Still Waiting for Those Biden U-Turns
Biden has reversed remarkably few of the policies that were specific to the Trump administration.
Beyond that, however, the differences between Trump and Biden stand out far more than the continuities. Biden’s biggest foreign policy moves — rejoining the Paris climate change accords, countering Russia in Ukraine, bolstering the Quad, negotiating AUKUS — largely consist of initiatives that the Trump administration either opposed or lacked the capacity to implement.
There are some important differences between the two administrations, but the striking thing is that Biden has reversed remarkably few of the policies that were specific to the Trump administration. The case for continuity is stronger than the original analysis piece allowed. Consider the example of U.S. sanctions on various countries. All broad sanctions on Iran, Venezuela, Syria, and North Korea imposed by the Trump administration remain in effect a year and a half after Biden took office, and Biden has been in no hurry to lift any of them. Venezuela may be the most glaring example of a failed policy staying alive through sheer inertia and an unwillingness on Biden’s part to court political risk. Weirdly, the continuation of Trump’s sanctions policies did not come up in the original analysis, and it doesn’t show up in Drezner’s response, either.
Continuity in the use of sanctions may not be all that surprising, but it is a clear example of one president’s policies being taken up and embraced by his successor. In the transition from Trump to Biden, however, it is odd that there have been so few policy changes on this front. “Maximum pressure” sanctions were among Trump’s most high-profile policies, and they were also among Trump’s most prominent failures. Biden called out at least some of these policies as failures and gave voters reason to expect that these policies would change, and then as president Biden has left them in place.