After four years of a Trump administration that flaunted its foreign policy through a “America First” prism, President Joe Biden used his first speech before a global audience Saturday to announce that “America is back, the transatlantic alliance is back.”
Biden practically ticked through a daunting to-do list at the annual Munich Security Conference, salvaging the Iran nuclear agreement, meeting China and Russia’s economic and security problems, and fixing the harm caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which he said would entail close coordination between the U.S. and its Western allies.
Biden combined talk of a reinvigorated democratic alliance with a criticism of his predecessor’s strategy, a message warmly received by Western allies, without mentioning Donald Trump’s name once in his address.
‘I know the past few years have strained and tested the transatlantic relationship,” Biden said. “The United States is determined to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership.”
As the U.S. has rethought long-held national security and economic interests embedded in the transatlantic alliance, China has cemented its position as a fierce economic rival on the continent. Populism has spread across most of Europe. And other Western countries, as America stepped back from the world stage, have at times tried to fill the void left.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that there are still “complicated” differences between the U.S. and Europe. Europe sees China’s economic ambitions as less of an existential threat than the U.S. and has its own strategic and economic concerns that are also not always in sync with Russia’s Biden.
He said the U.S. is prepared to rejoin negotiations on re-entering the Trump administration’s collapsed 2015 multilateral Iran nuclear agreement. The administration of Biden announced its intention to re-engage Iran on Thursday, and it took steps at the United Nations to return policy to what it was before Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018.
Biden also talked about the two-decade war in Afghanistan, where he faces a deadline of May 1 to withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. forces under a peace deal with the Taliban signed by the Trump administration. He also called for cooperation in addressing Russia and China’s economic and national security challenges and described cyberspace, artificial intelligence and biotechnology as highly competitive fields.
“Together, we must prepare for a long-term strategic competition with China,” Biden said.
The underlying argument that democracies, not autocracies, are models of governance that can best meet the challenges of the moment was based on his message. The President urged fellow world leaders to demonstrate together that “democracies can still deliver.”