American adversaries and rogue nations around the world sense a “power vacuum” in the United States in the final days of the 2020 presidential elections that raises the risk of foreign policy crises, allied sources fear.
“In our region, we feel that America doesn’t have time, wish, or resources or political will to devote attention, and we also feel some kind of vacuum,” a Baltic official said. “We feel the absence of America from our region, and this absence has some negative connotations.”
The proliferation of that sentiment has left allies feeling more vulnerable to threats from Russia and China over the coming weeks. It may account even for the hardening of disputes within the U.S. alliance network, such as the recent surge in aggressive foreign policy moves by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Erdogan is becoming more prone to risk-taking,” Greek lawmaker Dimitrios Kairidis told the Washington Examiner. “He feels a bit more emboldened, the closer we go to the elections. In his mind now, he sees a power vacuum in Washington he wants to exploit.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin feels a similar sense of freedom, the Baltic official suggested. That assessment is linked to the recent controversy in Washington over whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is using his diplomatic post to aid President Trump’s reelection campaign — Democratic critics have faulted him for holding official events in battleground states such as Wisconsin — has contributed to that unease abroad.
“It might be connected to the election cycle. Secretary Pompeo is very much involved in internal politics now,” the Baltic official said. “The facts are, America’s leadership is missed here.”
Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper have maintained busy travel schedules in recent weeks, sometimes in the face of domestic critics who suggest that “the concern about continuity of government” following Trump’s recent coronavirus diagnosis should have curtailed their itineraries.