FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

‘America is back’: Biden tries to regain Europe’s trust

President Joe Biden turns the page on America First agenda

President Joe Biden tried to reassure U.S. allies Friday that he is turning the page on his predecessor’s “America First” approach and restoring a foreign policy that values cooperation with the world’s major democracies to tackle global challenges.

In two virtual appearances before world leaders, his first as president, Biden emphasized that he is restoring and building upon the Obama administration’s diplomatic achievements, including the 2015 multination nuclear deal with Iran and the Paris climate accord, and seeking to work collaboratively to contain threats from Russia and China.

“America is back. The trans-Atlantic alliance is back, and we are not looking backward. We are looking forward together,” Biden declared to the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of world leaders to discuss international security.

Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Article V, the mutual-defense promise among treaty members that has been a pillar of the postwar democratic order but which former President Donald Trump had only grudgingly embraced.

“I know the last few years have tested our trans-Atlantic relationship,” Biden said. “But the United States is determined — determined — to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of leadership.”

The president nonetheless faces a hard job persuading allies, many of whom emerged from the Trump years nervous about U.S. reliability, said James Townsend, a former deputy assistant secretary of Defense now at the Center for a New American Security, a centrist Washington think tank.

“The big issue for Biden is trust, in the sense that a lot of allies are still not convinced where our politics are heading,” Townsend said. “So many of them are thinking, ‘Should we hedge because we don’t know if we can trust that the U.S. will say consistently what Biden is already saying?’”

The president asserted that democratic nations, by working together on the three urgent global challenges — the COVID-19 pandemic, economic instability and the climate crisis, would help avert another threat: the rise of autocratic governments.

“Our partnerships have endured and grown through the years because they are rooted in the richness of our shared democratic values. They’re not transactional. They’re not extractive,” Biden said, implicitly disavowing Trump’s mercantilist world view and indifference to democratic values, which strained alliances and enabled adversaries.

The Biden administration had already signaled a break from Trump’s nationalist approach. Gone is Trump’s constant criticism that allies don’t pay their share of defense costs. Instead, U.S. officials publicly commend allies for having increased their spending since 2014 — when President Barack Obama brokered an agreement that they boost military budgets — but they firmly add that some countries still fall short.

With Japan, a frequent Trump target, the administration last week approved a one-year extension of an agreement on how much Tokyo contributes toward bases used by U.S. troops, quietly defusing an issue the former president had elevated into a major confrontation. Biden also halted plans to remove 12,000 troops from Germany, which Trump had proposed in part to punish the country for not spending enough on its military.

Allies’ skepticism about U.S. reliability, reflecting its concern that Biden’s successors could return to a nationalist path, were evident Thursday in remarks from French President Emmanuel Macron. He renewed his call for European “strategic autonomy” from Washington, diverging from Biden’s support for a return to reliance on NATO.

“I am a defender of European sovereignty, of strategic autonomy, not because I’m against NATO or because I doubt our American friends, but because I am lucid on the state of the world,” Macron said in an interview with the Financial Times. “Europe cannot delegate its protection and the protection of its neighborhood to the USA.”

Such splits between Washington and Europe may become even more visible if Biden pushes NATO members to take a more confrontational stance toward Beijing and Moscow. Many European governments favor less confrontational approaches to both countries.

Nor will U.S. frustration likely abate at Europe’s go-slow approach to meeting NATO’s goal that each member spend at least 2% of its gross domestic product on its defense. Nine of the 30 NATO members will reach the target this year; three met it in 2014. But Germany and other allies still lag behind.

In earlier remarks to a separate virtual session of allies in the Group of Seven, made up of leaders of the major industrialized nations, Biden announced a $4 billion U.S. investment in COVAX, a cooperative global vaccination effort that Trump had spurned.

Six weeks after pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol to halt Congress’ certification of the electoral college results, Biden acknowledged that “democratic progress is under assault” in the United States and across Europe. The current moment, he said, marks “an inflection point” in the direction of global powers.

“We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people. That is our galvanizing mission,” Biden 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. It’s the single best way to realize the promise of our future.”

He went on: “If we work together with our democratic partners, with strength and confidence, I know that we will meet every challenge and outpace every challenger.”

Biden’s first major foray on the world stage coincided with the U.S. officially rejoining the Paris climate agreement. Trump announced in June 2017 that he was withdrawing from the pact, contending that it hurt the U.S. economy.

Biden announced that the U.S. would reenter the accord, which includes almost every country, on his first day in office, but the move didn’t take effect for 30 days.

Returning to the 2015 nuclear agreement among the U.S., five partner nations and Iran will be more difficult. In his remarks, Biden stopped short of articulating a timeframe or specific preconditions for resuming talks with Tehran. He echoed Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s comments Thursday expressing a desire to renew an agreement once Iran returns to full compliance with the original terms.

“The threat of nuclear proliferation continues to require careful diplomacy, cooperation among us,” Biden said. “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.”

Biden also vowed to work in close consultation with European allies to confront China and Russia. Asserting that he welcomes the “stiff” economic competition from China, he vowed to work to punish Beijing for its human rights abuses and coercive, unfair economic practices, stating: “Everyone must play by the same rules.”

His strong criticisms of Russia marked a shift for the United States, after four years in which allies had been perplexed by Trump’s coziness with President Vladimir Putin despite the geopolitical threat posed by Moscow.

“Putin seeks to weaken the European project and our NATO alliance,” Biden said. Addressing Russian “recklessness” with regard to cyberattacks and other malfeasance “has become critical to protecting our collective security.”

READ MORE: Biden will try to close Guantanamo after ‘robust’ review

READ MORE: Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From now to November, WildsafeBC will be educating the public through its various programs in the community of Bella Coola. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bears are back, and so is WildSafeBC

Rae will be working hard to reach out to community members in new and innovative ways

Bella Coola’s new WildSafeBC co-ordinator, Rae Kokeš, has spent the last 10 years in Africa working in lion, human, conflict, and is a wildlife biologist by trade. (Photo submitted)
From the savannas of Africa to the Bella Coola Valley

New Wildsafe BC coordinator ready to tackle wildlife conflict

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Stolen truck found broken down on Highway 97C, Williams Lake suspect arrested near Ashcroft

A security guard first noticed the truck, and thought it looked suspicious

This will be the second year the Bella Coola Valley Rodeo won’t take place due to the pandemic. (Michael Wigle file photo)
Bella Coola Valley Rodeo cancelled for 2021

Club organizers say next year’s rodeo will be bigger and better than ever

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Most Read