On the presidential campaign trail in 2020, candidate Joe Biden promised to put democracy once again at the heart of U.S. foreign policy and to stand up for human rights. He criticized President Trump for being soft on Saudi Arabia, supported “stronger multilateral sanctions” on Venezuela and condemned Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “thug” who has put millions of people in labor camps.
In July 2021, Mr. Biden’s secretary of state, Antony Blinken, sent a cable to all U.S. diplomats, telling them to support local activists in their efforts to improve human rights and promote democratic values. “Standing up for democracy and human rights everywhere is not in tension with America’s national interests nor with our national security,” Mr. Blinken wrote.
Well, so much for that. As the last year has demonstrated, what’s actually at the heart of Mr. Biden’s foreign policy is the foolish pursuit of a green agenda — human rights and democracy be damned.
Last week, Mr. Biden lifted some sanctions on Venezuela, giving Chevron Corp. a license to resume oil production there. In October, Mr. Biden freed two relatives of socialist Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who were being held in U.S. jails on drug convictions and had been dubbed by U.S. authorities as the “narco nephews.”
This comes as Mr. Maduro’s corrupt government continues its practices of arbitrary killings, forced disappearing of critics, torture, life-threatening prison conditions, arbitrary arrests, surveillance of citizens and restrictions on free expression. Mr. Maduro, once labeled “a tyrant” by Mr. Biden, stole his most recent election, allowed his cronies to enrich themselves, and denied food and medicine to his suffering people. There have been reports that Mr. Maduro is releasing violent prisoners from his jails and pushing them to join caravans heading toward the U.S. southern border.
Yet Mr. Biden — so eager for other countries to pump more oil so the U.S. doesn’t have to — has seemingly turned a blind eye to all of this. In return for the easing of sanctions, all Mr. Maduro had to do was promise he would resume talks with his political opposition.
Mr. Biden last month quietly gave Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, immunity from a lawsuit for the murder of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration argued that the move was a diplomatic and legal norm for the head of a foreign government — but it directly contradicts Mr. Biden’s promises on the campaign trail.
In a 2020 presidential debate, a moderator noted that “the CIA has concluded that the leader of Saudi Arabia directed the murder” of Khashoggi and asked Mr. Biden if he would punish senior Saudi leaders. “Yes,” Mr. Biden quickly responded. “We are going to make them pay the price and make them the pariah that they are.”
Why did Mr. Biden cave? Well, he needs the Saudis to pump more oil. Mr. Biden has released more than 200 million barrels from the federal emergency oil reserve after the OPEC+ oil-producing countries (including Venezuela) decided to cut production in October. This comes as Mr. Biden promises to end domestic drilling one day. On Wednesday, Amos Hochstein, the administration’s chief envoy on energy security issues, doubled down on this promise in an interview with CNBC: “Eventually we are — we’re going to be phasing out the use of oil,” he said.
To help transition to alternative “green energies,” Mr. Biden has excused humanitarian violations in China and offered only tepid support for its COVID-19 protesters this week.
In June, Mr. Biden declared a “solar panel emergency,” and waived tariffs on solar panels imported from four Southeast Asia countries. The tariffs were in place because of accusations of China’s use of Uyghur Muslim slave labor to produce the polysilicon needed to make the panels.
Last year, the Trump administration’s State, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security and Labor departments, along with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, released a report that concluded the Chinese government “continues to carry out genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.”
The report said China “dominates global solar supply chains and mounting evidence indicates that solar products and inputs at nearly every step of the production process, from raw silicon material mining to final solar module assembly, are linked to known or probably forced labor programs.” Chinese solar companies control 70% of the global supply for solar-grade polysilicon, of which 45% is manufactured in Xinjiang.
Yet an emergency needed to be declared so that U.S. importers could have “access to a sufficient supply of solar modules to assist in meeting our electricity generation needs,” according to a White House statement.
That’s a win for China and the green energy lobby. But it’s a loss to anyone who ever thought Mr. Biden would actually fulfill his pledge to stand up for human rights and democratic values on the world stage.
The president’s green energy policies are making America weaker — and emboldening and rewarding our enemies in the process.
• Kelly Sadler is the commentary editor at The Washington Times.