A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond: JANUARY 2021 U.S. Institutional Commitments in a New Geo-strategic Environment

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond: JANUARY 2021 U.S. Institutional Commitments in a New Geo-strategic Environment

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry
2021 and Beyond:

U.S. Institutional Commitments in a
New Geo-strategic Environment
“A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond: Advancing
Institutional Commitments in a New Geostrategic Environment”
was a virtual workshop, sponsored in part by Carnegie Corporation
of New York, and co-convened by the University of Pennsylvania’s
Perry World House and the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings.
The workshop was held over two half days on October 15-16, 2020.

Report Author
William Burke-White, Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania
Carey Law School, Inaugural Director, Perry World House (2014-
2019), Non-Resident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
Perry World House is a center                  The Foreign Policy program at
for scholarly inquiry, teaching,               Brookings is a leading center
research, international exchange,              of policy-relevant scholarship
policy engagement, and public                  exploring the rapidly re-
outreach on pressing global                    ordering geopolitics of the great
issues.                                        and major powers, and the
Perry World House’s mission is to bring
                                               disordering relations among
the academic knowledge of the University       states and transnational actors.
of Pennsylvania to bear on some of the
world’s most pressing global policy            Our scholars provide concrete policy
                                               recommendations for how U.S. strategy, the
challenges, and to foster international        international security architecture, and key
policy engagement within and beyond            allies should adapt to changing threats and
the Penn community.                            opportunities.
Located in the heart of campus at 38th         America’s conduct of foreign policy demands
Street and Locust Walk, it draws on the        that, as a nation, we address the dual realities
expertise of Penn’s 12 schools and             of new threats and opportunities in a world
numerous globally-oriented research            that is more connected and interdependent,
centers to educate the Penn community          where technology has eclipsed traditional
and prepare students to be well-informed,      understandings of borders and security. The
contributing global citizens. At the same      Foreign Policy program, under the direction of
                                               Vice President and Director Suzanne Maloney,
time, Perry World House connects Penn          has two goals:
with leading policy experts from around
the world to develop and advance               1. To understand the dynamics of world affairs
innovative policy proposals.                   and the challenges they pose to the
                                               international community.
Through its rich programming, Perry
World      House      facilitates   critical   2. To influence policies and institutions in the
conversations     about      global  policy    United States and abroad that promote
challenges and fosters interdisciplinary       sustainable peace, security, and prosperity
research on these topics. It presents          around the world.
workshops and colloquia, welcomes              The Foreign Policy program conducts its
distinguished visitors, and produces           research through its 18 centers, projects, and
content for global audiences and policy        initiatives, housing a team of independent
leaders, so that the knowledge developed       experts with expertise ranging from military
at Penn can make an immediate impact           reform to the geopolitics of energy.
around the world.
Perry World House—its programs and the
building itself—builds on Penn’s strengths
in teaching, interdisciplinary scholarship,
and policy-relevant research. By doing so,
it cultivates the broad worldview, critical
thinking, and leadership required to
address the most urgent issues of global

       @perryworldhouse                               @BrookingsFP

      facebook.com/perryworldhouse                    facebook.com/brookings

      @perryworldhouse                                @brookingsinst
Background                                                      5
Executive Summary                                               5
Part I: The New Landscape of U.S. Multilateral Policy           6
The United States as an Outsider in the Multilateral Space	    6
China’s Emergence as a Global Institutional Influencer	        7
A Divided America	                                             8
Part II: “The Philadelphia Principles for Multilateral
Policy”										                                              9
I. Global Principles	                                          9
II. Partnerships and Cooperation Principles	                  11
III. Domestic and Bureaucratic Principles	                    13
Part III: Action Items for the Biden Administration            16
Part IV: Conclusion                                            17
Annex I: List of Participants                                  18
Annex II: List of International Institutions                   19
Endnotes                                                       20
A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

Background                                           bureaucratic       context      of    multilateral
                                                     engagement. Two principles operate at the
                                                     global strategic level. First, the United States
On October 15 and 16, 2020 the University of         must recognize that the multilateral order is
Pennsylvania’s Perry World House and the             now defined by great-power rivalry, particularly
Foreign Policy Program of the Brookings              with China, and respond in kind. Second,
Institution jointly convened a virtual, non-         addressing transnational threats, especially
partisan workshop to assess the state of U.S.        climate change, must be the fundamental goal
multilateral policy and develop strategic            of U.S. multilateral strategy. The next two
recommendations for U.S. reengagement with           principles shape how the United States builds
the international order under the next               and stewards alliances. First, multilateral
administration. This report draws on those           approaches should start with the countries
conversations, taking into account the               that share U.S. values and commitment to
subsequent outcome of the 2020 U.S.                  democracy. Second, successful multilateralism
presidential election, to assess the shifting        requires the strategic use of multiple
global landscape of multilateralism, develop a       institutions, including informal processes,
set of principles to guide U.S. multilateral         club-models, and non-binding commitments.
efforts going forward, and offer concrete            The final two principles guide bureaucratic
action items for a new administration seeking        reform and domestic political engagement.
to re-engage the international order. While the      First, multilateral priorities must be integrated
report includes inputs and insights from the         into overall U.S. diplomatic strategy, especially
range of substantive academic and policy             by leveraging the strengths of bilateral
experts listed in the appendix, it is not intended   relationships. Finally, multilateral objectives
to reflect the consensus view of participants        must align with the values the United States
nor does it carry their endorsement.                 embodies at home and the interests of the
                                                     American people.
Executive Summary                                    While the implementation of these principles
As the Biden administration takes office, it         is critical to the effectiveness of U.S.
confronts a radically transformed global             multilateralism over the long term, the new
landscape in which it must advance a range of        administration must also take a series of
U.S. priorities through multilateral policy tools,   concrete steps to re-engage the multilateral
including         international      institutions,   order early in the new term. In substantive
international law, and multilateral diplomacy.       areas including national security, international
Neglect of the international order and exits         economics, and transnational threats, there
from international commitments under the             are politically viable, substantively meaningful,
Trump presidency have positioned the United          and symbolically powerful actions that can
States as a relative outsider in the multilateral    advance U.S. interests and enhance the U.S.
policy space, decreasing its leverage and            position in the international order. The report
influence. Simultaneously, a rising China has        proposes several key early steps, some of
become far more effective and assertive in           which the Biden administration has already
shaping international norms and setting the          begun, including continuing the processes of
agendas of international institutions. Even          rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World
with unified Democratic control of the U.S.          Health Organization (WHO), and negotiating
government, the new administration’s policy          an extension to the New Strategic Arms
options are severely constrained by deep             Reduction Treaty (New START). Over the
political divisions over America’s role in the       course of the next four years, the Biden
world and the value of the international order.      administration must also build the foundation
This new landscape demands fresh approaches          for even more significant multilateral moves,
to how the United States works with its              including ratifying the United Nations
partners, confronts its rivals, and advances its     Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),
interests multilaterally.                            reforming the World Trade Organization
                                                     (WTO), and strengthening the global
The six “Philadelphia Principles” proposed in        architecture of climate governance. Operating
this report can guide the United States toward       consistently with these six principles and
more effective multilateralism and involve           taking significant but politically feasible steps
shifts to its global strategic approach, changes     toward reform and reengagement will ensure
to how the United States builds and stewards         that multilateral policymaking can advance
partnerships and alliances, and a renewed            the well-being and security of the American
focus on the domestic political and                  people.

