The US reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has marked a significant transformation in US foreign policy during 2022. President Joe Biden’s wide-ranging backing for Ukraine has met with support from both Democrats and Republicans. In doing so, it has ended any question of a return to his predecessor Donald Trump’s isolationism.

In his inaugural address in January 2021, Biden announced that the US would “repair our alliances and engage with the world once again”.

US leadership on environmental issues started on the first day of his presidency when the US rejoined the Paris climate agreement. Biden’s continued determination to lead on international issues could also be seen through the US’s agreement to the creation of a “loss and damage” fund at Egypt’s COP27, after a 30-year long objection. The fund is designed to compensate poorer countries for climate damages.

Swivel from Trump’s policy

During the Trump presidency, the US withdrew from international treaties and adopted an “America first” attitude towards international affairs. Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal which had removed sanctions on Iran in return for a restricted nuclear programme.

In addition, he withdrew the US from the Paris climate agreement, and coerced Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) in a way that disproportionately benefited the US.

Nafta, which established a free trade zone between the US, Canada and Mexico, had been in place since 1994. Trump was a long-term critic, calling it “the worst trade deal signed anywhere”.

Trump’s determination to put America first led to a decline in the US’s global leadership. Some commentators have gone further and suggested that this decline undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump
Joe Biden and Donald Trump (Source: krassotkin/Wikimedia)

It is no surprise that the US has taken a more central role in international affairs under Biden’s leadership. In his presidential campaign, he promised to restore America’s “respected leadership on the world stage”. Experts have identified Biden’s foreign policy as an explicit repudiation of Trump’s “America First” legacy in favour of “the restoration of the multilateral order”.