Analysis: Biden’s early foreign policy decisions exhibit restraint and quick deliberation.
President Biden, faced with a decision about how to punish Saudi Arabia for its role in the assassination of a dissident journalist, gathered top national security officials in the Oval Office and pushed them at length about their recommended response. Then he sided with a majority of advisers who argued against the most severe action — a direct sanction of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who American intelligence agencies say approved the killing.
That same week, Mr. Biden approved relatively modest airstrikes in retaliation against Iranian-backed militias who had attacked an American outpost in Iraq. This week, he matched modest European sanctions on Russia for its poisoning and jailing of Aleksei A. Navalny, the opposition politician, leaving room for what are expected to be harsher moves this month against Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.
And, to avoid being surprised, Mr. Biden is beginning to rein in the military’s freedom to use drone strikes outside of war zones.
The Biden foreign policy that emerges from these early weeks is one of restraint, caution and fast-paced deliberation. Decisions come more quickly than they did in the Obama administration, when Mr. Biden, as vice president, complained about the endless meetings.
Early evidence suggests that his judgments come with a harder edge than they did when he was one of many voices in the Situation Room, as indicated by Mr. Biden’s decision to cut off the American weapons that allowed the Saudis to prosecute the war in Yemen. It was President Barack Obama who first turned on that weapons spigot.
To Mr. Biden’s supporters, it is all a triumph of rationality. To his critics, Mr. Biden’s first few weeks on the world stage are a lost opportunity to penalize a murderous leader, end drone strikes altogether or flip the switch quickly to get back into the Iran nuclear deal.
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