President Joe Biden has urged US allies to work together against autocratic threats and to meet economic challenges posed by Russia and China in a message to G7 partners that underscored his “America is back” rallying cry in stark contrast to his predecessor’s “America first” agenda.
The US president sought to rally allies and repair bonds scorched by Donald Trump and his nationalist administration in a virtual address to the Munich Security Conference from the White House on Friday, his first major remarks on the global stage since taking office last month.
"I know the past few years have strained and tested our trans-Atlantic relationship,” he said. “The United States is determined ... to re-engage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trust and leadership."
He said the US and G7 partners are in the midst of a “fundamental debate” and an “inflection point” as he pointed to threats to democracy accelerated by the climate crisis and coronavirus pandemic, but he urged that the US and trans-Atlantic partners “must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people.”
“That is our galvanizing mission,” he said. “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it. Strengthen it. Renew it. We have to prove that our model isn’t a relic of our history ... If we work together with our democratic partners, with strength and confidence, we will meet every challenge and face every challenger.”
In his last appearance at the conference in 2017, following the ascension of Mr Trump, Mr Biden vowed to world leaders that America “will be back.”
“I’m a man of my word,” he said on Friday. “I’m sending a clear message to the world: America is back.”
The president said that while he expects and welcomes “stiff” competition from China, the world’s second-largest economy, he stressed that the US and its allies must push against its “abusive” policies.
Russia has “weaponised corruption” as its president Vladimir Putin “seeks to weaken the European project and our NATO alliance,” Mr Biden said.
“It’s so much easier for the Kremlin to bully individual states than negotiate with the trans-Atlantic community,” he said, urging partners to defend Ukraine sovereignty and “address Russian recklessness” like cyber-hacking attacks that threaten to destabilise governments and undermine national security.
He also said that world leaders “can no longer do the bare minimum” to face the growing climate crisis and must work to “aggressively” curb emissions and hold other nations accountable.
On Friday, the US formally returned to the Paris climate accord after the former president rejected the agreement.
He also has committed $4 billion from the US to Gavi, the international alliance behind the World Health Organisation-backed Covid-19 vaccine effort for middle- and lower-income countries known as the Covax Advance Market Commitment – Mr Trump had declined to join international vaccination efforts and announced the US withdrawal from WHO.
Mr Biden retracted the US withdrawal from the global health agency within his first week in office.
An administration official told reporters on Thursday that “decreasing the burden of disease decreases the risk to everyone in the world, including Americans. It also decreases the risk of variants occurring like those that we’re seeing now, so it’s critically important to search vaccination globally, while of course prioritizing vaccinations here at home.”
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