Biden warns democratic progress is ‘under assault’ from authoritarian regimes – USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden issued a clarion call on Friday to the world’s democracies, saying representative governments are “under assault” from authoritarian regimes seeking to dominate the global order. 

“We must demonstrate that democracy can still deliver for our people in this changed world,” Biden said during a virtual session of the Munich Security Conference.

“That, in my view, is our galvanizing mission,” Biden told other world leaders, in his first speech to an international audience since taking office.

Biden’s visceral appeal to America’s allies represents a 180-degree turnaround from the Trump era, and some European diplomats may still be suffering from whiplash. It came on the same day the U.S. formally rejoined the Paris climate accord and as the White House committed $4 billion to a global vaccine initiative, both of which the Trump administration spurned.

President Joe Biden speaks about foreign policy, at the State Department, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Washington.

A promise to ‘earn back’ trust

Biden has made it clear he wants to repair America’s alliances after four years in which former President Donald Trump alienated key U.S. partners with his abrasive style and erratic, sometimes punitive foreign policies.

He used the speech to try to erase “any lingering doubt,” as he put it, about America’s commitment to its alliances. He reiterated U.S. support for NATO and noted that he had paused Trump’s order to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany. 

“I know the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship,” Biden said. But the U.S. is determined, he said, to reengage and “to earn back our position of trust and leadership.”

He said the current geopolitical challenges – from the COVID-19 pandemic to the technological revolution – demanded a more unified approach from the U.S. and Europe.

“We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future and direction of our world, between those who argue that … autocracy is the best way forward and those who understand that democracy is essential to meeting these challenges,” Biden said.    

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Biden calls out China, Russia

He singled out Russia for its attacks on U.S. democracy and China for its predatory trade practices and human rights abuses.

While Trump often demurred to Moscow, Biden was pointed. “The Kremlin attacks our democracies and weaponizes corruption to try to undermine our system of governance,” he said.

Turning to China, Biden called for a collective response to “the Chinese government’s economic abuses and coercion that undercut the foundations of the international economic system.”  He said democratic nations need to push back “against those who would monopolize and normalize repression,” a clear reference to Beijing’s surveillance tactics.

But Biden also warned against returning to “the reflective opposition and rigid blocks of a Cold War,” saying while he welcomed competition with China he did not seek conflict.

He called on other world leaders to join together to defend self-government and “prove our model isn’t a relic” of history.

“We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it,” he said.

Biden’s remarks to the Munich conference came just hours after he participated in a closed-door session with leaders of the G7 countries, which focused on the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and its crippling economic impacts.

In a joint statement after the G7 meeting, other nations seemed to take up Biden’s call.

“Drawing on our strengths and values as democratic, open economies and societies, we will work together and with others to make 2021 a turning point for multilateralism,” the joint statement said, “and to shape a recovery that promotes the health and prosperity of our people and planet.”

In a tweet, president of the EU commission Ursala von der Leyen was effusive: “The US is back!”   

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Biden warns democratic progress is ‘under assault’ from authoritarian regimes – USA TODAY

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