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Is President Biden “Progressive” on Foreign Policy?


March 01, 2022

Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460Mail_Outline

CEPR Looks at Important Areas of US Economic and Military Foreign Policy, in Graphs

Washington, DC — Ahead of President Biden’s State of the Union address, a new release from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC examines several key aspects of the Biden administration’s foreign policy, in graphs. The analysis builds on a similar breakdown of the administration’s domestic policy agenda released last week.

The Biden administration has pursued a robust domestic policy agenda that, through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Build Back Better Act, promised to greatly expand public spending on education, health care, child care, infrastructure, environmental protection and cleanup, transitioning to renewable energy, and other areas. The administration’s foreign policy, however, has disappointed many in the United States and around the world who had wanted, and struggled for, for a less harmful US foreign policy. While the Biden administration has changed US foreign policy considerably from his predecessor in the area of climate policy and in its support for an issuance of $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights by the IMF, in other life-and-death matters it has remained terribly destructive, sometimes no different from that of Trump.

This is particularly true when it comes to US sanctions policy. Millions of people in Afghanistan are facing starvation due to US sanctions, in particular the confiscation of more than $7 billion of Central Bank assets. This is causing enormous economic damage and, as has been widely reported, threatens to take more civilian lives that were lost in 20 years of warfare. No amount of aid can compensate for the economic damage, including loss of food for millions of malnourished children, that is a direct result of these sanctions.

US economic sanctions also continue to cause enormous pain and suffering, and have taken tens of thousands of lives in countries including Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran, where Biden has largely maintained sanctions put into place under President Trump. In response to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration is doubling down on far-reaching sanctions targeting Russian financial institutions, including the country’s central bank. If these sanctions are maintained they will have devastating effects on the lives of ordinary Russians, potentially generating backlash against the US and its allies and strengthening Putin’s hand internally. 

Advocates of economic and social justice have also hoped for a more humane immigration policy, greater support for countries around the world struggling with the pandemic, less military spending, and a TRIPS waiver at the World Trade Organization to facilitate production of effective vaccines against COVID-19.

“When it comes to foreign policy in a number of areas, from immigration to economic sanctions, to the global response to the pandemic, unfortunately what we’ve seen under Biden has too often been more of the same as under Trump, and previous presidents,” CEPR Director of International Policy Alex Main said.

“As the numbers show, Biden has stood by some of his most important domestic policy promises,” Main said. “But the administration’s foreign policy looks like Trump’s in a lot of ways, from ramped-up expulsions of refugees and other migrants from Haiti, to ever-more lethal sanctions, like those against Afghanistan. The Biden administration also continues to support a Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen that is causing mass starvation, despite strong bipartisan congressional opposition to US involvement.  

“Those of us who had hoped that the Biden administration would reverse some of the Trump administration’s more destructive responses to the pandemic, which prioritized big drug companies’ profits over lives and over ending the pandemic, and which offered little assistance to other countries in their efforts to respond to and contain the pandemic, have largely been disappointed,” Main added. “The administration deserves recognition for ending the military war in Afghanistan, and for supporting a historic allocation of $650 billion in Special Drawing Rights as part of a global COVID response, but much more is needed, and far too many people around the world continue to suffer and die because of decisions made in Washington.”

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