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

Part I: The New Landscape The United States as an
of U.S. Multilateral Policy Outsider in the Multilateral
As the United States begins to re-engage the          Space
international order under new presidential
leadership in 2021, it faces a drastically            Despite the fact that the United States served
reorganized geopolitical landscape for                as the primary architect of the international
multilateral policymaking.1 Three significant         institutional order some 75 years ago,2 today it
shifts characterize this new multilateral             finds itself as a relative outsider in the
environment. First, the United States finds           multilateral policy space. For much of the Cold
itself an outsider in the multilateral policy         War era, U.S. leadership involved security
world. During the Trump administration, the           commitments to broad coalitions of aligned
United      States     has     exited    numerous     states. In the post-Cold War era, U.S. leadership
international organizations, stepped back             focused largely on the provision of public
from leadership roles within others, and              goods. As the United States has retreated
withdrawn from numerous international legal           from both of these functions over the past
commitments. Second, China has emerged as             four years, its allies and adversaries alike have
a rival in multilateral affairs. Under President Xi   doubted, questioned, and even challenged its
Jinping, China has meaningfully enhanced its          leadership. Going forward, to reassume a
prominence in the multilateral system both by         leadership role in the international system, the
virtue of its increasing geopolitical power and       United States will have to find ways of both
strategic efforts to set the agenda within            offering security and backstopping the global
multilateral institutions. Third, multilateral        provision of public goods.
policy has become politically divisive at home.       The United States’ new outsider status stems
Growing skepticism of international institutions      in part from a long history of under-investment
and commitments in both political parties will        in the very institutions that the United States
require the new administration to carefully           championed after World War II but has been
steward political capital. While President            markedly exacerbated during the Trump
Biden has committed to “restor[ing] [U.S.]            administration.3 Over the past four years, the
credibility and influence” on the world stage,        United States has exited an unprecedented
he will have to develop strategies that are able      number of international institutions and legally
to operate in this significantly altered global       binding commitments. Specifically, the United
landscape.                                            States has withdrawn or begun the withdrawal

                  U.S. Initiated Exits                                  U.S. Threatened Exits
       Institutions               Treaties                                   Institutions
 • UN Human Rights             • Paris Climate Accord                   • World Trade Organization
   Council (UNHRC)             • Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)          (WTO)
 • World Health                • Open Skies Treaty                      • North Atlantic Treaty
   Organization (WHO)                                                     Organization (NATO)
                               • Joint Comprehensive Plan of
 • UN Economic, Social           Action (JCPOA)                         • Universal Postal Union
   and Cultural                                                           (UN)
   Organization                • Intermediate Nuclear Forces
                                 Treaty (INF)                           • United Nations (UN)
 • UN Relief and Works         • Optional Protocol to the Vienna
   Agency (UNRWA)                Convention on Diplomatic
                               • Global Compact on Migration

