Joe Biden approval ratings are falling while crisis density is increasing. A fist salute picture with the Saudi crown prince, whom he wanted to treat as a “pariah”, comes at the wrong time.

No, the starting position was not thankful. Former US President Donald Trump tore down too many bridges, which his successor in office is now laboriously rebuilding. Whether in Europe, Asia or the USA: In many places it was and is for Joe Biden to mend broken relationships, to revive connections to old allies and to set new ones in motion.

In short, Biden is trying to fix what Trump has wrecked—and, at best, cement alliances.

His declared goal: Biden wants to push back the global influence of Russia and China and forge a front against Iran. And so his foreign policy assembly mission now also took him to the Middle East.

It was his first visit as US President, the trip took him to Israel and the West Bank. But also to Saudi Arabia – and to Mohammed bin Salman, to the crown prince whom the CIA holds responsible for the murder of the “Washington Post” journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi and whom Biden actually treats as a “pariah” and “outsider”. wanted, as he announced in the 2020 presidential election campaign.

A “gross betrayal”

The first meeting between Biden and bin Salman was followed with corresponding attention. Alone: ​​How would the US President greet the Crown Prince? Before the trip, the White House announced that Biden would avoid physical contact as much as possible – allegedly because of Corona. Or is it so as not to have to shake hands with the crown prince – who, from the point of view of the USA, has blood on his hands?

It was then a fist bump, a fist salute, and not the much-discussed handshake. But enough to end up as breaking news on the smartphone and produce headlines worldwide. In the US media in particular, the gesture has been the subject of controversial discussions and comments, here as “gross treason” (“Washington Post”), there as “risky” (CNN). A greeting becomes a political issue.

And that could be a problem for Biden. The trip brought few tangible results – however, a vivid photo with the crown prince saluting fists – although Biden has come closer to his goal of cementing US alliances in the Middle East.

“The bottom line is that this trip is once again about positioning America in this region for the future,” he explained of the controversial meeting in Jeddah. “We will not leave a vacuum in the Middle East for Russia or China to fill.”

Whether the project succeeds remains to be seen. But US citizens have other immediate concerns than US concerns in the world. According to recent surveys, Americans are currently primarily concerned with the general economic situation and high inflation in the country, which is particularly noticeable at the gas pump.

The fist greeting photo obviously doesn’t fit into the picture, although Biden also traveled to Saudi Arabia due to the oil crisis caused by the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. Democratic Senator Chris Coons defended the controversial trip as a necessity, because the US President had no choice but to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia – after all, the world’s largest oil producer.

Difficult position for Joe Biden

But a campaign hit looks different, literally—when Biden could use one. According to “FiveThirtyEight”, the US President’s approval rating is currently a meager 38.5 percent, according to a survey by the “New York Times” the figure for US Democrats is only 33 percent. A large majority of 64 percent of his party supporters even support someone other than Biden running for the presidency in 2024.

In general, Biden has 99 problems that need to be solved – as does the corona pandemic and the fight for liberal abortion rights, which the Supreme Court recently overturned. In November, the Americans will elect a new House of Representatives, according to current surveys, Biden’s Democrats are in danger of losing the election.

Against this background, Biden himself has no use for unpleasant snapshots. It can therefore be assumed that the Republicans will repeatedly pull out the picture of the fist salute during the election campaign. “A fist salute to the crown prince,” commented Congressman Michael Cloud on Twitter, “and a slap in the face to the oil and gas workers in Texas.”

But the pictures were also met with incomprehension by some Democrats. “If we’ve ever needed a visual reminder of the influence of oil-rich autocrats on US policy in the Middle East, we got it today,” tweeted Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee. “A fist bump says more than a thousand words.”

No, the starting position is not thankful.