The Most Pressing
Foreign Policy Issues
President-Elect Joe Biden will face a suite of challenges on the global stage, from nuclear tensions with North Korea to coordinating a response to the ongoing pandemic.
The increasingly confrontational U.S.-China relationship has aroused international concern and become a top issue in the U.S. political debate, heightened by the pandemic of the new coronavirus disease, COVID-19, that originated there.
Experts worldwide say that nations must move swiftly to slash emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gasses to avoid the most devastating effects of global warming.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than one million and triggered a global recession as governments grapple with how to keep economies functioning while containing the virus. U.S. repercussions have been dire.
Domestic extremism and mass shootings have emerged as the chief U.S. threat, while counterterrorism operations abroad have taken on new forms nearly two decades after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Russia’s interference in U.S. elections has revealed the vulnerability of American democracy to foreign adversaries. There is also growing concern over the national security risks posed by foreign technology companies.
The scope and cost of U.S. deployments abroad has come under increasing debate, with U.S. forces fighting enemies from Afghanistan to Niger, and the Pentagon maintaining bases from Djibouti to Japan.
The United States has long led global efforts to build alliances and institutions to promote peace and prosperity. Critics argue they undermine U.S. sovereignty and favor special interests.
The U.S. ability to influence events abroad depends on the health of its economy, which is struggling with rising inequality and pandemic disruptions. Disagreement persists over how much the government should do.
Immigration policy has been a flashpoint of the U.S. political debate for decades. As efforts at comprehensive reform have repeatedly foundered in Congress, executive action has been the chief policymaking tool.
The region continues to pose deep challenges for U.S. policy, including Iran’s bid for influence, devastating civil wars in Syria and Yemen, and dwindling prospects for a lasting settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Kim Jong-un regime has defied international sanctions to escalate its pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile technology, while the United States and its allies have struggled to develop a common approach.
Moscow’s foreign policy is increasingly aggressive, from intervention in Ukraine and Syria to interference in Western elections, while President Vladimir Putin has tightened control.
Washington has long led the charge for global trade, asserting that open markets increase prosperity and expand U.S. influence. Yet rising inequality has led to growing skepticism of this model within both major parties.
Foreign policy challenges loom across the region, as Washington seeks to respond to Venezuela’s political and humanitarian crisis, instability in Central America, deforestation in Brazil, and a deadly drug war in Mexico.