The word “unprecedented” has become so ubiquitous in the last year—used to describe nearly every aspect of 2020, from the pandemic to the US presidential election—that it has almost lost meaning. But the global threats that president-elect Biden will face when he takes office on January 20, 2021 are virtually unmatched. So too are the challenges posed by the Trump administration’s policies and actions across multiple international crises: a sudden and widely-opposed troop withdrawal in Afghanistan; threats to attack Iran during the final days of a lame-duck presidency after years of ramped-up tensions and the unilateral withdrawal from a successful multilateral agreement; and the ever-present and growing threat posed by the North Korean nuclear program. Perhaps the greatest test for the next administration will be the consequences of an “America First” foreign policy that isolated the United States from its friends and allies and upended more than 70 years of American leadership in the global community.
Efforts to renew international engagement with a deep bench of experts, intergovernmental organizations, and policy makers will be critical over the next four years to return to the core tenets of historical American foreign policy. This hinges upon the administration working alongside allies and partners on nuclear policy issues and strengthening the structural pillars of global security and nonproliferation. There are three key areas where such multilateral reengagement will be needed.
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