NEW YORK — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden plans a sweeping foreign policy address in which he will promise to end “forever wars” and reassert American leadership in combating the authoritarianism and global instability he says are proliferating under President Donald Trump.
Biden plans to outline his foreign policy vision on Thursday with a speech in New York and accompanying written proposals, including plans for a summit, early in his would-be presidency, that would bring together political and business leaders from around the world.
“The world does not organize itself,” an outline from the campaign states. “American leadership … is necessary to effectively address the defining global challenges of our time. In order to lead again, we must restore our credibility and influence. From day one of a Biden administration, other countries will once again have reason to trust and respect the word of an American president.”
According to the preview, Biden will promise to “end the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East” and end U.S. involvement in the Yemen civil war — nods to calls from the progressive international affairs community that has criticized the former vice president as a willing cog in the more hawkish, bipartisan establishment that has directed U.S. foreign policy for decades.
Perhaps underscoring the political tightrope he has to walk, Biden also will pledge that he won’t “hesitate to protect the American people, including when necessary, by using force.” The campaign’s policy outline goes on to praise “the strongest military in the world” and assure that “it stays that way” under a Biden presidency.
Biden’s initial priorities, the campaign says, would be to restore the United States’ commitments to allies around the world while taking steps to “restore and reinvigorate our own democracy” at home.
Biden also plans a defense of international trade, an emphasis on diplomacy and a promise for aggressive action to combat the climate crisis, with an explanation that all of those efforts can help curtail the worldwide flow of migrants highlighted by the current humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border .
But the campaign said the former vice president wants to make clear he envisions more than a return to the world as former President Barack Obama left it when he finished his second term in 2017. The campaign added that Biden sees a distinct rise in “nationalism, isolationism, xenophobia, protectionism (and) populism” since Trump succeeded Obama and that Trump’s “America first” foreign policy actually increases threats to the U.S.
The speech comes amid ongoing trade tensions with China; increasing tensions with Iran, with Tehran announcing that it is enriching uranium beyond the levels allowed by a 2015 nuclear deal that Trump had abandoned ; and after Trump again met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, with the Republican president saying he wants to restart bilateral negotiations for an agreement.
Biden, who spent 36 years in the Senate before serving as Obama’s second in command, has made his international experience a central part of his pitch in the crowded Democratic primary . Yet his record also draws consistent criticisms from the left and the right.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of Biden’s top rivals for the 2020 nomination, has hammered Biden specifically for his support of the Iraq invasion during President George W. Bush’s administration. Another progressive rival, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has committed to stopping what she describes as a cycle of “endless war.” And both senators have explicitly tied rising global instability to the domination of the world economy by multinational corporations, including those that have benefited from the trillions of dollars the U.S. has spent on foreign wars in recent decades.
Ahead of the speech, Biden aides mostly sidestepped questions about whether he will address his previous record, but they said his outline will point to diplomacy and international alliances as the keys to stabilizing the world and preventing armed conflict.
Republicans, meanwhile, have gleefully noted that Biden opposed the 1991 U.S. military actions to drive Iraq out of Kuwait and that he was an outlier in the Obama administration in warning his boss against the raid that ultimately killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Biden’s outline, according to the campaign’s preview, stops short of Warren’s and Sanders’ link between corporate profits and military conflict. But the former vice president does argue that economic conditions play a fundamental role in global stability. The campaign said Biden will emphasize his focus on building the American middle class while still defending a world economy dependent on international trade.
Though Biden is expected to stick to broad themes Thursday, aides said he will address U.S. relationships with Russia, China and North Korea. The campaign also said Biden wants to re-engage with Iran, but that it must start with Tehran coming back into compliance with the 2015 deal.