The Demand For US Leadership Outpaces Resentment Against It – Pavel K. Baev

Joe Biden’s long-awaited announcement of decision to run for the second
presidential term has brought into a sharper focus the new quality of US
leadership in global affairs, which he has delivered, perhaps without any grand
strategic design. The 2024 US elections will be run and determined primarily by
competing domestic agendas, as is usually the case, but the coincidence of
Biden’s announcement with the state visit to USA of South Korea’s President
Yoon Suk Yeol points to a greater prominence of foreign policy matters than was
the case in his previous contestation with President Donald Trump in 2020. For
the Korean guest, as for the majority of world leaders, with the obvious
exception of President Vladimir Putin, Biden’s second presidency is not just an
entirely agreeable, but perhaps even the best possible prospect. This is not
only because the known quality is typically preferrable to an uncertain
transition, but primarily because Biden has consistently outperformed their

opinion in the world may be less kind to Biden, but he still remains in the
positive territory, with 41 % approval and 33% disapproval ratings, according
to a recent
Gallup poll
. It is certainly the
Russian aggression against Ukraine that has set a crucial rest for Biden’s
leadership, and as the war hangs in a precarious balance after 14 months of hard
fighting, the provisional
that he has delivered what
was necessary is beyond doubt. The US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which
coordinates the supplies of military aid to the Ukrainian army, held its
eleventh meeting in the Ramstein
in the mid-April, and the NATO
in Vilnius, Lithuania in mid-July is
expected to demonstrate yet again the unwavering commitment of Biden’s
administration to ensuring Ukraine’s victory, even if its key words “as
long as it takes
” may be questioned by sceptics
of various persuasions.

is a clear-cut and rigidly-structured confrontation in Europe, is at the same
time a far more complex and fluid competitive interplay in East Asia, where
multiple new tests for Biden’s leadership are shaping up. Political
interactions in this vast region are well-developed, but cannot qualify as a
“security architecture”, and the workings of ASEAN and its Regional Forum,
which in 2023 are overseen by Indonesia,
have traditionally proceeded by downplaying disagreements and bracketing
conflicts out, rather than by addressing them. East Asian states are acutely
aware of China’s geopolitical ambitions and expanding capabilities for
projecting power, which stimulates their interest in cultivating ties with USA.
At the same time, they are wary of the risks emanating from the maturing
US-China rivalry and seek to protect their commercial ties with the neighboring
economic giant from the damage of “decoupling”.
This ambivalence makes the task of alliance management more delicate and
complicated for the US than charting a straight course to confronting China as
the multiplying flock
of “hawks”
in Washington D.C. advocates.

Biden has managed to navigate these troubled waters without disappointing US friends
and turning various fence-sitters into foes. The war in Ukraine demands his
priority attention, but he has never lost sight of the stormy clouds around
Taiwan, even if serious
in deliveries of paid-for US arms
have occurred. When French President Emmanuel Macron returning from the state visit
to Beijing made some ill-considered remarks about unnecessary risks for Europe related
to “taking
cue from US
” in the Taiwan crisis,
Biden refrained from any reprimands and merely let his traditionally self-aggrandizing
ally to weather
the storm
of European and domestic criticism.  

considerate patience is a defining feature of Biden’s style of leadership, perhaps
influenced by reflections on many
he himself has committed during his
long political career. Leading with patience, he has not pressed Japan to
increase its defense
, but is very supportive to the plans
for investing in modernizing the capabilities of Japanese Self-Defense Forces. He
has refrained from any interference in the deal on exporting South Korean tanks
and howitzers
to Poland, but grants US
support to the remarkable surge in modernization of defense industry in South
Korea. The Philippines felt no pressure from the USA regarding the access to new
, but are eager to engage in enhanced
military cooperation, despite the deep-seated

Biden is not striving to get his name attached to a US security doctrine, in
the tradition of Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan. He didn’t expect his hard-won term
in the high office to be a war-time presidency, but he has risen to the
extra-tough challenge and delivered the leadership necessary for uniting the West
shocked by the crude Russian aggression. He is also very aware of the
resentment that the re-energized and determined West generates in many quarters
of the hugely diverse and naturally disunited Global South. Russian and Chinese
narratives on countering the alleged US “hegemonism” make poor fit with Biden’s
policy of closer engagement with allies and respect of differences with many emerging
powers, from India and Indonesia to Brazil and Mexico. Irrespective of his
success or the lack of thereof in the election race, he has proven that the US
leadership can be patient and positive, rather than arrogant and egoistic, and
deserves credit for this.

Pavel K. Baev, Dr., Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO)

Dr. Pavel K. Baev is a Research Professor at the Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO). He is also Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for the U.S. and Europe at the Brookings Institution (Washington D.C.), Senior Associate Researcher at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales(IFRI, Paris), and Senior Associate Research Fellow at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI, Milan). His research interests include the transformation of the Russian military, the energy and security dimensions of the Russian-European relations, Russia’s Arctic policy, Russia-China partnership, post-Soviet conflict management in the Caucasus and the Caspian Basin, and Russia’s Middle East policy, which is supported by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. He writes a weekly column in Eurasia Daily Monitor.

To cite this work: Pavel K. Baev, “The Demand For US Leadership Outpaces Resentment Against It”, Panorama, Online, 04 May 2023,

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