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At the 11th hour, Trump hands Biden a whole new set of foreign policy headaches

January 13, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 23.1%. 2 min read.

His days as president of the United States may be numbered, but Donald Trump is going out of his way to light a string of wildfires for his successor to put out.

While President-elect Joe Biden's immediate focus will likely be on the troubled domestic situation, with the Covid-19 pandemic and the political divide in the US, the Trump administration has also opted, as part of its final act, to hand him a series of new international diplomatic dilemmas.

In recent days, the Trump administration has named Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, said it will designate Yemen's Houthi rebels as a foreign terrorist organization, and upended decades of US-China diplomacy by lifting restrictions on contacts between American officials and representatives from the self-governing island of Taiwan.

"The Trump administration is locking in place a series of conflicts that change the starting point for Biden walking into office on the world stage," said Raffaello Pantucci, a senior fellow at Singapore's S.

Critics fear this week's move by the Trump administration will hand Beijing leverage over the incoming Biden administration, even though strengthened US support for Taiwan against an increasingly assertive China has largely been a bipartisan consensus in Washington.

Analysts had long expected Biden to retain a hawkish position on China, but they believed he would work with international allies to build a coherent coalition, rather than maintaining Trump's maximum pressure approach.

"What Biden should do is work with European allies to have an aligned strategy towards China, but in order to do that you need some time to build that," said Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the US and the Americas program at Chatham House.

"If the US now goes to Cuba and says they want to reset back to where things were at the end of the Obama administration, Cuba can legitimately ask why it should bother when it's possible that someone like Trump could be elected again in 2024," said Pantucci.

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