President Biden told allies Friday that he hopes to reestablish the U.S. as a reliable player in multilateral dealings with European countries after four years of “America First” policies pushed by former President Donald Trump.
“I’m sending a clear message to the world. America is back. The transatlantic alliance is back,” Biden said at a virtual appearance at the Munich Security Conference.
Biden articulated a series of broad commitments to European allies, emphasizing the importance of democracy and collaboration on economic issues, climate and national security. His speech Friday is part of the White House’s ongoing efforts to undo what it believes to be the damage done by the Trump administration to its relationships with foreign allies.
“Let me erase any lingering doubt: The United States will work closely with our European partners,” said Biden.
Biden said his administration is “fully committed to the NATO alliance,” using language starkly different from that of Trump, who particularly in his first year as president frequently criticized the organization as obsolete and accused members of not paying their fair share.
Biden stressed that teamwork between Europe and the U.S. is critical in dealing with countries like Russia and China, though he made sure not to cast those challenges as a “new Cold War.”
“Competition with China is going to be stiff. That’s what I expect, and that’s what I welcome,” he said.
Turning his attention to the Kremlin, Biden pulled no punches on what he believes to be “malign” actions Russia has taken to sow chaos across the globe and called on countries to align themselves with Washington against Russian President Vladimir Putin — a radical change in tone from Trump, who often praised Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
“Putin seeks to weaken the European project and our NATO alliance. He wants to undermine the transatlantic unity and our resolve,” said Biden.
“It’s so much easier for the Kremlin to bully and intimidate individual states,” Biden said, calling on allies to stand with Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia.
Biden also mentioned the Kremlin’s alleged role in December’s massive SolarWinds breach, which allowed hackers to infiltrate sensitive corporate and government networks, likely gaining access to swaths of private data for months without U.S. knowledge.
At the time, Trump attempted to push some blame off Russia, implying that perhaps China was behind the SolarWinds attacks, contradicting some of his own top officials. Biden asked allies Friday to come together to address “Russian recklessness and hacking into computer networks in the United States.”
Another reversal from the past administration is Biden’s promise to combat climate change on a global stage. The Munich conference marked the U.S.’s official rejoining of the Paris climate accord.
The White House appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry as climate czar and pledged to host stakeholders at the White House on Earth Day.
“We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change,” Biden said.
The president also briefly addressed the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, announcing a multibillion-dollar investment from the U.S. in the international vaccination effort. He pledged $4 billion in support of COVAX, an initiative co-run by the World Health Organization that aids in the distribution of coronavirus vaccines globally. The first $2 billion contribution was appropriated by Congress in December. Biden promised to pay out the remaining $2 billion in 2021 and 2022.
He concluded with a sharp rebuke of his predecessor, though he didn’t mention Trump by name.
“We cannot allow self-doubt to hinder our ability to engage each other or the larger world. The last four years have been hard, but Europe and the U.S. have to lead with confidence once more,” Biden said. “I know we can do this.”