Biden reaches out to Europe: We're together again!

US president Joe Biden on Friday addressed directly a number of major issues in international relations and highlighted the importance of the transatlantic relationship when addressing by video-link the annual Munich Security Conference. Also speaking were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emanuel Macron.

The president's messages were clear: America is back to lead democratic countries:

I speak today as President of the United States at the very start of my administration, and I’m sending a clear message to the world: America is back.  The transatlantic alliance is back.  And we are not looking backward; we are looking forward, together. 

Biden said that the partnership between Europe and the United State is and must remain the cornerstone of all that America and Europe hope to accomplish in the 21st century. He added:

"We’re at an inflection point.  When I spoke to you as a senator and as even as Vice President, the global dynamics have shifted.  New crises demand our attention.  And we cannot focus only on the competition among countries that threaten to divide the world, or only on global challenges that threaten to sink us all together if we fail to cooperate.  We must do both, working in lockstep with our allies and partners.

So let me erase any lingering doubt: The United States will work closely with our European Union partners and the capitals across the continent — from Rome to Riga — to meet the range of shared challenges we face. We continue to support the goal of a Europe whole and free and at peace.  The United States is fully committed to our NATO Alliance, and I welcome Europe’s growing investment in the military capabilities that enable our shared defense.

Achieving these goals is going to depend on a core strategic proposition, and that is: The United States must renew America’s enduring advantages so that we can meet today’s challenges from a position of strength.  That means building back better our economic foundations; reclaiming our place in international institutions; lifting up our values at home, and speaking out to defend them around the world; modernizing our military capabilities while leading with diplomacy; revitalizing America’s network of alliances and partnerships that have made the world safer for all people. 

You know, I hope our fellow democracies are going to join us in this vital work.  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.  They’re built on a vision of a future where every voice matters, where the rights of all are protected and the rule of law is upheld. 

None of this has fully succeeded in this — none of us has fully succeeded in this division [vision].  We continue to work toward it.  And in so many places, including in Europe and the United States, democratic progress is under assault. 

I have known for — I’ve known many of you for a long, long time, and you know that I speak my mind, so let me be straightforward with you all: We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future and direction of our world.  We’re at an inflection point between those who argue that, given all the challenges we face — from the fourth industrial revolution to a global pandemic — that autocracy is the best way forward, they argue, and those who understand that democracy is essential — essential to meeting those challenges. 

Historians are going to examine and write about this moment as an inflection point, as I said.  And I believe that — every ounce of my being — that democracy will and must prevail.  We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people in this changed world.  That, in my view, is our galvanizing mission. 

Democracy doesn’t happen by accident.  We have to defend it, fight for 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 revitalize the promise of our future.  And if we work together with our democratic partners, with strength and confidence, I know that we’ll meet every challenge and outpace every challenger."

Prepare for long term strategic competition with China

Biden addressed directly the issue of relations with China, Russia and Iran

"You know, we must prepare together for a long-term strategic competition with China.  How the United States, Europe, and Asia work together to secure the peace and defend our shared values and advance our prosperity across the Pacific will be among the most consequential efforts we undertake.  Competition with China is going to be stiff.  That’s what I expect, and that’s what I welcome, because I believe in the global system Europe and the United States, together with our allies in the Indo-Pacific, worked so hard to build over the last 70 years."

We can own the race for the future.  But to do so, we have to be clear-eyed about the historic investments and partnerships that this will require.  We have to protect the space for innovation, for intellectual property, and the creative genius that thrives with the free exchange of ideas in open, democratic societies.  We have to ensure that the benefits of growth are shared broadly and equitably, not just by a few. 

We have to push back against the Chinese government’s economic abuses and coercion that undercut the foundations of the international economic system.  Everyone — everyone — must play by the same rules. 

U.S. and European companies are required to publicly disclose corporate governance — to corporate governance structures and abide by rules to deter corruption and monopolistic practices.  Chinese companies should be held to the same standard. 

We must shape the rules that will govern the advance of technology and the norms of behavior in cyberspace, artificial intelligence, biotechnology so that they are used to lift people up, not used to pin them down.  We must stand up for the democratic values that make it possible for us to accomplish any of this, pushing back against those who would monopolize and normalize repression. 

You know, this is also — this is also how we’re going to be able to meet the threat from Russia.  The Kremlin attacks our democracies and weaponizes corruption to try to undermine our system of governance.  Russian leaders want people to think that our system is more corrupt or as corrupt as theirs.  But the world knows that isn’t true, including Russians — Russia’s own citizens. 

Putin wants to weaken the European project

In a direct reference to the Russian president, Biden said

Putin seeks to weaken European — the European project and our NATO Alliance.  He wants to undermine the transatlantic unity and our resolve, because it’s so much easier for the Kremlin to bully and threaten individual states than it is to negotiate with a strong and closely united transatlantic community. 

That’s why — that’s why standing up for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine remains a vital concern for Europe and the United States.  That’s why addressing recklessness — Russian recklessness and hacking into computer networks, in the United States and across Europe and the world, has become critical to protecting our collective security.  The challenges with Russia may be different than the ones with China, but they’re just as real. 

Competition must not lock out co-operation

President Joe Biden emphasised that there should be no return to the time of the cold war. Nations must still work together on issues that affect all such as COVID-19 and Climate Change. He added, "We have to rapidly accelerate our commitments to aggressively curb our emissions and to hold one another accountable for meeting our goals and increasing our ambitions.  That’s why, as President, I immediately rejoined the Paris Agreement, and as of today, the United States is officially once again a party to the Paris Agreement, which we helped put together."

We will fight for our shared values 

The US president concluded his speech to the Munich conference  with another reassurance to European partners:

I want you to know the United States will do our part.  We’ll stand with you.  We’ll fight for our shared values.  We’ll meet the challenges of this new moment in history. America is back.  So let’s get together and demonstrate to our great, great grandchildren, when they read about us, that democracy functions and works, and together, there is nothing we can’t do.  So let’s get working.

The full text of the speech of president Joe Biden to the Munich Security Conference is available on the Whitehouse website, here

source: commonspace.eu with The White House press office
photo: US President Joe Biden addresses by video link the Munich Security Conference on 19 February 2021.

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