Biden reassures US allies the Trump era is over while taking swipes at China and Russia

  • Biden delivered his first major speech on the global stage.
  • Taking a different tone from Trump, he underscored that the US is committed to diplomacy.
  • Biden also called out Russia and China on their aggressive policies and tactics. 
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President Joe Biden moved to try to restore confidence in US leadership after the Trump era in his first big speech on the global stage on Friday. 

In a virtual address to the Munich Security Conference, the president underscored America’s commitment to democracy and diplomatic engagement.

“Let me erase any lingering doubt: the United States will work closely with our European partners,” Biden said. “I know the last few years have tested our transatlantic relationship. But the United States is determined — determined to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of leadership.”

Biden took a starkly different tone from former President Donald Trump during his remarks, especially on the NATO alliance and Russia.

Trump spent years bashing NATO and attacking fellow members on the subject of defense spending. Biden reassured NATO allies that the US has their back. “We’ll keep faith with Article 5,” Biden said, referring to NATO’s founding principle of collective defense. 

Similarly, while Trump habitually avoided criticizing Russia, Biden in his speech on Friday took swipes at Russian President Vladimir Putin, an authoritarian who has held the reins of power for five successive US presidential administrations.

“Putin seeks to weaken the European project and our NATO alliance. He wants to undermine the transatlantic unity and our resolve. Because it’s so much easier for the Kremlin to bully and threaten individual states then it is to negotiate with a strong and closely united transatlantic community,” Biden said. 

Biden said addressing “Russian recklessness and hacking into computer networks in the US” and other parts of the world has “become critical to protecting our collective security.”

 

As Republican critics in Congress accuse Biden of being too soft on Beijing, the president also used Friday’s speech as an opportunity to call out China on its economic practices. 

“Competition with China is going to be stiff,” Biden said, calling for the US and Europe to “push back against the Chinese government’s economic abuses and coercion.”

The president said he does not aim to pit “east against west” and doesn’t seek conflict.

“We want a future where all nations are able to freely determine their own path without a threat of violence or coercion,” Biden said. “We cannot and must not return to the reflective opposition and rigid blocs of the Cold War.”

Biden’s speech was designed to reassure allies that the US would not continue Trump’s go-it-alone approach to foreign affairs, while offering a sense of self-awareness that America lost credibility over the past four years. Polling has shown that European countries, in particular, increasingly lost faith in US leadership under Trump. 

“We cannot allow self-doubt to hinder our ability to engage each other or the larger world. The last four years have been hard, but Europe and the US have to lead with confidence once more,” Biden said. “I know we can do this.”

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