Dr. James Ker-Lindsay/ Biden’s Victory Is Huge Relief in Europe

By Genc Mlloja
Senior Diplomatic Editor
“I think the days when the United States could unilaterally set the world agenda are over. However, I think we are in desperate need for the United States to regain much of its lost authority and work with its partners in Europe and elsewhere in the world to balance many of the most disturbing challenges we are seeing on the international stage,” has said Dr. James Ker-Lindsay, who is a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics and is a Research Associate at the Centre for International Studies at Oxford University.
In an exclusive interview with Albanian Daily News he dwelt on the power shift in the White House, expressing the opinion that there is huge relief in Europe at Biden’s victory. “The past four years have seen a huge deterioration in Transatlantic relations that has hastened the moves towards a far more uncertain international system. There will be many who will see this as a chance to try to rebuild the ties between the United States and Europe and start working together to confront many of the most pressing security issues in world politics. I certainly hope that we will see a stronger Transatlantic relationship.”
Professor Lindsay does not think anyone expects that the ‘agreement’ brokered by Mr. Trump between Serb President Aleksander Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti in Washington in September will now stand. “In fact, it was an absolutely ridiculous arrangement. Most of it was designed to serve US interests, rather than the interests of the parties themselves. In fact, I think there will probably be relief. While Israel’s decision to recognise Kosovo will probably stand, I simply don’t see either Serbia or Kosovo setting up embassies in Jerusalem,” he said.
In the meantime, Mr. Lindsay expects some serious changes on some of the key international issues, and it was interesting for him that Biden has already made tackling climate change one of his four key priorities. But, according to him, it is not clear how things will change just yet in other areas. “China and Russia present two key challenges, but are obviously very different from each other.”
The Professor thinks that the United States has a key role to play in the world, but the best results are achieved when it works with its European and other close allies. “We need a balance between the nationalistic US unilateralism of the Bush era and nationalistic US isolationism of the Trump era,” said Dr. James Ker-Lindsay in the following interview:
Albanian Daily News: At the outset of this interview, Professor, could you share with the readers of Albanian Daily News your opinion on what the US presidential election campaign, its result – the landslide victory of Joe Biden, and the reluctance of President Trump to accept the defeat, mean?
Professor James Ker-Lindsay:  I think that the United States has a tendency to think that it is the world’s leading democracy. However, this election has once again exposed the fundamental flaws in the system. I think that most functioning democracies look at the US with amazement. This is a country where many electoral districts are gerrymandered to create perpetual zones where one party dominates; where large parts of society face unacceptable hurdles to register to vote; where we saw people having to queue up for hours to cast a vote; and where the vote can often take an unacceptably long time to be counted. However, this election may well also highlight the dangers of having such a long transition from one president to another.
Trump still has two months to do extreme damage before Biden takes over. In current circumstances, there is a lot to be said of a system, such as the one in Britain, where a defeated leader is out of office the next morning and the next prime minister starts work in the afternoon. There is a lot in the United States that is extremely positive. However, there is also a deep-rooted inability for the country to see its shortcomings. Its democratic system has huge failings.
-It is being spoken much about Biden’s task to bring the US to normalcy, to rebuild the soul of America and heal it and make a ‘catharsis’ in the divided country.  Is US democracy passing through a transition period?
-There is no doubt that the United States has been through a very bad period. However, it has not been alone. We have seen the rise in national populism in many countries. And while there will be a hope that Biden’s victory will mark a turning point, many will be worried that the political outlook that saw him elected in the first place will continue. It is worth remembering that 70 million Americans voted for him, despite knowing full well that he was a liar, a racist, and a misogynist. Hopefully, the United States can start to deal with many of the fundamental problems it has. But I think it is premature to believe that Biden’s win can erase ’Trumpism’. This may be with us for many years to come.
-What does Joe Biden's win mean for the world in general and particularly for Europe, EU and NATO?
-I think that there is huge relief in Europe at Biden’s victory. The past four years have seen a huge deterioration in Transatlantic relations that has hastened the moves towards a far more uncertain international system. There will be many who will see this as a chance to try to rebuild the ties between the United States and Europe and start working together to confront many of the most pressing security issues in world politics. I certainly hope that we will see a stronger Transatlantic relationship.
-President- elect Biden is very familiar with the Balkans. Do you think there will be a shift in the US policy towards the region, and secondly will the deal brokered by Mr. Trump in the White House between Serb President Aleksander Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti be affected?
-I don’t think anyone expects that the ‘agreement’ signed in Washington in September will now stand. In fact, it was an absolutely ridiculous arrangement. Most of it was designed to serve US interests, rather than the interests of the parties themselves. In fact, I think there will probably be relief. While Israel’s decision to recognise Kosovo will probably stand, I simply don’t see either Serbia or Kosovo setting up embassies in Jerusalem.
As for the shift towards the region, here I am probably less optimistic than many observers. For all the fundamental faults in Trump’s foreign policy, I think that his efforts to push a deal between Serbia and Kosovo gave a new impetus to talks between the sides after many years of a lacklustre EU performance. It was Grenell’s efforts to push Belgrade and Pristina towards a comprehensive deal that finally forced the EU to wake up and become more active again.
I do worry that with Biden in power, the EU may slip back into its old ways. Kosovo and Serbia need to reach a comprehensive settlement as soon as possible. In my view, the slow normalisation process favoured by the EU is detrimental to all concerned.
- President-elect Biden has promised to be different, to reverse some of Trump's more controversial foreign policies related to issues like climate change, international organizations, China, Russia, etc. What impact can such an eventual endeavor have on the world, peace and security?
-Yes. I expect that we will see some serious changes on some of the key issues. It is interesting that Biden has already made tackling climate change one of his four key priorities. However, in other areas, it is not clear how things will change just yet. China and Russia present two key challenges, but are obviously very different from each other. The good news is that there will be a lot of people around Biden who will be thinking about these issues. The problem is that the past four years has seen a lot of talent leave the State Department. The US had lost a lot of its frontline diplomatic talent. This will have an effect.
-Imbued in traditions of US global leadership that champions democracy and human rights, do you think Mr. Biden can ‘accomplish such a mission’ in a new world which is shifting very fast towards multilateralism in the circumstance of the global fight against the coronavirus plague?  Could it be possible for Mr. Biden and his administration to reset the world order the way he wants?
-No. I think the days when the United States could unilaterally set the world agenda are over. However, I think we are in desperate need for the United States to regain much of its lost authority and work with its partners in Europe and elsewhere in the world to balance many of the most disturbing challenges we are seeing on the international stage.

Fundamentally, I do think that the United States has a key role to play in the world, but that the best results are achieved when it works with its European and other close allies, such as Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, etc. We need a balance between the nationalistic US unilateralism of the Bush era and nationalistic US isolationism of the Trump era. Obama never really delivered on the hope that he would be able to rebuild relations with Europe - largely because I think his personal inclinations were elsewhere. I think that many hope that Biden will focus attention on building those ties with Europe./ADN