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

process from four key institutions: The UN           and international institutions that the United
Human Rights Council,4 the World Health              States does not prioritize its commitment to
Organization,5 the United Nations Economic,          the international order and may no longer be
Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),6          a reliable partner. As a result, the United
and the United Nations Relief and Works              States finds itself isolated in the multilateral
Agency.7 So too, the United States has               policy environment, looking in on institutions
terminated, withdrawn from, or indicated that        it was once a part of, watching as alternate
it will not ratify a number of significant           leadership patterns emerge, and receiving,
international treaties including the Paris           rather than setting, global agendas.
Climate       Accord,8      the    Trans-Pacific
Partnership,9 the Open Skies Treaty,10 the
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA/           China’s Emergence as a Global
Iran Deal),11 the Intermediate Nuclear Forces
(INF) Treaty,12 the Optional Protocol to the         Institutional Influencer
Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,13         Concurrent with a U.S. retrenchment from the
and the Global Compact on Migration.14               multilateral architecture, China has assumed
Beyond these actual exits, the Trump                 global prominence in multilateral diplomacy.
administration at times threatened to                China’s newfound role results from both its
withdraw from several institutions, a few of         increasing economic and political weight and
which comprise the bedrock of the                    from a strategic effort under President Xi
international order including the World Trade        Jinping to assert influence in international
Organization (WTO),15 the North Atlantic             institutions. Addressing the UN General
Treaty Organization (NATO),16 the Universal          Assembly in 2020, Xi called on the UN to
Postal Union,17 and even the UN itself.18 Not all    recognize China’s political clout: “The global
of these exits or threatened exits are of equal      governance system should adapt itself to
consequence, of course, but many—the WHO,            evolving global political and economic
the WTO, and NATO among others—have real             dynamics.”21 This demand for recognition has
significance. Collectively, they symbolize a         translated into concerted campaigns for
distinct turn away from the international            Chinese leadership within and beyond the
institutional order. These exits were part of        UN. Chinese nationals now lead four of the
Trump’s “America First” strategy that                fifteen UN Specialized Agencies—far more
systematically sought to reduce U.S.                 than any other country—including the UN
multilateral commitments. In the words of            Food and Agriculture Organization,22 the
then Secretary Pompeo: “Our mission is to            International Civil Aviation Organization,23 the
reassert our sovereignty, reform the liberal         International Telecommunications Union,24
international order ... Our administration is        and     the   UN     Industrial  Development
thus lawfully exiting or renegotiating outdated      Organization25 and previously led the World
or harmful treaties, trade agreements, and           Health Organization26 and INTERPOL.27 In
other international arrangements that do not         2020, China ran a significant campaign for
serve our sovereign interests…”19                    one of its nationals to lead the World
                                                     Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO),
While these exits comprise but a                     which was only thwarted by last minute U.S.
small slice of the U.S. overall                      and European diplomacy.
portfolio of institutional and legal                 While many of the organizations China leads
commitments, they are                                may not be household names, they have
                                                     considerable influence in shaping rules,
substantively and symbolically                       norms, and policies. China is now actively
significant.                                         asserting its newfound influence to steer
                                                     multilateral institutions towards its own
Substantively, across a range of policy              interests. For example, under the leadership
domains from arms control to global health,          of Margaret Chan, the WHO significantly
trade to climate, the United States has              scaled back disease surveillance efforts,
relinquished     its  voice     in    multilateral   which became readily apparent in the
institutional settings, sacrificing its ability to   organization’s COVID-19 response.28 At the
influence and shape institutions and policy          International Civil Aviation Organization,
trajectories from within in favor of what            China has pushed to exclude and marginalize
Secretary Pompeo described as an effort to           Taiwan.29 Taking advantage of its seat in the
“reassert our sovereignty.”20 Symbolically,          UN Human Rights Council, China has sought
these exits signaled to foreign governments

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

to limit the roles of UN Special Rapporteurs         the incoherence of Trump’s “America First”
“to shield Beijing from scrutiny of its abuses.”30   foreign policy, it created political space within
At the International Telecommunications              the Republican party to question the value of
Union, China has endeavored to generate              international institutions, the utility of
support for its own Digital Silk Road initiative31   multilateral policy, and the benefits of a global
and backed Huawei in its disputes with the           order.38 Within the Democratic party, populist
United States.32 Beyond these individual policy      and progressive voices alike have questioned
shifts,   China’s     expanding       multilateral   the alignment of the international order with
leadership sends a powerful signal that China’s      America’s values and whether that order
position and interests must be respected.            benefits the American people. Senator Bernie
                                                     Sanders, for example, has denounced
Over the past decade, China has built the            international trade agreements as “threat[s]
capacity and shown the willingness to link its       to our democracy”39 and progressive thinkers
bilateral diplomacy with its multilateral policy     have urged the party to focus more on how
objectives. The vast financial commitment of         foreign policy impacts “economic inequality
the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has given         at home” than on the stability of the
China significant new leverage over individual       international order itself.40
countries across the globe and China is now
showing a willingness to tie these financial         These political divides reflect—and are
commitments to support in multilateral policy        reflected in—the American people’s shifting
settings.33 In its campaign for leadership of the    views of international organizations and
Food and Agriculture Organization and in the         cooperation. In the 2020 election, more than
above-mentioned race for the directorship of         74 million Americans voted for Donald Trump,
WIPO, China directly linked major economic           at least tacitly backing an “America First”
and development commitments for countries            approach to foreign policy. Pew Research
such as Uganda and Cameroon to their                 Center data from 2020, suggests that while
support of its candidates,34 and China has           62% of Americans view the UN favorably, 31%
used its power within the UN, particularly at        view it unfavorably.41 The divisions on party
the UN Industrial Development Organization,          lines are stark: while only 35% of Republicans
to cloak its Belt and Road Initiative in the guise   believe the “UN advances the interests of
of international development, encouraging            countries like ours,” 77% of Democrats do.42 A
more than 30 UN agencies to sign memoranda           2020 report from the Carnegie Endowment
of understanding in support of the BRI.35 China      for International Peace underscored the
has built mutually reinforcing synergies             skepticism of many middle class Americans
between its bilateral and multilateral diplomacy     that the international system advances their
that cement its new global leadership and            interests and the need to correct “for the
threaten U.S. influence.                             overextension that too often has defined U.S.
                                                     foreign policy in the post-Cold War era.”43 In
                                                     short, there is no domestic political consensus
A Divided America                                    that the United States can or should invest
                                                     significantly in the international order itself or
For most of the past 75 years, the basic U.S.        that it can best advance its interests through
commitment to, investment in, and leadership         multilateral action. While the 2020 election of
of the international order has stood strong.36       President Joe Biden signals a shift away from
Of course, successive American governments           Trumpism and “America First, divides within
have differed on exactly how that commitment         the American government and people remain.
should translate into policy, but the                These divides and the growing politicization
commitment itself remained firm. Today,              of international commitments will constrain
however, the United States finds itself deeply       the new administration and circumscribe U.S.
divided—both across party lines and within           multilateralism.
the Democratic and Republican parties—as to
whether leadership of the international order
remains in the U.S. national interest. In his
inaugural address, President Trump directly
questioned the value of operating through the
multilateral system, noting, “We’ve made other
countries rich while the wealth, strength and
confidence of our country has disappeared
over the horizon … From this moment on, it’s
going to be America First.”37 Notwithstanding

