Biden says ‘days of rolling over’ to Russia are done as he signals foreign policy reset from Trump era

In first remarks from State Department, president outlines diplomatic commitments and approach to Putin 'in a manner very different from my predecessor'

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 04 February 2021 21:55
Biden says US no longer ‘rolling over’ to Russia
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President Joe Biden said his administration is working to rebuild "the muscles of democratic alliances that have atrophied from four years of neglect and abuse" following Donald Trump's term in office.

In his first visit to the US Department of State on Thursday, the president pledged to stand "shoulder to shoulder with our allies and key partners once more", while stressing that "leading with diplomacy must also mean engaging our adversaries and our competitors diplomatically where it is in our interest and advances the security of the American people".

He said that he "made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive action" – pointing to cyber attacks from the SolarWinds breach, election interference and the poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny – "are over."

The US president said Mr Navalny "has been targeted for exposing corruption" and "should be released immediately and without condition".

Read more: Follow live updates from the Biden administration

"We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people," he said.

President Biden outlined a series of foreign policy initiatives, including a global review of US armed forces, and end to US military support for the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen, and an executive order on the US refugee admissions programme undermined by the Trump administration.

"America is back. Diplomacy is back," he said in his first major foreign policy speech since taking office.

"We must meet this new moment of accelerating global challenges – from a pandemic to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation – that will only be solved by nations working together in common cause," he said in prepared remarks. "That must start with diplomacy, rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, treating every person with dignity."

The president said he will appoint an envoy to focus on the war in Yemen, where Saudi Arabian military operations supported by the US have created a humanitarian crisis and led to the deaths of thousands of people during a "war that has created humanitarian and strategic catastrophe," he said.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will lead a "global force posture review" of the state of US armed forces, including a freeze on "any troop redeployments from Germany ... so our military footprint is appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities."

The administration will also plan to increase the number of refugees admitted into the US, which the Trump administration capped at 15,000 per year, the lowest in decades.

"Moral leadership on refugee issues was a point of bipartisan consensus for so many decades," the president said.

The president's message to State Department staff on Thursday sought to rebuild trust between the White House and an agency that his predecessor referred to as "the deep state department".

"In our administration, you’re going to be trusted and you’re going to be empowered," the president told State Department employees ahead of his remarks on Thursday.

The former president visited the state department only one time during his four-year term, while he repeatedly attacked career diplomats and other officials.

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