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James Stavridis

A Preview of Biden’s Foreign Policy

The biggest differences between the new president and the old one? Experience, civility and appreciation of allies.

An old hand.

An old hand.

Photographer: Jock Fistick/Bloomberg

I got to know Joe Biden when I was a combatant commander for the Barack Obama administration, first at the U.S. Southern Command and then most deeply in my four years at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Once, at a dinner hosted by America’s NATO ambassador in Brussels, I watched the then-vice president meet with ambassadors and foreign ministers from the 27 other nations then in the alliance.

Biden walked around the large table and was able to comment in depth on any number of the countries, from huge Germany to tiny Iceland, with a short vignette about a visit to this or that city, or a telling anecdote concerning a head of state, or a comment on current policy. This was not the result of memorized crib sheets from his staff: Biden did it off the top of his head, and it was a natural and unforced demonstration of his long term of service not just domestically, but also in the larger world.