continues to cooperate with the Ukrainian and Russian services of Radio Liberty.
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