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Biden expected to "engage, engage, engage" with global partners on COVID, climate, and nuclear standoffs

World leaders react to Biden's projected win
World leaders congratulate Biden on projected win, but some await "official results" 01:33

United Nations — The cornerstone of President-elect Joe Biden's foreign policy for almost half a century, just like his domestic policy, has been to reach across the aisle to build consensus and partnerships. But on a couple big issues that Mr. Biden feels can't wait, he's vowed to "jump start" changes in the trajectory on Day 1 of his presidency.

Mr. Biden has made it clear he will take immediate action to rejoin the Paris Climate accord, cooperating with dozens of other nations to slow the human causes of climate change, and that he'll renew U.S. partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) to address the coronavirus pandemic.  

On Monday, Mr. Biden's team announced the creation of a COVID-19 advisory task force, stressing the focus that he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will put on the public health crisis that has hit the U.S. harder than any other nation.

But there are myriad other global challenges on which the Biden administration is expected to quickly and aggressively re-engage with its allies, to the relief of many world leaders who have offered him their congratulations.

"A Biden administration would do the opposite of what the Trump administration has done" when it comes to global outreach and engagement, Mr. Biden's lead foreign policy advisor Antony Blinken told CBS News' Margaret Brennan a few months ago.  

On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden laid out foreign policy objectives that return to supporting international agreements and U.N. organizations including the Paris Climate accord, the WHO, the Iran Nuclear deal, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the United Nations itself.  

"Trump was so crass in his attacks on U.N. agencies like the WHO that Biden doesn't have to work very hard to show he is a different sort of leader," said Richard Gowan, U.N. Director for the International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank. "I think we will see the U.S. making a big point of re-engaging with the U.N. on climate change, global health and human rights." 

Gowan told CBS News he expected the Biden administration to, "engage, engage, engage."

The pandemic

On Monday morning, the Biden-Harris team "announced the formation of the Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, a team of leading public health experts who will advise President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, and the Transition's COVID-19 staff."

Mr. Biden tapped public health veterans Dr. David Kessler and Dr. Vivek Murthy, and Yale epidemiologist Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith to lead the team, stressing that "dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts."

President-elect Joe Biden announces transition COVID-19 advisory board 03:22

Speaking to CBS News before the election outcome was clear, Blinken acknowledged concerns over the WHO's early response to the coronavirus outbreak — particularly allegations amplified by the Trump administration that it cowed to China and delayed declaring the disease a major threat to global public health.

"Clearly the World Health Organization has things to answer for in terms of its initial reaction to the outbreak of COVID19, but at the same time, it has a critical role to play in the response, and it's also doing very important things around the world," said Blinken, adding that by railing against the organization — even planning to stop the U.S. working with it — the Trump White House "simply creates a vacuum that someone else is going to fill, and China has now raised its hand… That may not be so smart for us." 

Blinken said the U.S. should take the lead in helping to reform the WHO, and warned it would be "a big mistake" to "go AWOL" instead. Whether Mr. Biden will insist on reforms and more transparency as he re-engages with the WHO remained an unanswered question on Monday, but he has concluded that a global organization is necessary to address the pandemic. 

"Biden's team will push the WHO to face up to its mistakes over COVID, but will also join the international vaccine efforts Trump has ignored," said Gowan, of the International Crisis Group. 

The climate

With record numbers of devastating wildfires and extreme storms, the climate is becoming a bigger issue for many Americans, and climate change consistently appeared near the top of the agenda for Biden voters.

Even before the election was called Mr. Biden had pledged to immediately return to the 2015 Paris Climate accord, to press major polluters to make their targets for emissions reductions more ambitious, and to "stop countries from cheating by using America's economic leverage."

"Welcome back America!," Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a tweet on Saturday, wasting no time in congratulating Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, saying their campaign's success, "symbolizes our need to act together more than ever, in view of climate emergency."  

The President-elect supports the Green New Deal as a framework for the U.S., saying the health not only of the planet, but of the U.S. economy depends on shifting the job market and America's embrace of technology "from coastal towns to rural farms to urban centers."

 "When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, the only word he can muster is 'hoax,'" Biden said at one campaign event. "When I think about climate change, the word I think of is 'jobs.' Good-paying union jobs that put Americans to work."

American leadership 

After four years of President Trump's "America first" stance, Mr. Biden has laid out a plan he says will counter "the rise of populists, nationalists, and demagogues; the growing strength of autocratic powers and their efforts to divide and manipulate democracies; and the threats unique to our time, including the renewed threat of nuclear war, mass migration, the disruptive impact of new technologies, and climate change." 

As an example of the role the U.S. has historically played, which many countries hope to see it playing again, India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed neighbors whose simmering, decades-long rivalry has erupted into deadly clashes over the past year, both voiced optimism.

India-Pakistan tensions escalate over Kashmir 05:49

Pakistan's Ambassador Munir Akram told CBS News he expected the Biden administration to promote multilateral approaches to arms control and non-proliferation.

"This would also imply a reduction in great power rivalries and tensions and a revival of international cooperation. This would be widely welcomed," he said.

Indian Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, who recently left his post at the United Nations, told CBS News: "The climate is set to change for multilateralism; increased U.S. engagement with return to Paris Agreement & the WHO." 

Nuclear standoffs

Mr. Biden has said that Tehran must return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned two years ago by President Trump, but he's been clear that if does, his administration will "re-enter the agreement, using hard-nosed diplomacy and support from our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran's other destabilizing activities."  

The President-elect is adamant that the 2015 accord, "blocked Iran from getting a nuclear weapon… yet Trump decided to cast it aside, prompting Iran to restart its nuclear program." 

It won't be a smooth return to where Mr. Biden's former boss President Barack Obama left things, however. Iran's Foreign Ministry reiterated the point on Monday that it was the U.S. that walked away from the deal it helped create, and while Tehran may welcome Washington back to it, it's not interested in changing the terms.

How the U.S. presidential election impacts Iran 03:56

"It would be naïve to think that it is possible to renegotiate the JCPOA. The deal has been struck and sealed. Iran has announced repeatedly that the JCPOA relates to the past and could not be discussed again or renegotiated," ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said during a press briefing in Tehran on Monday. 

Regarding the threat posed by North Korea, Mr. Biden's stated policy is to bolster negotiations to "jump start" the stalled process of denuclearization. The Kim Jong Un regime has flouted U.N. embargoes and sanctions and enhanced its nuclear weapons capability in the wake of failed bilateral summits with Mr. Trump.   

North Korea issues new threat to South Korea as tensions rise 01:40

One key way Mr. Biden intends to get things moving again is by bringing Kim's key ally China back into Washington's dialogue with the North.  

The U.S. has also been negotiating with Russia to extend the New START Treaty, the last standing bilateral agreement on nuclear weapons between the countries, which is set to expire in February.

The Biden policy is to seek an extension and, "take other steps to demonstrate our commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons."  

U.S. "not going to allow Russia and China to continue" increasing nuclear stockpiles, top negotiator says 04:11
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