During his first address to a global audience upon entering office he touted that “America is back,” but after occupying the executive post for one year steep geopolitical challenges remain.
“I think there was a huge sigh of relief by American allies,” Kori Schake, a senior fellow and director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told Fox News Digital, referring to the Trump administration’s departure.
“But I think the Biden administration and the president himself very quickly started grandstanding,” the foreign policy expert, who served on the White House National Security Council (NSC) during the George W. Bush administration, added. “That raised expectations that the administration would be different and better, not just than the Trump administration but than other recent American administrations, and I think that was an arrogant mistake.”
Biden’s domestic approval rating hovered in the low- to mid-50s during his first six months in the White House. But the president’s numbers started sagging in August in the wake of Biden’s much criticized handling of the turbulent U.S. exit from Afghanistan and following a surge in COVID-19 cases this summer among mainly unvaccinated people. By mid-November, Biden’s approval had sunk below 40% in two well-known national polls from ABC News/Washington Post and Quinnipiac University.
Republicans on the Hill have lambasted the president for perceived foreign policy “failures” during his first year in office, and many described Biden’s tactics in countering Russia as “weak.”
The U.S. has been embroiled in tense conversations with the Kremlin for months as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to amass roughly 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, threatening to invade the former Soviet nation.
“Weakness does indeed invite aggression,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul said during a call with House Republicans Friday. “This national security threat is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
McCaul predicted Russia will invade Ukraine within the next month.
Republican Conference Chairwoman Rep. Elise Stefanik, N.Y., echoed his comments saying, “This president has brought us to the brink of war through weakness.”
But Schake, who worked for the Department of Defense in the Joint Staff on NATO issues involving German-Soviet relations during the end of the Cold War, disagreed with GOP criticisms.
“I think they are doing a flat-out good job unpacking Russia’s threat to Ukraine,” she said, applauding actions taken by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“I don’t share the premise that the administration has taken no preemptive action,” Schake added, pointing to arms shipments the U.S. has supplied Kyiv, early intelligence sharing on Russian troop action and the administration’s efforts to bolster NATO unity.
Biden caused international confusion this week when he suggested that the size of a Russian invasion could dictate how the U.S. and NATO respond. The White House released a statement almost immediately following the president’s comments clarifying that the U.S. and NATO will respond to “any” military invasion of Ukraine.
But Republicans have argued action needs to be taken before Putin invades and have called for sanctions to be slapped on the Kremlin as a warning.
“Have we not learned our lessons from Afghanistan?” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, asked following the president’s address this week. “Putin doesn’t take this president, they don’t take his threats, and they certainly don’t take his leadership seriously.”
Republicans have argued that the Biden administration needs to act assertively to try and repair its image following the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“I think there has been a drop in international approval for how he’s doing,” Schake told Fox News Digital. “The humiliating spectacle of the U.S. abandoning Afghanistan, especially when the Biden administration wasn’t open to concerns from allies either about the policy or about its execution – really rattled allies.”
The Biden administration has maintained it was handed a bad card by the Trump administration after it forged an agreement with the Taliban that said the U.S. would withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. The Biden White House pushed the withdrawal date to the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, but experts argued it should have renegotiated terms altogether to avoid the collapse of the Afghan government.
“I think our adversaries are going to test the United States and its friends because of the lack of resolve the Biden administration showed over Afghanistan,” Schake said.
Lawmakers have voiced similar concerns and suggested that chief U.S. foes like China, North Korea and Iran will be watching to see how the administration handles one of the biggest geopolitical challenges since the Cold War.
“There’s no question that weakness or the perception of weakness is a provocation to authoritarian figures like Vladimir Putin or President Xi,” Sen. John Cornyn suggested during a press conference this week in reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“And you can bet your bottom dollar that Xi is watching what is happening in Ukraine and calculating what the United States response might be if they were to invade Taiwan.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J. did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.