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

Part II: “The Philadelphia                           I. Global Principles
Principles for Multilateral                          Principle 1: The multilateral order
Policy”                                              is now defined by great power
Collectively, the U.S. position as an outsider in    competition, especially with China.
the multilateral policy space, China’s
emergence as a global institutional influencer,      Going forward, the United States must
and an America divided over its own role in          recognize that the multilateral order has
the world have fundamentally altered the             become a geopolitical space of great power
geostrategic context of U.S. engagement with         competition, notably with China but also with
the multilateral order. This is not the              other competitors such as Russia. China’s far
environment President Obama operated in in           more assertive approach within multilateral
2009, much less the one President Clinton            institutions and its quest for leadership roles
inherited in 1993. Rather, this new landscape        within those institutions, as outlined above,
requires a new approach involving decisive           will continue and accelerate.44 The contestation
shifts in the U.S. strategic and tactical approach   over institutional leadership recently seen in
to the international institutional system. The       both the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
Perry World House and Brookings Foreign              and     the    World    Intellectual   Property
Policy workshop developed a new set of               Organization is indicative of challenges China
guiding principles, referred to here as “The         will present in the years and decades ahead.45
Philadelphia Principles”, that should inform         China and Russia will continue to use
the U.S. approach to multilateral and                multilateral fora both to advance their own
international legal policy at three distinct         interests and to disrupt U.S. leadership
levels within the international system: globally,    efforts.46 Recent examples, such as China’s
among U.S. key partners and allies, and in           exploitation of its seat on the UN Human
domestic and bureaucratic politics.                  Rights Council, to which it was reelected in

   I. Global Principles
    • 1. The multilateral order is now defined by great power competition,
      especially with China.
    • 2. Addressing transnational threats, especially climate change, must
      be a fundamental goal of U.S. multilateral policy.
   II. Partnerships and Cooperation Principles
    • 3. Multilateral approaches should start with the countries that share
      U.S. values and commitment to democracy.
    • 4. Successful multilateralism requires the strategic use of multiple
      institutions, including informal processes, club-models, and non-
      binding commitments.
   III. Domestic Political and Bureaucratic Principles
    • 5. Multilateral priorities must be integrated into overall U.S. diplomatic
      strategy, especially by leveraging the strengths of bilateral
    • 6. Multilateral objectives must align with the interests of the American
      people and the values the United States seeks to embody at home.

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

October 2020, to block criticisms of its actions      advance its own agenda through complex
in Xinjiang and Hong Kong47 and Russia’s              strategies across multiple institutions.
effort to disrupt U.S. leadership of UN working
groups on cyber-norms likely foreshadow               Finally, the United States must develop new
future power competition.48 To an ever greater        approaches to working with competitors
degree, the functioning of multilateral               where interests align.50 Such issue-specific
institutions will be defined by great power           cooperation remains essential to the
rivalry and contestation.                             functioning of the international architecture as
                                                      a whole and to advancing U.S. interests.
For the United States to effectively advance          Similarly, international legal agreements,
its interests in this context of multilateral great   especially with great power rivals, can bound
power competition, it too must engage in              competition in ways that make the United
great power contestation in these multilateral        States more secure and prosperous.51 The
institutions. To do so, the United States must        need for cooperation, particularly as it relates
recognize that the ability to shape the rules of      to transnational threats is urgent. However,
the international order is critical and that the      that need must not blind the United States to
mere fact that the United States was                  the underlying great power competition
instrumental to the establishment of that             playing out within international institutions
order does not ensure long-term leadership or         nor can the United States be seduced into
influence. The United States must invest              believing the international environment is
political and economic capital in the                 fundamentally one of cooperation.
maintenance and reform of the international
institutional order, even where such investment
may not yield short term benefits.    Principle 2: Addressing
                                      transnational threats, especially
So too, the United States must        climate change, must be a
continue to earn its voice within—    fundamental goal of U.S.
and leadership at—the multilateral
table by ensuring its own conduct at multilateral strategy.
home and abroad conforms with         Transnational threats, including climate
international norms and rules such change,      human movement, and pandemic
                                      disease, present growing and potentially
that it is viewed as a consistent and existential threats to the United States and the
committed shepherd of the system.49 globe. The scientific evidence on the risks of
                                                      global warming to human welfare and
In its multilateral strategy and diplomacy, the       wellbeing is not new.52 If anything, the risks of
United States must be vigilant of and prepared        catastrophic impacts of climate change are
to check (where appropriate) competitors’             accelerating.53 The refugee crises of past
efforts to alter norms or assert authority within     decades underscore the human and security
the full range of multilateral institutions. Those    risks posed by unmanaged migration.54 The
competitors have taken advantage of both              COVID-19 pandemic has shown all too clearly
U.S. exits from some institutions and a narrow        the economic and human cost of pandemic
U.S. focus on highly visible institutions, such as    disease.55 The potential interplay of climate
the UN Security Council, to gain influence            change,     population     displacement,     and
within lesser known institutional settings and        pandemic disease could increase these risks
outside the UN system. Similarly, the United          exponentially. Multilateral policy coordination
States must begin to see the connections              is indispensable to any effective approaches
among institutions in the system which its            to mitigating, managing, and preventing these
rivals may use to drive policy and influence.         and other transnational threats.
The multilateral policy space is no longer a set
of individual institutions in issue-specific silos    While bearing in mind the environment of
but rather a single chess board on which gains        great power competition in which multilateral
in one institution can have consequences in           policy now operates, the United States must
others. Competitors will use influence in one         focus its multilateral efforts to an ever-greater
institutional context or issue domain as              degree on collective global responses to
leverage across the broader multilateral              transnational threats. It is essential to
architecture. The United States must be               cooperate through international institutions
prepared to respond to these moves and to             and legal agreements in responding to these

