Skip navigation

What's Next for US Foreign Policy

December 9, 2020

For the full list of speakers, visit What's Next for US Foreign Policy Part I and Part II

Part I
The school hosted a two-part conference with Johns Hopkins SAIS faculty, who shared insights on a variety of topics in the context of what lies ahead for US foreign policy. The first part of the conference addressed defending democracy and international law. Dean Eliot Cohen began the conversation by noting that while the Biden administration will change the process and structure of its performance, there will be much continuity with the Trump and American grand strategic narrative, especially in regards to China. The panelists noted that compared to the prior administration, the Biden administration would place greater emphasis on human rights and international legal framework, but limits will remain due to American strategic interests.
The following topic of discussion looked at strengthening US Alliances and the limits of US military power. The first panel shared insights on US Foreign policy towards Latin America, where the panelists commented on China’s deep inroads into the region. They noted that the Biden administration may well take a more conciliatory approach than Trump in dealing with Venezuela and Cuba to reduce Chinese influence in the region.
The discussion than turned towards the rise of authoritarian populism and national security. The panelists commented on how rising populist trends, and the emergence of a Chinse pole of power meant significant future challenges for US democracy promotion.
The final panel addressed US-China-Taiwan relations, where the panelists noted that while US policy towards Taiwan would continue, Biden may be less confrontational towards Beijing than Trump.
Part II
The second part of the conference focused on strengthening US alliances with the first panel addressing US, Europe, and transatlantic relations. The panelists noted that while the Biden administration would attempt to recalibrate American relations with Europe, a degree of mistrust and hostility will remain.
The second panel shared insights on US, Africa, and the Middle East relationship. They noted that the Biden administration would take a more even-handed approach in the region, especially toward the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, reentering the JCPOA, and being less enabling of Saudi Arabia/UAE. In Africa, the new administration would continue to push for greater interconnectivity and trade.
The final panel of the day addressed US, Russia, and Eurasia relations, where the participants noted that as opposed to Trump, Biden would take a more hardline approach vis a vis Russia, and seek to contain and reduce Moscow’s malign behavior, especially in Ukraine. They argued that Moscow will remain the principal enemy in the imagination of the Biden administration.
The second part of the panel discussion offered insights on climate change policy and negotiations. The participants noted that climate change was the greatest threat that the US and the world faced, and that the Biden administration will be more proactive towards addressing it, especially by reentering the Paris Agreement.