Between the announcement of his victory in the presidential race and his assuming power today on the 20th of January, regional and international capitals have been reviewing the nature of their future relationships with the United States administrations that will be headed by the new president Joseph Biden. These capitals resorted to rearranging their priorities both internally and externally in preparation for dealing with the policies the new administration will be adopting. These policies diverge significantly from those of the outgoing administration headed by President Donald Trump in terms of governing the relationships between the United States with both its allies and enemies. Furthermore, these relationships will also not revert back to the state they were in during the Obama presidency. Biden and his team wish to restore Washington’s global strategic position gained following its victory of the Cold War, and to repair the damage incurred during the past 12 years as a result of internal and external political miscalculations.
Undoubtedly, Moscow lost a comrade in Trump (according to a Russian state party representatives) and are preparing to deal with an American president belonging to the Cold War generation whose party still holds on to the foreign policy principles of that era. Biden’s desire for the United States to regain the role of global leadership is a new project that poses a threat for Russia’s European interests. European capitals that have begun repairing their relationships with their biggest ally are set to couple those efforts with aggressive pressure against Russia starting from Ukraine, Belarus, and Syria to human rights files and economic sanctions and projects related to Russian-European gas pipelines. On the other hand, Moscow, which has been working to enhance its role in Mediterranean in the past few years, will continue working with regional yet short-term partners like Iran and Turkey. While Turkey continues to extort them in the Causasus and the Mediterranean awaiting the opportunity that allows it to leverage a deal with Washington, Iran continues to share influence in Syria and disrupt relations with the Arab Gulf. Tehran, However, is looking for a real opportunity to bargain with Washington, provided that it obtains guarantees that its regime will be safe, and its interests protected.
As for Moscow, the real test of American intentions in the region will begin in Syria. As it becomes more crucial to separate its own interests from Iran, Moscow has rushed to coordinate with Israel and place normalization between them and Syrian back on the table by persuading Israel through a national security standpoint. This was made clear by a statement from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who said in a recent press conference that: “If you have facts that point towards a threat to your state emanating from any Syrian territory, inform us of them immediately, and we will take all necessary measures to neutralize them.”
With regard to Iran’s strategic nuclear program, it is clear that the new European position that is more in line with Washington is starting to form in anticipation of the Biden administration. This will put an end to the state of divergence that was prevalent between the two during the Trump administration, and it will certainly diminish the opportunities Iran has to benefit from a US-European political misalignment. This possibility was reinforced in the joint tripartite statement issued by London, Paris and Berlin, commenting on Tehran’s decision to raise the level of enrichment, as the statement considered that “Iran does not have any credible civilian uses of the uranium while its production has potentially dangerous military aspects.”
Therefore, and in anticipation of the new US administration finalizing its transition and getting back on the track of social and political recovery which may take longer than usual, the first 6 months of the new administration may be the last opportunity for some to reposition their hands before Washington finalizes its diplomatic channels for the longer term.