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

threats to U.S. security and prosperity.56 Such       commitment to a core set of common values,
efforts must establish and affirm basic norms         including democratic governance and human
and rules to govern transnational issues,             rights.58 Partnerships built on such shared
encourage      deeper      commitment       and       values will be more robust than mere interest-
compliance by broad coalitions of states, and         based alliances. They are far more likely to
strengthen institutional architectures for            stand firm in the face of competition from
implementation, monitoring, and enforcement.          rivals who do not share them.59
To do so, the United States must make
meaningful      (and      potentially   costly)       Even where interests may not align
commitments of its own, invest politically and
economically in critical institutions, and            in the short-term, shared values
exercise targeted global political leadership         offer a strong foundation from
that expands consensus in advancing effective
solutions.                                            which to identify commonalities,
                                                      look over the time horizon at
Transnational      challenges      may     present
opportunities for alignment of interests, even
                                                      broader interest conversion, or even
among great power rivals, in international            shift preferences that ultimately
institutional settings. U.S. diplomatic strategies    align policies.60
must seek to identify, accentuate, and act on
those potential interest synergies, building          Building coalitions of states that share U.S.
coalitions that, where possible, include even         values is ultimately the best way to confront
allies and rivals alike.57 At times, the imperative   great-power rivals and to advance collective
to address transnational threats through              multilateral goals in the face of great power
collective multilateral policy may be in tension      competition. The primary great-power rivals
with the need to check great-power rivalry in         to the United States—China and, to a lesser
multilateral settings. In such cases, the United      extent, Russia—espouse very different values
States will need to find ways of advancing            and governance structures. Our very
collective goals without ceding institutional         commitment to rights and democracy may in
advantages or allowing rivals freedom of              and of itself threaten and check non-
action. In some circumstances, it will be             democratic rivals.61 Even where potential
necessary to identify and operate through             partners of the United States—from Europe to
alternative institutional arrangements that           India, South Africa to Australia—may find
circumvent uncooperative rivals. Ultimately,          common economic interests with China or
the success of U.S. multilateral policy and U.S.      Russia, a values-based partnership with the
collective security for decades to come will          United States will help ensure that they stand
turn on the efficacy of U.S. response to              with us when it matters. Such partnerships
transnational threats through the full range of       can significantly increase our leverage in
multilateral tools.                                   multilateral institutions, as demonstrated by
                                                      the recent rejection of the Chinese candidate
II. Partnerships and                                  to lead WIPO after a concerted U.S. diplomatic
                                                      effort to court countries that share our values.62
Cooperation Principles                                Coalitions based on shared values can also
                                                      offer a strong foundation for new initiatives,
Principle 3: Multilateral                             institutions, and clubs that address both
                                                      transnational threats and political challenges.
approaches should start with the                      Through such new initiatives, a group of states
countries that share U.S. values                      bound together by shared values and
                                                      commitments to democratic governance may
and commitment to democracy.                          be able to build redundancies into the
                                                      international institutional architecture to step
Effective multilateralism requires working with       in where universal institutions are gridlocked
other states to advance common interests. As          or ineffective. Their mere existence may
the United States considers which states to           pressure traditional, global institutions to
work with in various contexts, shared interests       reform and deliver results. So too, such a
and values will, no doubt, be critical. In building   group may be able to tackle issues that rivals
coalitions, establishing cooperation, or              like China or Russia are unwilling to address or
designing club governance models, U.S.                would stymie. Political objectives with
multilateralism should start first with a             countries such as Iran or North Korea that

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

require multilateral policy coordination may       China’s unfair trade practices or Russia’s
be better addressed through such values-           cyber-operations.
based coalitions than through global
institutions that have repeatedly failed to act.
Ultimately, these new initiatives can make the     Principle 4: Successful
international order more resilient and more        multilateralism requires the
                                                   strategic use of multiple
Values-based partnerships, however, require
consistent stewardship that has been all-too-
                                                   institutions, including informal
lacking over the past four years. That lack of     processes, club-models, and non-
stewardship may well explain the willingness
of Europe—a natural values-based partner—to        binding commitments.
enter into a new investment agreement with
China at the end of December 2020.63 To            Traditionally, the United States has advanced
consistently     encourage        values-based     policies     multilaterally    through     formal
partnerships, the United States must first         international institutions, including the UN
recommit to its own democracy at home. U.S.        Security Council, certain subsidiary bodies
commitment to values and democracy                 with the UN, the World Trade Organization,
appears weak after four years of a Trump           the International Monetary Fund, and the
presidency and, particularly, after the January    North Atlantic Treaty Organization, among
6, 2021 attacks on the U.S. Capitol.64             others.72 This is not surprising given the
                                                   preferential position the United States holds in
                                                   several of these organizations, their structural
In restoring its commitment to                     powers, and their ready availability. Yet, these
rights and democracy, the United                   institutions are becoming less effective due to
                                                   political gridlock,73 lack of policy consensus,
States also clearly signals to the                 and the growing influence of U.S. rivals.74 Many
global community that it lives and                 of these traditional institutions require
stands by the values it expects of its             significant reform and even reimagination to
                                                   regain their effectiveness. Over the long-term
partners, thereby enhancing U.S.                   the United States must be committed to
credibility at a time when many are                meaningful reforms of these organizations
                                                   that rejuvenate their political energy,
beginning to doubt the long-term                   reestablish their effectiveness, and realign
reliability of American leadership.65              their policies with the interests of the American
Beyond its borders, the United States must
invest significantly in building values-based      While the United States cannot ignore these
partnerships. President-elect Biden’s proposed     traditional        international     institutions,
Summit of Democracies66 is a potentially           multilateralism today demands a more creative
promising first step, provided it is not mere      and flexible approach. Where traditional
window-dressing.67          Cultivating   values   institutions appear ineffective, the United
partnerships requires deeper and more              States must be ready to turn to or even build
sustained engagement beyond what any               new institutional structures, just as U.S. rivals
summit alone can provide, including                have done.76 Among the most effective of
connections across and throughout networks         these alternate international structures may
of government and civil society.68 A range of      be ad hoc coalitions, informal processes, and
mechanisms must be employed, from Boris            issue-specific partnerships. Such initiatives
Johnson’s nascent proposal to invite a broader     offer numerous benefits including the potential
group of democracies to the G-7 annual             to build a coalition with the will and capacity
meeting,69 to a proposed D-10 democracies          to act on a particular issue, the possibility of
forum,70 or an alliance framework for              excluding rivals or spoilers where necessary
democratic technology policy.71 Once strong        and including them where appropriate, the
values-based relationships are built, the United   ability to prioritize shared values in building a
States will need to turn to like-minded partners   coalition, and the capacity to take on politically
first in its multilateral diplomacy to develop a   divisive global issues. The United States must
policy consensus and a common approach.            recognize that a range of less prominent
Only then can the collective values-based          existing institutions may be effective venues
partnership confront rivals on issues such as      for norm generation, policy coordination, and

