The perception is growing in Asia, South America and Africa that the only continent (besides his own) that President Biden cares about is Europe, writes Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat
President Joe Biden is justifiably proud of his Irish roots. This columnist has long been partial in his regard for the Irish. His favourite uncle, Dr N. Mohandas, studied medicine and for a while worked in Ireland. He loved the place and its people, and used to describe both to his nephew in adoring terms. In another cameo, on a visit to Germany and after having a pot of tea and a bit of cake at a restaurant in Munich, this columnist discovered that he had left his wallet at the hotel. What came next? A visit to the police station, or washing the dishes in reparation? The waitress, who volunteered that she was Irish (which explained her flawless English) smiled at the dilemma and waived off charges, saying that “like you in India, we in Ireland too were oppressed by the English”.
Not to forget that among the most biting satirists ever was another uncle, Aubrey Menen, whose mother was an Irish beauty who fell in love with and married a taciturn Indian doctor then practising in the UK, my great-uncle. Aubrey’s mother was warm and loving to her Indian relatives, a quality that was reciprocated by all who met her, according to family lore. How is it possible, then, not to love the Irish, despite the challenges faced in retaining such emotions while contemplating some of the ways in which Biden has been navigating through his Presidency of the US? In a world where Asia has replaced Europe as the centrepoint of geopolitical salience, and where the Peoples Republic of China has replaced the long deceased Soviet Union as the primary threat to the US and to its allies and partners, President Biden acts as though unaware of such a shift.
In those countries and continents that are not members of the NATO alliance, the perception is growing that all President Biden cares for are the members of NATO, and not any other country or its people. How else to explain why the US embassy in the world’s other huge democracy, India, has functioned for two years and counting without an Ambassador? Or why a citizen of the PRC can get a visa for travel to the US in two days, while for a citizen of India, that process may take more than eight hundred days? If Secretary of State Antony Blinken were to be taken at his word that such a difference has been caused by Covid-19 disruptions, he needs to be informed that the situation regarding that population control mechanism discovered by the Wuhan Institute of Virology is (judging by Xi’s responses) rampaging across China in a much worse way than is the case in India.
Some in the Washington Beltway claim that the 46th President of the US consults with Bill Clinton far more often than he does with Barack Obama, although the latter made him his Vice-President and Clinton while in the White House has left no record of ever having offered Senator Biden any post in the Executive Branch. The Europeanist bias of the Clintons has rubbed off on Biden, who has returned US policy to the Soviet era. It may be mentioned that the explanation given by Bill Clinton for his refusal in the 1990s to agree to Moscow’s entreaties to make it part of NATO and the EU was that he could not forget the Russia of Ivan the Terrible and the other cruel despots who had ruled that land. A long memory indeed.
Fortunately, Clinton does not view his own country through the lens of the period when slavery was rampant, or an earlier period when the American Indian population was not just decimated (with one in every ten being killed) but almost completely massacred. Besides honeyed words, President Clinton’s “gift” to the African-American community was to change the criminal laws in a manner that multiplied the number of them who entered prison, while President Biden is spending tens of billions of taxpayer dollars on sending armaments to Ukraine rather than on the African-Americans who en bloc voted for him in 2020. Soon after taking up residence in the White House, Biden vowed that he “would have the back” of the African-American community. Instead, with his obsessive focus on kneecapping Russia in Ukraine, he appears to many US voters to have shown them his own back. And not just to US citizens who en bloc had voted for Biden in 2020. The perception is growing in Asia, South America and Africa that the only continent (besides his own) that President Biden cares about is Europe. Small wonder that the influence of Washington on these continents is shrinking even faster than Biden’s popularity among African-Americans, which has been plunging since the initial months of his Ukrainian adventure.
In South America, more and more countries have elected Heads of State who are immune to obedience to US dictates, the latest almost certainly being Brazil under a Lula Presidency. The GCC and OPEC toss the commands of the White House into the wastebasket. Given his Ukrainian obsession in lockstep with EU partners, those across the world who are not of European descent perhaps unfairly regard Biden as having the same ethnic bias as Trump, the difference being that Trump exhibited that bias within his country, while Biden is seen to be demonstrating it internationally and not internally. Trump was, love him or not, all-American. Joe Biden, in common with many of his top picks, still acts as though he considers himself less an American than a European relocated across the pond.
Somalia is being talked about as an illustration of Biden’s Eurobias. The people of that country are in agony, and yet not just Biden but even the usually voluble Ilhan Omar seems hardly to have noticed. Contrast such inattention and lack of any substantive response to the way in which taxpayer dollars and diplomatic and military attention are being paid to Ukraine to weaken Russia. Contrast this with the relatively anaemic logistical response to the threat faced by Taiwan, in comparison to the assistance given to Ukraine. Or indeed, the repeated incursions into and occupation of sovereign Indian territory by China and Pakistan over the decades. Such an illegal occupation is seen to merit a robust response from the White House only when a European population is involved, not citizens of the world’s other huge democracy. Indeed, the US Representative to the UN has explicitly repudiated Obama’s promise that the US would back India’s entry into the UNSC as a permanent member. Clearly, Biden now has the edge over Trump in losing friends and putting off people.