President Biden in remarks delivered virtually to the Munich Security Conference on Friday continued with his “America is back” theme, aimed as a critique of Trump’s “America First” message. Significantly it was the first major speech given before an international audience at an event attended by top global security officials and world leaders. On the same day he emphasized a similar ‘global partnerships’ thread in an address to G-7 leaders.
He didn’t specifically invoke Trump by name, but the implications were clear when Biden said before the Munich event, “America is back, the transatlantic alliance is back, and we are not looking backward. We are looking forward together.” And further at a moment when US-NATO relations are somewhat strained after four years of Trump hounding Europe to pull its weight in terms of defense spending, he called the European partnership “the cornerstone of all we hope to accomplish in the 21st century.” With this in mind, he was emphatic that: “The trans-Atlantic alliance is back.”
“I know the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined — determined — to re-engage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trust and leadership,” he said.
He added later in the address: “I come to Europe on behalf of a new administration, and an administration that’s determined to set a new tone not only in Washington, but in America’s relations around the world.”
He said in the speech that “democratic progress is under assault,” and urged that “We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people. That is our galvanizing mission.”
“Let me erase any lingering doubt: the United States will work closely with our European partners.”
Here’s how Bloomberg previewed and summarized Biden’s message to the world Friday:
- Joe Biden is ditching the America First mentality in favor of global cooperation. In a politically risky reset effort, his administration said the U.S. is willing to meet with Iran over the nuclear deal that Donald Trump quit.
- The reset may not pay off. Iran appeared to snub Biden’s offer to begin direct discussions before officially rejoining the accord. It wants the U.S. to return to the deal and lift sanctions before they talk.
- Better luck elsewhere? The president will re-introduce the U.S. to world leaders in a pair of international conferences today, calling for partnerships in a sharp departure from his predecessor’s foreign policy.
On Iran, Biden said at a moment Tehran has vowed to not reengage unless Washington provides sanctions relief first, “We’re prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear program.”
“We must also address Iran’s destabilizing activities across the Middle East, and we’re going to work in close cooperation with our European and other partners as we proceed,” he added.
He also took swipes at China and Russia over “autocratic” tendencies and rule. Especially of note is that while referring to Russia as a “bully” he said, “We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future direction of our world. Between those who argue that — given all of the challenges we face, from the fourth industrial revolution to a global pandemic — autocracy is the best way forward and those who understand that democracy is essential to meeting those challenges.”
“Historians will examine and write about this moment. It’s an inflection point. And I believe with every ounce of my being that democracy must prevail.”