The GOP is Enabling Biden’s Worst Foreign Policy Impulses
Despite their fiery rhetoric, Republicans continue to default to the D.C. consensus on international affairs.
President Biden is right: America is back. Since January, the United States has re-embraced the tactlessness and belligerence that have for so long defined American foreign policy. In April, Biden was a no-show when Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga visited the White House. In early May, the Biden administration recklessly floated the idea of Ukraine joining NATO, endorsing the West’s continued incursion into Russia’s sphere of influence. And when yet another flood of African migrants crossed from Morocco into Spain a few weeks ago, the Biden administration issued a statement supporting Morocco.
The great and middling powers of the world have taken note. Germany has successfully called America’s bluff on the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and the two nations are proceeding with the project without fear of sanctions. Meanwhile, China is simply ignoring Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s repeated requests to set up talks.
It would be easy to focus blame on Biden and the liberal ideologues he has put in charge of the State and Defense Departments for the sorry state of American diplomacy. But Republicans aren’t helping restrain the administration’s worst impulses—in fact, they’re enabling them.
When Senator Ted Cruz calls Russia’s conservative, autocratic president a “communist” and a “left-wing dictator” on Twitter, he doesn’t just embarrass himself with ignorant versions of Cold War talking points. And when GOP lawmakers on the House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees impotently rage about Germany and Russia doing business together, they don’t just have misplaced priorities. Conservatives who attack the internal and bilateral affairs of foreign nations legitimize the fundamentally liberal premise that these nations should be forced to comply with the U.S.-led world order. And when they assign nations with complex political systems and histories the simplistic label of “dictatorship,” they signal that America should do what it usually does to nations that challenge that order. The label is entirely political: if we really cared about fighting authoritarianism, we wouldn’t have Saudi Arabia or Turkey as allies. Biden has targeted nations like Poland and Hungary for daring to elect patriotic, conservative, pro-Christian governments. Republicans are targeting Russia to appear tougher than Biden, but the end result is the same.
Conservatives didn’t do much better the last time they were ostensibly in charge of foreign policy. Despite its “America First” rhetoric and marginal successes in reducing the United States’ overseas entanglements, the Trump administration actually advanced the cause of American liberal imperialism. In 2019, Trump sent Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany who promoted himself as a pro-Trump gay conservative, to assist with negotiations between Serbia and her breakaway territory Kosovo. A year later, the two sides signed an agreement that read like a prepared statement for a pair of hostages of the U.S. State Department. “Both parties will work with the 69 countries that criminalize homosexuality to push for decriminalization,” it said.
It’s difficult to believe that the status of homosexuals in Africa and the Middle East was a top priority for 90 percent Christian Serbia and 95 percent Muslim Kosovo, rather than a personal fixation for Grenell and a priority for the U.S. State Department. Both sides also agreed to normalize relations with Israel and condemn the militant group Hezbollah, because it’s essential that everybody in the world share America’s obsession with the affairs of a small Middle Eastern ethnostate. Rather than actually help resolve the conflict, Grenell simply forced both parties to affirm the whims of the American empire.
Serbia wasn’t the only European nation under assault from a Trump appointee. In 2020, U.S. ambassador to Poland and former cosmetics executive Georgette Mosbacher decided to berate the 85 percent Catholic nation for its traditional values. “Regarding LGBT, you’re on the wrong side of history,” she said in an interview with a Polish news outlet. Just a few years earlier, Trump himself had sent the opposite message to Poland. In a 2017 address in Warsaw, he celebrated the Poles’ willingness to defend their national, religious, and cultural identity. “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” he thundered. Appointing an establishment GOP socialite with no foreign policy experience was foolish enough. But allowing her to berate one of the most conservative nations in Europe for not embracing radical, anti-Christian ideas was inexcusable.
Behind all of these Republican foreign policy blunders is a lack of vision. The American right hasn’t developed a truly conservative foreign policy that respects the history, culture, and heritage of America, her allies, and yes, even competitors like Russia. Instead, Republican policymakers draw on a schizophrenic mix of outdated Cold War hawkishness, destructive Bush-era neoconservatism, and underdeveloped Trump-style nationalism. Even worse, when they cannot find a solution in any of these doctrines, they frequently default to pushing the exact same values as the left, as Trump’s appointees did in Serbia and Poland.
The conservative movement has a choice. It can continue to push liberal foreign policy disguised with hawkish rhetoric, or it can get serious about developing a viable alternative. If the right doesn’t force out its globalist agenda-pushers and cultivate its fledgling non-interventionist movement, it will allow the U.S. government to keep doing more harm than good in the world. And more and more nations will come to see America as a hostile, irrational, unrelenting force pushing issues that have nothing to do with territory, trade, or defense—the traditional arenas of diplomacy that actually matter to our allies and our adversaries alike.
Chris Nagavonski is a writer and translator specializing in defense policy and Eastern European affairs. His writing has been featured by American Greatness, RealClearPolicy, and the Acton Institute.