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Biden reasserts primacy of trans-Atlantic ties

U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron at the Munich Security Summit (AN/MSC/Müller)

U.S. President Biden moved to shore up alliances with NATO and the Group of Seven major economies on Friday and told the Munich Security Conference that “democratic progress is under assault” in the United States, Europe and many other countries.

It was a full day of diplomacy for Biden, who offered his most expansive foreign policy remarks as president so far while hoping to repair frayed alliances. Biden declared “America is back, the trans-Atlantic alliance is back” from four years of former President Trump’s scorched-earth approach to multilateralism within the rubric of his “America First” policies.

“We have to prove that our model isn’t a relic of history,” Biden said. “We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people in this changed world. That is our galvanizing mission. Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it. Strengthen it. Renew it.”

Biden said the United States is fully committed to NATO and assured the Munich Security Conference, where he appeared on a large screen alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, that America’s partnerships are neither “transactional” nor “extractive” at their essence.

“They’re built on a vision of the future where every voice matters. Where the rights of all are protected and the rule of law is upheld,” he said. “None of us has fully succeeded in achieving this vision. And in too many places, including in Europe and the United States, democratic progress is under assault.”

European leaders described Biden’s remarks as refreshing to hear after four years of Trumpism.

Merkel said “things are looking a great deal better for multilateralism this year than two years ago, and that has a lot to with Joe Biden having become the president of the United States of America.” She said his speech to the conference and his executive orders soon after getting sworn in as president on January 20 “convinced us that this is not just talk, but action.” And European Council President Charles Michel told the conference: “Welcome back, America.”

The G-7 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — later issued a joint statement reflecting shared responsibility for promoting international cooperation and global recovery from the pandemic.

“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 and to shape a recovery that promotes the health and prosperity of our people and planet,” leaders said in the statement.

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