12.11.2020
Biden and the World: Global Perspectives on the U.S. Presidential Election
Editor's Column
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Fyodor A. Lukyanov

Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, and Research Director of the Valdai Discussion Club. Research Professor, Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

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Reconciling U.S. Perception of Values and Ethical Plurality

A Biden presidency will usher in the next phase of an experiment in which the United States adapts  itself to a changing world.

The Trump administration conducted the first phase with a forceful and even coarse drive to revise the narrative that dominated the post–Cold War world, shifting toward a more self-centric United States. It provoked largely unfavorable reactions.

A Biden administration will need to heal these wounds by offering a softer approach and using more conciliatory framing.

The main dilemma, though, remains—how to reinterpret the notion of global leadership.

It seems to be an indispensable part of U.S. political thinking but needs to be adapted to a world that is both fragmented and drifting away from universalism. The latter trend may be corrigible but in the long run is irreversible because a still interconnected but less globalized and more diversified world is beginning to emerge.

Given the uncertainties in the world today, more active U.S. involvement would be positive in several sectors and certainly would be welcomed by other international actors. One area is climate change, where nuanced equilibrium needs to be reached between the common good and various self-interests. Strategic stability is another arena in which the United States is indispensable because the entirely new model of maintaining and strengthening this stability is necessary to a polycentric world (even in terms of nuclear capacities).

The main challenge for any new U.S. administration in the years to come is to reconcile and manage a strong commitment to the American perception of values with the ethical plurality that will shape the next period of international relations.

The notion of global leadership will primarily mean mediation and moderation between various interests, not guidance on how this or that problem should be addressed.    

Read more: Council on Foreign Relations
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