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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) attacked Joe Biden's foreign policy record in his speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, arguing that the former senator and vice president has "aided and abetted China’s rise for fifty years with terrible trade deals."

Why it matters: Cotton, a hardline conservative and China hawk, is widely seen as a potential 2024 Republican candidate for president. The Trump campaign and Biden campaign have gone back and forth in accusing each candidate of being soft on China.

Catch up quick: Cotton rattled off a list of what he argued are President Trump's biggest foreign policy wins: killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2017, and standing up to China through sanctions and tariffs.

What he's saying: "Joe Biden would return us to a weak and dangerous past. Barack Obama’s own secretary of defense said Joe Biden has been wrong on nearly every major national-security decision over the past four decades," Cotton said.

  • Cotton accused Biden of letting "ISIS terrorists rampage across the Middle East" and of treating Israel "like a nuisance," claimed that the Democratic nominee had "coddled socialist dictators in Cuba and Venezuela," and said that he had "allowed Chinese fentanyl to flood across our southern border."
  • "We need a president who stands up for America—not one who takes a knee," he said, appearing to reference a form of protest used by Black Lives Matter protesters.

Context: "I think I stand by that statement," Robert Gates, Obama's former defense secretary, told CBS "Face the Nation" last year when asked if he still believed Biden had been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy issue from the last forty years.

  • The Obama administration did not act on an urgent plea from public health experts in May 2016 to take action against thousands of Americans overdosing from fentanyl, per the Washington Post. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reportedly did not have the resources to curb fentanyl shipments from Mexico and China.
  • Deaths from drug overdoses, including fentanyl, have continued to climb since then, per the New York Times.

Go deeper

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

Dec 4, 2020 - World

Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

Updated 41 mins ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.