News Opinions/Publications Trump or Biden? Why the Amer­i­can Elec­tions Mat­ter for Hun­gary and the World

Trump or Biden? Why the Amer­i­can Elec­tions Mat­ter for Hun­gary and the World

As the Amer­i­can peo­ple make their way to the polls on Elec­tion Day, we take a final look at how the world might be dif­fer­ent depend­ing on whether Trump or Biden wins, and what this might mean for Hungary.

If Trump is reelect­ed, the U.S. will keep with­draw­ing from the inter­na­tion­al scene, and the world order as we know it will con­tin­ue its decline, Zoltán Fehér, a researcher at Tuft University’s Fletch­er School focus­ing on Amer­i­can for­eign pol­i­cy writes in his arti­cle for Azon­nali. Accord­ing to Fehér, based on what Trump has said dur­ing his cam­paign and his for­eign pol­i­cy to date, the cen­tral tenets of his approach to inter­na­tion­al rela­tions are iso­la­tion, with­draw­al from armed con­flicts, arma­ment, and more atten­tion to China.

First­ly, Trump is famous for his “Amer­i­ca first” pol­i­cy, attempt­ing to put the U.S. front and cen­ter in any and all for­eign pol­i­cy deci­sions. This has large­ly meant a break with the country’s approach to inter­na­tion­al rela­tions since the end of the Cold War, and relin­quish­ing America’s posi­tion as a glob­al leader in favor of pur­su­ing the country’s own inter­ests direct­ly. So far, this has entailed with­draw­ing or start­ing the with­draw­al process from the following:

  • Trans-Pacif­ic Partnership
  • Paris Agree­ment
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • WHO
  • Inter­me­di­ate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (with Russia)
  • Option­al Pro­to­col to the 1961 Vien­na Con­ven­tion on Diplo­mat­ic Relations
  • Uni­ver­sal Postal Union
  • Treaty of Ami­ty, Eco­nom­ic Rela­tions, and Con­sular Rights (with Iran)

He has also loos­ened ties with NATO, and threat­ened to with­draw from the WTO. Most ana­lysts believe that how­ev­er unpre­dictable Trump’s poli­cies may be, he will like­ly broad­ly con­tin­ue this trend into his sec­ond term if reelected.

Sec­ond­ly, not only is he with­draw­ing from diplo­mat­ic insti­tu­tions and agree­ments, but he is also attempt­ing to end armed con­flicts. Trump, like Oba­ma before him, promised to with­draw all troops from Syr­ia, and more broad­ly, end America’s “nev­er-end­ing wars.” Although he did not quite accom­plish this, he has made some progress. While he did more than hap­pi­ly uti­lize the U.S. military’s expan­sive toolk­it for war­like con­duct in the Mid­dle East, he is the first U.S. pres­i­dent in decades to not start a war.

Szijjártó on Israel-UAE Pact: Trump Would Deserve Nobel Peace Prize

Hun­gary, the Hun­gar­i­an gov­ern­ment and Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orbán are regard­ed with respect, appre­ci­a­tion and sup­port in the White House, the for­eign min­is­ter said in a Face­book entry on Tues­day evening, after a cer­e­mo­ny. Péter Szi­jjártó was the only EU for­eign min­is­ter to attend there the sign­ing of Israel’s agree­ments with the Unit­ed Arab Emirates

Third­ly, like Clin­ton and Bush before him, Trump places great empha­sis on U.S. armed forces, their con­tin­ued mod­ern­iza­tion, and pow­er of deter­rence, Fehér writes. Although it may seem con­tra­dic­to­ry that he is attempt­ing to with­draw from con­flict as well as arm the mil­i­tary, it could well be that since war is expen­sive, he sees deter­rence as a more favor­able option. More­over, spend­ing more on the mil­i­tary may have lit­tle to do with inter­na­tion­al issues, and more with the U.S. labor mar­ket, pop­u­lar­i­ty among vot­ers, and the inter­ests and influ­ence of the mil­i­tary-indus­tri­al complex.

Col­lec­tive­ly, for­eign pol­i­cy expert Wal­ter Rus­sel Mead calls Trump’s approach to for­eign pol­i­cy “jack­son­ian” after Pres­i­dent Andrew Jack­son (1829−1837), which a large por­tion of the Amer­i­can pop­u­lace sup­ports, Fehér high­lights. In essence, this entails upset­ting the lib­er­al inter­na­tion­al order that emerged after the fall of the USSR.

