Biden is trying to regain Europe's confidence after the Trump era

President Biden attempted on Friday to reassure US allies that he is turning the page of his predecessor's "America First" approach and restoring a foreign policy that values ​​working with the world's major democracies to address global challenges.

In two virtual appearances in front of world leaders, his first as president, Biden emphasized that he is restoring and building on the diplomatic achievements of the Obama administration, including the 2015 multinational nuclear deal with Iran and the Paris climate agreement, and seeks to to act together against threats from Russia and China.

“America is back. The transatlantic alliance is back and we are not looking back. We are happy together, ”said Biden at the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of world leaders to discuss international security.

Biden reiterated US commitment to Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the treaty members' promise of mutual defense that was a pillar of the postwar democratic order but which former President Trump was reluctant to accept.

"I know the past few years have put our transatlantic relationship to the test," said Biden. "But the United States is determined – determined – to reconnect with Europe, to consult with you in order to regain our leadership position."

However, the president faces a daunting task of convincing allies, many of whom emerged from the Trump years nervous about US reliability, said James Townsend, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who is now at the Center for a New American Security, a centrist Washington think tank, works.

"The big problem for Biden is trust in the sense that many allies are still not convinced of where our policies are going," Townsend said. "So many of them think," Should we hedge because we don't know if we can trust the US to consistently say what Biden says? "

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

“Our partnerships have endured and grown over the years because they are rooted in the richness of our shared democratic values. They are not transactions. They are not extractive, ”said Biden, implicitly rejecting Trump's mercantilist worldview and indifference to democratic values, which strained alliances and enabled opponents.

The Biden government had already signaled a break with Trump's nationalist approach. Gone is Trump's constant criticism that allies fail to pay their share of defense costs. Instead, US officials publicly commend allies for increasing their spending since 2014 – when President Obama brokered an agreement to increase military budgets – but insist that some countries are still falling short.

With Japan, a frequent Trump target, the government last week approved a one-year extension of an agreement on how much Tokyo will contribute to U.S. troop bases and silently defused an issue the former president had raised to a major confrontation . Biden also halted plans to remove 12,000 soldiers from Germany, which Trump proposed in part to punish the country for not spending enough on its military.

The Allies' skepticism about US reliability, reflecting concern that Biden's successors might return to a nationalist path, was made clear in remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday. He renewed his call for European "strategic autonomy" from Washington and deviated from Biden's support for a return to dependence on NATO.

"I am a defender of European sovereignty, of strategic autonomy, not because I am against NATO or because I doubt our American friends, but because I am clear about 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 US."

Such divisions between Washington and Europe could become even clearer if Biden urges NATO members to take a more confrontational stance towards Beijing and Moscow. Many European governments prefer less confrontational approaches for both countries.

US frustration is also unlikely to subside as Europe slowly achieves NATO's goal of each member spending at least 2% of its gross domestic product on defense. Nine of the 30 NATO members will reach the goal this year. Three hit it in 2014. But Germany and other allies are still lagging behind.

In earlier comments on a separate virtual meeting of allies in the Group of Seven, made up of leaders from major industrialized nations, Biden announced one US investment of $ 4 billion in COVAX, a cooperative global vaccination effort that Trump spurned.

Six weeks after pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol to halt Congressional certification of electoral college results, Biden admitted that "democratic advances are under attack" in the US and across Europe. The present moment, he said, marks "a turning point" in the direction of global powers.

“We have to show that democracies can still deliver for our people. This is our electroplating mission, ”said Biden. "Democracy is no accident. We have to defend it. Strengthen it. Renew it. We have to prove that our model is not a relic of our history. This is the best way to make the promise of our future come true."

He continued, "When we work with our democratic partners with strength and confidence, I know that we will meet every challenge and surpass every challenger."

Biden's first major foray on the world stage coincided with the US official re-entry into the Paris Agreement. Trump announced in June 2017 that he was pulling out of the pact, claiming that it was damaging the US economy.

Biden announced that the US would resume the deal, to which almost every country belongs, on his first day in office, but the move did not take effect for 30 days.

The return to the 2015 nuclear deal between the US, five partner countries and Iran will be more difficult. In his remarks, Biden stopped formulating a time frame or certain conditions for the resumption of talks with Tehran. He echoed Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken's comments on Thursday express a desire to renew an agreement as soon as Iran fully complies with the original conditions again.

"The threat of nuclear proliferation continues to require careful diplomacy and cooperation between us," said Biden. "We also have to deal with Iran's destabilizing activities in the Middle East and will work closely with our European and other partners as we move forward."

Biden also promised to act in close consultation with European allies against China and Russia. Claiming that he greets the "stiff" economic competition from ChinaHe vowed to work to punish Beijing for its human rights abuses and forced, unfair economic practices, stating, "Everyone must play by the same rules."

His strong criticism of Russia meant a postponement for the United States after four years in which, despite the geopolitical threat posed by Moscow, allies were confused by Trump's coziness with President Vladimir Putin.

"Putin is trying to weaken the European project and our NATO alliance," said Biden. Tackling Russian “ruthlessness” in relation to cyberattacks and other abuses is “vital to protecting our collective security”.

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