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

implementation. For any given issue the             hoc    partnerships       and     issue-specific
United States must carefully and strategically      cooperation.
select the institution(s) most likely to advance
its transnational interests in the context of       When the United States seeks to formalize
great power rivalry.77                              structures for international cooperation or
                                                    lock-in international commitments, it usually
Within this variable geometry of international      turns to the tools of international law,
institutional engagement, the club model            particularly international treaties.82 Of course,
offers perhaps the most attractive yet              the formal mechanisms of international law
underutilized opportunity. In a club-model,         still have an important role to play in U.S.
states are given the opportunity to join an         foreign policy, but the United States must also
exclusive group based on their own                  be more creative in the use of non-binding
commitments and policies on a relevant              agreements, voluntary commitments, “soft
issue.78 Other criteria, such as upholding rights   law,” and informal mechanisms of rulemaking.
and democracy, can also be considered.              Critically, these approaches to international
Benefits adhere to those within the club and        agreement avoid the notorious political
are denied to those outside. Correctly              difficulty of treaty ratification by the U.S.
designed, the pull of club membership may           Senate.83 They can be structured to allow more
expand the pool of participating states.79 The      politically       palatable       individualized
club model offers particular promise in the         commitments, as illustrated by the voluntary
climate space, where a like-minded “coalition       commitments        of    the    Paris    Climate
of nations [could] commit to strong steps to        Agreement.84 They can evolve overtime to
reduce emissions and mechanisms to penalize         reflect shifts in U.S. interests, global norms,
countries that do not participate.”80 Similar       scientific innovation, or geostrategic context,
clubs could help address a range of                 as exemplified by the evolution of the Tallinn
transnational challenges in which limited           Manual on the International Law Applicable to
public-good resources must be shared and            Cyber Operations.85 Finally, such rules can
managed.                                            more effectively engage non-state and sub-
                                                    state actors, whose participation in rule-
The United States should become a                   making and implementation is of growing
                                                    urgency, through instruments such as the
leader in the establishment and                     Chicago Climate Charter.86
operation of such clubs on key
transnational challenges, alongside                 III. Domestic and
or—where necessary—instead of                       Bureaucratic Principles
traditional international
institutions.                                       Principle 5: Multilateral policy
To operationalize this more flexible and varied     must be better integrated into U.S.
approach to multilateral diplomacy, the United
States must become far more strategic and           global diplomatic strategy.
creative in how it maps particular multilateral
policy priorities with existing and potential       Within the U.S. government, multilateral policy
institutional architectures. Within the U.S.        has long operated in its own bureaucratic and
government bureaucratic restructuring must          diplomatic silo, walled off from—and usually
facilitate a holistic vision of the overall         secondary to—bilateral diplomacy. That silo-
international     institutional    architecture,    ing limits the effectiveness of both U.S.
whether such capacity is built within the           multilateral and bilateral diplomacy. In today’s
Bureau of International Organizations at the        more competitive global landscape, effective
State Department or at the National Security        multilateralism requires deeper integration of
Council (NSC).81 In U.S. diplomatic practice,       these two co-equal pillars of diplomacy. More
multitasking is needed to work numerous             specifically, bilateral diplomacy must be
issues     simultaneously     in    overlapping     understood as a cornerstone of multilateral
institutions. So too, the United States must        policy action. Relationships must be developed
commit the political will and diplomatic capital    and issues must be worked both in national
to engage and steward a larger number of            capitals and at institutional headquarters in
international institutional structures. Finally,    New York, Geneva, and beyond. Only when
this approach demands strong bilateral              that groundwork is laid can allies and partners
diplomacy that can lay the foundation for ad        be called upon to join the U.S. in advancing

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

collective interests multilaterally. Multilateral   foreign policy work better for America’s
diplomacy can and must be part of U.S.              middle class.”91 Trump’s “America First”
bilateral diplomacy, assisting allies and           rhetoric has exacerbated this growing
checking adversaries in multilateral arenas.        perception of a disconnect between U.S.
While the United States should not adopt            foreign policy on one hand and American lives
China’s transactional approach to these             and livelihoods on the other. The result is a
linkages, it must be prepared to operate in a       widening partisan divide over whether the
world in which competitors make explicit            United States should support and work
bargains that leverage bilateral and multilateral   through the UN and other international
diplomacy.87                                        institutions.92 American skepticism of global
                                                    engagement and a stark partisan split within
Various initiatives have suggested reforms to       the    U.S.    government       undermine      the
enhance U.S. multilateral diplomatic capacity       effectiveness of U.S. multilateral diplomacy.
and better link multilateral and bilateral          The political lift to pass legislation relating to
efforts.88 Given the urgency of transnational       international organizations, much less ratify a
threats, and the growing multilateral               treaty, is enormous. Political efforts at global
capabilities of U.S. rivals, the time for such      leadership and financial investments in
reform is now. While it is beyond the scope of      international institutions are rarely rewarded
this report to fully detail the needed changes      at the ballot box. U.S. allies and partners are
in bureaucratic capacity, several common            ever more doubtful that U.S. engagements
elements emerge. First, at a strategic level,       and commitments will be durable beyond a
multilateral and bilateral diplomacy must be        given presidential administration.93
understood as equally critical to advancing
U.S. interests.89 On any issue, U.S. foreign        Ultimately, for U.S. multilateral diplomacy to
policy strategy must consider both bilateral        effectively advance U.S. interests and respond
and multilateral action and the potential           to pressing transnational threats, the American
synergies between them. Second, the United          people and the U.S. government as a whole
States must invest in training Foreign Service      must come to see such efforts as beneficial,
Officers and civil servants in multilateral         even indispensable, to U.S. security and
diplomacy.90 Third, multilateral diplomacy          prosperity.
must be elevated in stature and respect, such
that it is no longer viewed as a step-child to      The purpose of multilateralism is to
bilateral diplomacy. Fifth, the International
Organization Bureau at the State Department         advance the interests of the
and the multilateral affairs directorate at the     American people. That requires,
NSC must be vested with a broader remit to
coordinate engagement across a wider array          first, listening to and understanding
of international institutions, including those      those interests and, second,
outside the UN system. Finally, Deputy              advocating for those interests
Assistant Secretary-level leadership on
multilateral engagement is needed in both           through multilateral diplomacy.
regional and functional bureaus at the U.S.
Department of State.                                 At times, particularly in the international trade
                                                    and economic sphere, U.S. multilateral policy
                                                    has diverged from the immediate interests of
Principle 6: Multilateral objectives                average Americans. On issues such as trade
                                                    and investment, meaningful policy realignment
must align with the interests of the                and institutional reforms will be needed to
American people and the values                      ensure the international order serves
                                                    Americans’ interests.94 In other domains, such
the United States seeks to embody                   as human rights and security, the United States
at home.                                            must ensure that multilateral policy priorities
                                                    truly reflect the values that define America.95
Economic and political shifts of the past           On issues such as climate change and
decades have led many Americans, particularly       pandemic disease, the U.S. must ensure that
the middle class, to conclude the international     international institutions and multilateral
order does not serve their interests or advance     efforts, such as the WHO and the UNFCCC,
their  livelihoods.    A     recent    Carnegie     actually work to counter transnational threats
Endowment report observes that “middle              that endanger American wellbeing.96
class Americans … stressed how prior
administrations had not done enough to make         A second critical component of restoring the