Fourth­ly, Fehér notes that Trump is the first U.S. pres­i­dent to treat Chi­na not as a strate­gic part­ner, but as a com­peti­tor, and right­ly so. Chi­na has con­sis­tent­ly ignored intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty rights, forced for­eign com­pa­nies into part­ner­ships in exchange for gain­ing access to the Chi­nese mar­ket, and con­tort­ed that mar­ket in favor of select­ed domes­tic cor­po­ra­tions. On the back of man­u­fac­tured suc­cess achieved domes­ti­cal­ly, some Chi­nese com­pa­nies have recent­ly start­ed to gain ground glob­al­ly, often buy­ing them­selves into inter­na­tion­al ccor­po­ra­tions and ven­tures – a march to dom­i­nance part­ly built on break­ing the law, part­ly on dis­re­gard­ing inter­na­tion­al norms, and part­ly, like it or not, on inge­nu­ity. How­ev­er we slice it, as the Pres­i­dent likes to say, Chi­na does not play by the rules.

Thus, Trump has begun a war long in the mak­ing, and only avoid­able through sur­ren­der. Too late? Maybe. Nec­es­sary? Absolute­ly. As to whether that war has to be waged through trade or via oth­er means is a dif­fer­ent ques­tion entirely.

Amer­i­ca, First!

Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Joe Biden him­self would take up Trump’s adver­sar­i­al atti­tude towards Chi­na, albeit per­haps in a more civ­i­lized man­ner, and using dif­fer­ent meth­ods. Accord­ing to Fehér, Biden will not con­tin­ue Trump’s trade war, because it is upset­ting the glob­al sys­tem of free trade con­struct­ed by and for the U.S. Nev­er­the­less, he will have to be tough on Chi­na, espe­cial­ly giv­en Repub­li­cans’ insin­u­a­tions of asso­ci­a­tion between Biden and Bei­jing through his son Hunter.

Apart from this issue, Fehér sums up Biden’s approach to the inter­na­tion­al scene in three words: elit­ist, inter­na­tion­al­ist, and lib­er­al. In his inter­pre­ta­tion, elit­ist means believ­ing that for­eign pol­i­cy should be lead by estab­lished pro­fes­sion­als in the field, and not pop­u­lar opin­ion. Fehér posits that Biden is a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can polit­i­cal elite which has been direct­ing the Unit­ed States for decades, and which has most­ly fol­lowed the so-called lib­er­al inter­na­tion­al­ist or lib­er­al-inter­ven­tion­ist strat­e­gy. It is there­fore like­ly that this will be the cen­tral idea behind Biden’s for­eign policy.The foun­da­tions of lib­er­al-inter­ven­tion­ism were estab­lished by pres­i­dents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clin­ton. This strat­e­gy focus­es on spread­ing the ideals of democ­ra­cy, human rights, and free trade, if need be even via the use of force. Its tenets have been cen­tral to U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy through to the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, thus Biden’s vice pres­i­den­cy. Many con­sid­er it respon­si­ble for some of the country’s worst for­eign pol­i­cy fail­ures, notably to do with the Mid­dle East.

Giv­en this pro­cliv­i­ty towards inter­na­tion­al­ism, it is not sur­pris­ing that many experts believe Biden will reverse Trump’s pol­i­cy of iso­la­tion from the rest of the world, and reen­ter many of the treaties and orga­ni­za­tions the Pres­i­dent has quit. He will no doubt attempt to reoc­cu­py the pow­er vac­u­um the U.S. itself has left over the past cou­ple of years, and turn the coun­try once again into a glob­al leader; into Amer­i­ca, first.

How­ev­er, Biden has expressed his inten­tion to rene­go­ti­ate many of the terms of these agree­ments, plac­ing more empha­sis on the inter­ests of the U.S. In ana­lyst Júlia Lakatos’s words, like Trump before him, Biden has real­ized that there is a great exi­gency among the U.S. elec­torate to have the polit­i­cal elite con­sid­er that they have their own needs. As the Pres­i­dent cer­tain­ly seems to have noticed, when it comes to for­eign pol­i­cy, the Amer­i­can peo­ple may indeed want to know what they get out of it, and not in an abstract sense, but in con­crete terms. If they seem to get noth­ing, they don’t want in, regard­less of the nuanced com­plex­i­ties of inter­na­tion­al diplomacy.

Biden Vs. Trump: What Do Hungarian Experts Think?

With Elec­tion Day approach­ing, Hun­gar­i­an polit­i­cal ana­lysts focus­ing on the Unit­ed States weighed in on the 2020 pres­i­den­tial race and the state of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. The mogul and the wise leader In an inter­view giv­en to ATV, Júlia Lakatos, direc­tor of polit­i­cal research orga­ni­za­tion Méltányosság Poli­tikaelemző Központ (Cen­tre for Fair Polit­i­cal Analy­sis), high­light­ed the fact 

So while Biden may be elit­ist, he appears to want to nego­ti­ate between the will of the peo­ple as expressed by the peo­ple them­selves, and the will of the peo­ple as fil­tered through expert opin­ion. To what extent this is pos­si­ble is a ques­tion we will quick­ly get answers to if he is elected.

