© 2024 Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Public Media from Michigan State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Foreign Policy In A Biden Presidency


You look at the electoral map now and you see that Joe Biden won Pennsylvania, Joe Biden won Nevada. And with that, he is president-elect with the electoral votes to spare. And the president-elect is expected to speak to the nation later tonight.


But as we await those remarks from him, we want to learn more about what a Biden presidency could mean for foreign policy. And to start that conversation off, we're joined by Admiral James Stavridis. He led the NATO alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 and is the former dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Welcome, Admiral Stavridis. Thank you so much for joining us once again.

JAMES STAVRIDIS: What a night. And happy to be with you.

MARTIN: I see that you're happy to be with us. So - and earlier today, you tweeted your congratulations to President-elect Biden. And you added, quote, "go make some history and heal this nation." So talk a bit more about that, like, why you're so happy, for example. And what do you think healing the nation will take?

STAVRIDIS: Well, first of all, let's look at the triumph of hope over fear, you know? Napoleon said - I love to quote Napoleon because I'm 5 feet, 5 inches tall. Napoleon said that a leader is a dealer in hope. And I think that we have a leader in President-elect Biden who will lead with hope. No. 2 - and this is my zone, the international world - president - a President Biden will be looking to build bridges, not to build walls. And we have seen this Trump administration again and again try and withdraw from the world, pull out of treaties, denigrate international organizations, criticize my beloved NATO. We are going to have a president in President Biden who's going to seek to build bridges. So in summary, it's hope over fear. It's bridges over walls. Over time, that will be the prescription to heal the nation, in my view.

MARTIN: Well, you just referenced the - President Trump's kind of China shop-breaking approach to a number of issues of governing, both in domestic politics and in the international arena - pulling out of diplomatic agreements, starting a trade war with China. But, obviously, there is a significant number of people who supported his approach in the big picture if not in all the detail. So how do you think that President-elect Biden should now proceed? Can he just sort of go back to the way things were? Or is there some adjustment needed to accommodate the reality that has been made clear that a number of people actually agree with President Trump on a number of these issues?

STAVRIDIS: There are always adjustments to be made. And I'll tell you three things that I think a President Biden will bring to the table that will help. Number one, he'll bring a great team. He's got people like Michele Flournoy, Susan Rice, Jeh Johnson, Nick Burns, Bill Burns, Tony Blinken. These are deeply experienced near-cabinet level individuals who served for eight years with him. He'll bring them. And this is key. He's not going to rotate them on a revolving-door basis. President Trump's had four national security advisers in four years. That's no way to run foreign policy. So number one, great team, stable team.

No. 2, I believe that a President Biden will look to rejoin the Paris climate accords. He will work with the World Health Organization. He'll work with the United Nations, the Organization of American States to deal with Venezuela. He'll look to engage, not to denigrate these international organizations.

And third and finally, you mentioned China. I think that's the uber issue for the United States as this 21st century unfolds. Here, I look for the formulation of a strategy, not just a transactional theory that touches issues each as an oar but rather steps back, builds a theory, builds a strategy and then implements it. So I am bullish on American prospects going forward in the world. And I'll conclude with this. I think that is demonstrable to the American public. They can understand why that will be good for America going forward. So, yeah, there will be changes. There will be differences. But I think, overall, we're headed in a good direction, internationally, with this team.

MARTIN: We know that President Trump has damaged some relationships with foreign leaders, even allies. They have made that clear themselves. What do you think needs to happen now to improve America's standing abroad? Is there something that you would recommend to the president-elect that he perhaps pursue as a priority in his first 100 days, that kind of classic time frame?

STAVRIDIS: I think the world is very concerned about climate and should be. And, therefore, a President Biden has already indicated he will rejoin the Paris climate accords. That is powerful. Number two, he ought to reach out to world leaders. And I'm encouraged that a number have called him already. Some have not, but that will follow.

And I'll tell you something about President-elect Biden. When he was vice president, he came to NATO when I was supreme allied commander. We were hosting a dinner for him with 28 foreign ministers and ambassadors of all the nations in NATO. He went around the table one by one, and he was able to give a story, tell a particular remark, make a comment about his visit to that nation. He is a powerful force because of his experience in the international world. So let that for - his relationships around the world are going to help us significantly. I think those are the two things I would say upfront.


STAVRIDIS: Get back into Paris, use your personal connections around the world and be the kind of leader that the world wants, the United States of America.

MARTIN: That's Admiral James Stavridis. Admiral, thank you so much for your time.

STAVRIDIS: My pleasure. Thanks, everybody. Bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Journalism at this station is made possible by donors who value local reporting. Donate today to keep stories like this one coming. It is thanks to your generosity that we can keep this content free and accessible for everyone. Thanks!