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

                         Transnational Threats        Global Economics            International Security

Immediate                The United States
                         should continue the
                                                      The United States
                                                      should recommit to the
                                                                                  The United States
                                                                                  should re-enter security
Steps                    processes launched on
                         day 1 of the Biden
                                                      World Trade
                                                      Organization by:
                                                                                  treaties that had been
                                                                                  allowed to terminate or
                         administration to rejoin                                 were exited, including:
                         institutions that address    1. Allowing for the
                         transnational threats,       appointment of         1. Renegotiate and
                         including the Paris          Appellate Body Judges. rejoin the Joint
                         Agreement and the                                   Comprehensive Plan of
                         World Health                 2. Institutionalizing  Action (JCPOA)
                         Organization, and            U.S.-China trade
                         demonstrate tangible         disputes through the   2. Negotiate extension
                         commitment to these          WTO.                   to the New START
                         organizations.                                      treaty.

Longer-term              1. Strengthen the
                         UNFCCC climate
                                                      1. Transform the
                                                      international trade
                                                                                  1. Build political support
                                                                                  to ratify for UNCLOS
Goals                    negotiations through
                         active U.S. leadership.
                                                      system to better serve
                                                      the interests of the        2. Develop stronger
                                                      American people.            cyber governance
                         2. Develop alternate                                     structures (e.g. through
                         club-style governance        2. Steward domestic         2015 GGE norms list).
                         models on climate            and international
                         change.                      political capital toward
                                                      a new pacific-trade
                         3. Renew domestic            agreement/club that
                         human rights and racial      reflects America’s
                         justice commitments          interests.
                         and reflect these values
                         in international actions.

  confidence of the American people in                with the American people demands that our
  multilateralism is better communication of the      government and our diplomats truly hear and
  positive impacts multilateral leadership and        understand their interests, needs, and
  international institutional engagement has for      aspirations.
  the American people. Too often, the
  contributions of multilateral efforts to                                  ***
  American wellbeing go unseen. The chorus of
  voices criticizing multilateralism is loud and      The Philadelphia Principles offer a broad
  persistent.97 A new approach to communication       roadmap for a new U.S. approach to
  must emphasize that multilateralism is not an       multilateralism that responds to a starkly
  end in and of itself, but a critical toolkit to     altered    geopolitical     landscape.     These
  advance specific interests and priorities of the    principles seek, first, to recognize that
  American people. Such a strategy must               multilateral arenas are now a space of global
  directly link tangible outcomes that benefit        competition and to respond to the increasing
  Americans       with    our    investments    in,   dangers posed by transnational threats. They
  commitments        to,   and     leadership   of    serve as a reminder that shared values can
  international institutions. Such a strategy must    motivate effective policymaking and refocus
  demonstrate why collective action through           attention on the potential value of alternative
  multilateralism is absolutely essential both to     institutional structures. Finally, they highlight
  addressing transnational threats, like climate      the importance of both building synergies
  change and global pandemics, and to                 between bilateral and multilateral diplomacy
  protecting American security in light of a          and better understanding Americans’ interests
  growing Chinese threat. While better                and values. Collectively, they frame a set of
  messaging capabilities will be needed within        strategic and tactical changes to U.S.
  the U.S. government, better communication