Biden’s vision of for­eign pol­i­cy is also unques­tion­ably lib­er­al. Free trade, human rights, and demo­c­ra­t­ic val­ues all belong to a broad­er lib­er­al frame­work of polit­i­cal thought that spreads along with Amer­i­can influ­ence. These ideals do not, how­ev­er, agree so well with polit­i­cal real­i­ties in some coun­tries. A return to lib­er­al inter­na­tion­al­ism may mean that U.S. rela­tions with cer­tain nations, like Rus­sia, India, Turkey, and of course, Hun­gary, become more strained than they are now giv­en Trump’s affec­tion for “auto­crat­ic” lead­ers and Biden’s com­plete lack thereof.

The Hun­gar­i­an Connection

So, how will Hungary’s sit­u­a­tion be dif­fer­ent depend­ing on whether Trump or Biden emerges vic­to­ri­ous, and how would Hun­gary be bet­ter off? Accord­ing to for­eign pol­i­cy expert Máté Sza­lai, there are three main facets to this question.

Ipsos: Majority of Hungarians Would Elect Biden But Think Trump Will Win

An Ipsos online sur­vey of 18,500 adults from the U.S. and 24 oth­er coun­tries revealed that Hun­gar­i­an vot­ers would like­ly elect Biden over Trump 33% to 23%, although 45% of respon­dents could not or would not answer. On the oth­er hand, 35% think Trump will win, while only 29% think it will be Biden. Overall, 

Inter­na­tion­al trade and politics

The first of these is the issue of inter­na­tion­al trade and pol­i­tics, where Sza­lai believes a Biden pres­i­den­cy is ever so slight­ly more advan­ta­geous for Hun­gary. The rea­son Biden may be slight­ly prefer­able for Hun­gary in this realm is threefold.

Pri­mar­i­ly, Biden sup­ports inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions and free trade more than Trump, which is ben­e­fi­cial to Hun­gary due to the country’s size and the struc­ture of its econ­o­my. Sec­ond­ly, Trump is unpre­dictable, fre­quent­ly goes back on deci­sions, and often ignores his advi­sors. Swift and defin­i­tive respons­es are typ­i­cal­ly prefer­able for glob­al part­ners dur­ing crises – although it is impor­tant to note that the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion itself was rarely quick or deci­sive in ques­tions of for­eign affairs. Third­ly, Biden does not deny that cli­mate change is a glob­al pri­or­i­ty, which is ben­e­fi­cial to human­i­ty as a whole, although what prac­ti­cal impli­ca­tions this would have in his poli­cies remains to be seen.

On the oth­er hand, in Szalai’s view, unpre­dictabil­i­ty can be an asset, Trump’s trans­ac­tion­al­ism is ben­e­fi­cial to those in posi­tions of pow­er and easy to under­stand from a non-West­ern per­spec­tive, and refo­cus­ing efforts on com­pet­ing with Chi­na instead of Rus­sia was absolute­ly nec­es­sary for the U.S., and advan­ta­geous for Hun­gary. This is because, like it or not, for the country’s ener­gy secu­ri­ty and geopo­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion, fur­ther dete­ri­o­ra­tion of U.S.-Russian rela­tions is not favorable.

If Trump Wins, What Can Hungary Expect?

Despite trail­ing Joe Biden for the entire­ty of the cam­paign peri­od, Don­ald Trump is the poster­child of “beat­ing the polls”, he proved this when he beat Hillary Clin­ton in an upset that shocked Amer­i­ca and the world. But now “Don­nie” has his back to the ropes, and he is fight­ing to pull off a comeback

Apart from this, accord­ing to Sza­lai, although at first glance the posi­tions of the two can­di­dates on for­eign pol­i­cy and trade seem com­plete­ly irrec­on­cil­able, they, in fact, both give pri­ma­cy to U.S. inter­ests and look for part­ners in fight­ing for them. As men­tioned above, Biden would not reverse a lot of Trump’s deci­sions that were called rad­i­cal at the time of their birth, such as an embassy in Jerusalem, an adver­sar­i­al rela­tion­ship with Chi­na, and not accept­ing the Treaty of Ami­ty with Iran as it was. Alto­geth­er, then, the ana­lyst believes that there is lit­tle dif­fer­ence for Hun­gary in terms of the nature of the inter­na­tion­al envi­ron­ment, no mat­ter which can­di­date emerges vic­to­ri­ous, but Biden is a tiny bit bet­ter… perhaps.

