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  • Author: Sibel Oktay, Paul Poast, Dina Smeltz, Craig Kafura
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Abstract: The Council's polling experts examine how American foreign policy experts think of the term "allies," and whether variations in thinking matter for US foreign policy decisions. “America is back,” President Joseph Biden pronounced at the State Department in February 2021. His comment ostensibly meant the United States was returning to the international fold after leaving a global leadership void during the Trump years. The previous administration had downplayed—even discounted—American alliances as key US foreign policy tools. “We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s,” Biden stated. At the NATO summit four months later, Biden reiterated his administration’s key message and commitment to the alliance. Emblematic of this commitment, he and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also signed a “New Atlantic Charter” recommitting both nations to their “alliances and partners.” The United States is unique in the world in terms of security alliances. The country enjoys “the largest and most enduring military footprint” in recent history. From military bases to providing training and material assistance, this footprint is largely enabled through allies. Hence, it is perhaps unsurprising that recent surveys show a perception among Americans that alliances largely benefit the United States. But what is meant by the term “allies”? Given the variety of military partnerships and relationships maintained by the United States, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the term “ally” is used to describe countries across this range of relationships. Some countries have a formal defensive treaty with the United States, while others are merely recipients of US military financial aid. How do American foreign policy experts think of the term “allies,” and does variation in such thinking matter?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Public Opinion, Partnerships, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Global Focus, United States of America