President Biden on Friday hailed the importance of the alliance between the U.S. and Europe, while also taking a number of thinly-veiled shots at his predecessor.
“I’m sending a clear message to the world, America is back, the transatlantic alliance is back and we’re not looking backward, we’re looking forward together,” he said in a virtual address to the annual Munich Security Conference.
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“The partnership between Europe and the United States in my view is and must remain the cornerstone of all we hope to accomplish in the 21st century just as we did in the 20th century,” he said.
In the address, Biden reasserted that his administration is pausing Trump-era troop withdrawals from Germany and lifting the cap on the number of U.S. forces that can be based in Germany.
Biden has sought to reach out to repair what his administration sees as damaged alliances left behind by the Trump administration — whose “America First” approach grated on allies at times. Biden has pledged to re-enter international agreements and institutions such as the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal.
On climate change he declared, “We can no longer do the bare minimum to address climate change — this is a global existential crisis.”
He made references to the sometimes-prickly relationship Trump had with some European allies.
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‘I know the past few years have strained and tested our Transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined, determined to re-engage with Europe, consult with you, to earn back our position of trust and leadership,” he said.
He also told participants that the world was at an “inflection point between those who argue that given all the challenges we face from the fourth industrial revolution, the global pandemic, that autocracy is the best way forward… and those who understand that democracy is essential to meeting these challenges.”
Michael Ryan, a former senior defense official during the Trump administration, said he believed the speech would be received well in Europe.
“I thought it was motherhood and apple pie for the transatlantic relationship, which is not a bad thing,” he told Fox News. “At the outset of an administration, he has to set the tone, which he did very well.”
Ryan said that the Biden administration should capitalize on a honeymoon period from across the Atlantic to pin allies down on issues such as an agreed security agenda. He also noted that the speech will be the first of many to allies by Biden.
“Rhetorically a very important speech at this inflection point, as President Biden called it, and it’s important from the standpoint of only the United States and Europe working together can address the major challenges of our day,” he said.
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Biden also spoke about the economic challenges and security threats posed by both China and Russia — calling the threat from Beijing different to that from Moscow “but just as real.”
He also announced the the U.S. will be releasing $4 billion for an international COVID-19 vaccination effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) for poorer nations — something his predecessor did not support.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.