Euro­pean Interests

Sec­ond is the ques­tion of Euro­pean inter­ests. Sza­lai believes that a Biden pres­i­den­cy is bet­ter for Europe. Since Hun­gary is a mem­ber of the EU and the transat­lantic com­mu­ni­ty, the suc­cess of the EU and NATO is in our inter­est. Biden’s inter­na­tion­al­ism and mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism makes him clear­ly more advan­ta­geous for Hun­gary in this regard.

More­over, while Trump has com­pared the EU to Chi­na, and in a sense views Europe as an eco­nom­ic rival (not incor­rect­ly, as Sza­lai points out), Biden is more like­ly to try and coop­er­ate with the EUTrump has also expressed his dis­sat­is­fac­tion with NATO mul­ti­ple times and has sought to dimin­ish its impor­tance in U.S. secu­ri­ty pol­i­cy. This can be expect­ed to con­tin­ue, despite recent hints to the pos­si­ble rever­sal of this trend.

Bilat­er­al U.S.-Hungarian relations

Trump, Trump, a thou­sand times, Trump. As Hun­gary Today has pre­vi­ous­ly laid out in detail, Amer­i­can-Hun­gar­i­an rela­tions are much more ami­ca­ble under Trump than they were under Oba­ma, and than they are expect­ed to be under Biden. As Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orbán put it:

[The Hun­gar­i­an gov­ern­ment roots] for Don­ald Trump’s vic­to­ry, because we are well-acquaint­ed with Amer­i­can Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­ern­ments’ for­eign pol­i­cy built on moral impe­ri­al­ism. We have sam­pled it before, even if invol­un­tar­i­ly. We did not like it, we do not want seconds.”

The government’s rela­tion­ship with the Democ­rats, includ­ing Biden, is rather strained. The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion avoid­ed bi-lat­er­al con­tact with the Orbán-led Hun­gar­i­an gov­ern­ment for years as ret­ri­bu­tion for what they saw as efforts to estab­lish author­i­tar­i­an rule. Just a cou­ple of weeks ago, Biden expressed his dis­ap­proval of what he believes is the rise of total­i­tar­i­an­ism in Hun­gary at his town hall meet­ing in Philadelphia.

In con­trast, Trump and Orbán have an “excep­tion­al­ly good rela­tion­ship,” in the Prime Minister’s own words. Trump even invit­ed him for a meet­ing at the White House, which passed in unusu­al­ly good spir­its. David B. Corn­stein, for­mer Ambas­sador to Hun­gary who was present at the event, quot­ed the Pres­i­dent telling the Prime Minister:

It’s like we’re twins.

Cornstein: Big Difference between Obama and Trump Administrations in Treatment of Hungary

David B. Corn­stein, the US Ambas­sador to Hun­gary, is con­clud­ing his ser­vice in the coun­try effec­tive Novem­ber 1st. The out­go­ing Amer­i­can ambas­sador talked to left­ist dai­ly Nép­sza­va in an inter­view about Amer­i­can-Hun­gar­i­an rela­tions, his plans, his activ­i­ties in Hun­gary, illib­er­al­ism, and also about how real­is­tic it is for Trump to vis­it the coun­try and when […]Con­tin­ue reading

Indeed, the lead­ers are of a like mind on many issues. They ped­dle anti-immi­gra­tion and anti-Mus­lim rhetoric. They appeal to nation­al pride and focus on nation­al sov­er­eign­ty and per­ceived threats to it. They also empha­size the impor­tance of Chris­t­ian val­ues pub­licly and pur­port to sup­port fam­i­lies. Thanks to all this, Hungary’s rela­tion­ship to the U.S. is per­haps the best it has ever been.

From the per­spec­tive of the Hun­gar­i­an oppo­si­tion, while it may be excit­ing to hear the Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent crit­i­cize the Hun­gar­i­an gov­ern­mentin a prac­ti­cal sense, hav­ing Biden in the White House would sim­ply mean that Hungary’s oppor­tu­ni­ties would shrink, it would cer­tain­ly not top­ple the cur­rent government.

Over­all, then, which can­di­date would be bet­ter for Hun­gary depends on what one con­sid­ers more impor­tant, Sza­lai con­cludes. Both have their ben­e­fits, and both have their draw­backs from our country’s perspective.

Of course, Hun­gar­i­ans do not elect the pres­i­dent, Amer­i­cans do. Yet we watch, enrap­tured, this great the­ater of pol­i­tics, for the future of bil­lions hinges on the outcome.

Fea­tured pho­to illus­tra­tion by MTI/EPA/Branden Camp

Source: hun​gary​to​day​.hu