Foreign Diplomats Get Candid About Biden a Year After He Declared 'America Is Back'

·4 min read
joe biden
joe biden

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Joe Biden

"We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again," President Joe Biden promised in his first speech after taking the oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol last January. "We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security."

So how's it working out a year since letting the world know that under the Biden administration, "America is back"?

Politico recently spoke with nearly 20 ambassadors and senior foreign embassy officials in Washington, D.C., to find out their opinions.

Overall, the diplomats — who represent the interests of nations in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Pacific — said they are pleased with foreign policy under Biden and his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, compared with former President Donald Trump's four years in the White House.

In fact, nearly all interviewed told Politico that the current administration is "more organized and process-driven than the previous one."

However, some expressed frustration over what they felt was a lack of access to high-level officials and the very process of making decisions, especially when it comes to national security.

It's certainly not the same for all players across the board.

"I've been spoiled," said one ambassador from an Asian country, who gets "more or less" immediate access, they said. The ambassador also said domestic issues in the U.S. and the realities of a pandemic likely make it harder for smaller countries to be heard. "That's a reflection of the political realities that exist."

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G7 Summit
G7 Summit

Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty World leaders gather for "family photo" in Cornwall, England

Meanwhile in Europe as tensions grow along the border between Russia and Ukraine and Biden warns Russian President Vladimir Putin of "severe costs and significant harm" if there is an invasion, some leaders said they're in the dark as negotiations move forward.

"We are in some kind of gray zone. We don't know what they're saying about us," a European official told Politico. "We never felt so insecure as we do now."

Another quipped: "This is an administration that says constantly 'Europe, Europe, Europe' and what they really mean is Berlin and Paris. And that's all."

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National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne defended the administration's year-one efforts to rebuild ties and work closely with allies.

"President Biden made it a top priority to revitalize our relationships and restore trust in our leadership, and we have worked hard over the past year to do so," she said. "We are proud to work alongside like-minded allies and partners on the full range of our priorities and continue to believe that many of our greatest opportunities for progress come from cooperation."

France's President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden
France's President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden

LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty French President Emmanuel Macron (left) and U.S. President Joe Biden

Elsewhere, some officials complained that they don't hear from the American president as often as they'd like. "He should pick up the phone a bit more often," an ambassador from a Group of Seven country told Politico.

Prioritizing the safety of the president, administration officials and their staffs during amid the spread of COVID-19 is certainly a factor in how much travel, in-person meetings — and diplomatic hobnobbing — can happen.

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One example of the constraints is forgoing the tradition of arriving ambassadors presenting their credentials to the president in person. According to Politico, 28 foreign officials missed out on that opportunity.

Another ambassador said his request to have dinner with Biden was denied, citing both the bad optics of dining together during the pandemic as well as concerns over potentially exposing the president to COVID.

"We could do it with face masks," the ambassador said, "these are triple-vaccinated people who can get tested the same morning. There are ways to do this, right?"

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