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

multilateral policy, institutional engagement,      The Biden administration’s day 1 actions,
and international legal commitments that will       including launching the process of rejoining
better prepare the United States to operate in      the Paris Climate Agreement98 and halting the
the competitive multilateral environment that       withdrawal from the World Health Organization
lies ahead.                                         were important first steps.99 Now the United
                                                    States     must     demonstrate      tangible
Part III: Action Items for                          commitments to these processes through
                                                    international engagement and domestic
the Biden Administration                            implementation. The United States should use
                                                    any leverage it can gain from its reentry to
                                                    push for needed reforms of both the climate
The Philadelphia Principles outlined in Part II     and health governance architectures.
offer a broad reframing of how the United
States should approach multilateral affairs in
light of a new geostrategic environment. While      Over the course of the next four
these principles chart a path toward greater        years, the new administration must
effectiveness of multilateral policy over the
medium-term, tangible steps must be taken           significantly strengthen the capacity
early in the Biden administration to re-engage      and resilience of the international
the international order, reverse where
appropriate detrimental exists over the past
                                                    institutional architecture to respond
four years, and restore U.S. credibility in the     to transnational threats.
eyes of U.S. allies and partners. Over the
longer-term, political capital must be built and    To do so, the Biden administration should
shepherded for urgently needed issue-specific       strengthen the UN climate process through
multilateral actions throughout the next four       active leadership within the United Nations
years. Given the pressing nature of many            Framework Convention on Climate Change
transnational challenges and the relative U.S.      while simultaneously pursuing new club based
absence from the multilateral scene under           models for climate governance.100 The United
President Trump, the institutions and issues        States must also reaffirm its commitment to
calling for U.S. attention are nearly endless.      universal human rights by first advancing
Yet, the new Biden administration is highly         human rights and racial justice at home and
constrained with limited financial resources, a     then reflecting those values in its foreign
deeply divided domestic polity, a tenuous           policy.
majority in the Senate, and a depleted
bureaucracy.                                        In addressing global economics and trade, the
                                                    new administration must move quickly to
In light of those constraints, careful strategic    recommit to the World Trade Organization
choices must be made about where and when           both by facilitating the appointment of judges
to deploy political capital. The Perry World        to the WTO Appellate Body (which were
House and Brookings Foreign Policy workshop         blocked under the Trump administration)101
developed a set of priority action items in         and by institutionalizing its trade disputes,
three broad issue domains: transnational            particularly with China, in the WTO system.
threats, global economics, and international        Ultimately, a strong WTO serves U.S. interests
security. In each issue area, workshop              and concerted efforts at the WTO with its
participants identified one to two immediate        allies will increase U.S. leverage against
steps and several longer-term goals for the         China.102 Over the longer term, the United
new administration, as indicated in the table       States will be well served to champion a
below. These proposed actions seek to               meaningful reform of the WTO system and the
maximize restoration of U.S. leadership and         rules of international trade to better align with
credibility    in   the    international   order,   the interests of the American people, rather
contribution      to    addressing       pressing   than letting its rivals write rules that serve
transnational threats, and the reimagination of     their interests.103 Only once such reform efforts
the international order to better serve the         bear fruit visible to the American people, can
interests of the American people in light of        the United States advance a new version of
real political and financial constraints.           the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will secure
                                                    U.S. economic and political interests in the
Given the critical role multilateral action must    Asia Pacific and counter China’s Regional
play in addressing the growing risks posed by       Comprehensive          Economic      Partnership
transnational threats, U.S. multilateral policy     (RCEP).104
must prioritize these collective challenges.

A Strategic Roadmap for Reentry 2021 and Beyond

Finally, in the international security space, the     shift global norms and rewrite the rules of the
new administration must prioritize using the          road. The American people’s confidence that
multilateral framework and international legal        multilateral engagement advances their
commitments to buttress the safety of the             interests and values could soon be irreparably
American people from both traditional and             broken.
new threats. As an immediate matter, that
demands renegotiating and rejoining the Joint         To avoid this dangerous world in which
Comprehensive Plan of Action to prevent the           America’s influence has been squandered,
development of an Iranian nuclear weapon105           other powers can unilaterally write the rules of
and negotiating an extension to the New               the global order, and collective responses to
START treaty with Russia.106 Over the longer-         transnational threats prove illusive, the United
term, the Biden administration must both              States needs a bold new approach to
build the political support necessary for the         multilateralism.
ratification of the United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which will            Such an approach requires new
significantly increase U.S. leverage in
addressing China’s growing naval capacities,107       thinking in our global strategy,
and lead a process toward the development of          changes to how partnerships and
more effective and enforceable cyber security
norms to address the threat of cyber conflict.108
                                                      alliances are built and stewarded,
                                                      and renewed attention to domestic
The need for re-engagement, reform, and               politics and bureaucratic structures.
restoration of the international order and U.S.
engagement with that order is overwhelming.           The Philadelphia Principles can
As the Biden administration begins that effort        guide U.S. multilateral policy in that
in light of a new geostrategic environment, a
series of early steps, ideally within the first one   direction.
hundred days of the new administration, must          Globally, the United States must recognize
reverse the most counterproductive moves of           that international institutions are now defined
the past four years, signal to its partners and       by great power competition and respond in
allies that the United States is returning to the     kind. Simultaneously, the United States must
multilateral table, and begin to show the             work zealously to advance solutions to
American people that the multilateral system          pressing transnational challenges—notably
can serve their interests. Other key priorities       climate change. In building partnerships and
require a longer-term effort that builds support      alliances, the United States must put values
with allies and partners, with the American           first and prioritize working with countries that
people, and within the legislative branch. Small      share common commitments to human rights
steps now, a concerted effort to build strong         and democracy. To an ever-greater degree the
values-based partnerships, and meaningful             United States must adopt a variable approach
engagement with the American people can               to the institutions it uses, focusing efforts both
pave the way for those bolder moves in the            in traditional fora and on a broader array of
years to come.                                        informal      institutions    and    non-binding
                                                      commitments. In domestic political and
Part IV: Conclusion                                   bureaucratic processes, U.S. policymakers
                                                      must better integrate multilateral and bilateral
The United States is at a critical juncture in its    diplomacy strategically and structurally so
engagement with the global institutional and          that these two pillars of U.S. diplomacy are
international legal order. In light of a radically    mutually reinforcing. Finally, and perhaps most
changed geostrategic and domestic political           critically, the U.S. government must ensure
landscape, the U.S. ability to effectively            that multilateral policy objectives actually
advance its interests through the international       serve the interests of the American people.
institutions it created 75 years ago is waning.       Collectively, these principles can make
Longstanding underinvestment in international         multilateralism an effective tool to advance
institutions and recent exits from international      American interests and ensure lasting U.S.
commitments could leave the United States a           influence in a more competitive global
permanent outsider in the multilateral policy         landscape.
space. Rival powers, notably China, could soon
cement leadership roles and lasting influence         With the Philadelphia Principles guiding a new
in international institutions that allow them to      U.S. approach, the Biden administration must
                                                      take immediate steps to re-engage the

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