Monday

10th May 2021

Biden tells Western allies: 'America's back'

  • Biden: 'We will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like-minded partners' (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

"America is back" to help Europe protect herself against Russian aggression, US president Joe Biden has said in a keynote foreign policy speech.

"The message I want the world to hear today: America is back", he said at the State Department in Washington on Thursday (4 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"American leadership must meet this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage and disrupt our democracy," he said.

He called China America's "most serious competitor" for global power.

But he described Russia as one of its "adversaries" in a harsher tone.

"I made it clear to [Russian] president [Vladimir] Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor [former US president Donald Trump], that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia's aggressive actions - interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens - are over. We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests," Biden said.

He called on Putin to free opposition hero Alexei Navalny "immediately and without condition".

"And we will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like-minded partners," Biden added, saying he had spoken to French, German, UK, and Nato leaders about "rebuilding the muscle of democratic alliances that have atrophied over the past few years of neglect and, I would argue, abuse".

Biden's "America is back" slogan stood in contrast to Trump's "America first" policy, which had alienated allies.

Trump had insulted EU leaders, while cozying up to Putin at press briefings.

He had also ordered 12,000 US soldiers to be pulled out of Germany in what was seen as a gift to Moscow in Nato circles.

But a Pentagon review of US forces might overturn that "and while this review is taking place, we'll be stopping any planned troop withdrawals from Germany", Biden said.

The US president said he aimed to "reclaim ... [our] moral authority, much of which has been lost," on the world stage.

He pledged to take in 125,000 refugees next year and overturned Trump's "hateful, discriminatory" travel ban on people from some majority-Muslim countries.

He also promised to defend LGBTI rights and overturned a ban on transgender soldiers.

And he denounced the coup in Burma and called for an end to war in Yemen.

But he was softer on China than on Russia in moral terms.

He accused Beijing or "attacking" human rights, but he did not name its grotesque abuses against the Uighur minority, the way he named Navalny.

"We are ready to work with Beijing when it's in America's interest to do so," he also said.

And he gave Saudi Arabia a free pass despite its egregious record, for instance on women's rights, in a display of Realpolitik.

"We're going to continue to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people," he said.

EU autonomy

Meanwhile, Biden's speech comes at a time when France and Germany, among others, are calling for EU "strategic autonomy" after Trump showed the risk of Europe's dependence on US power.

The EU recently irked the US by signing an investment treaty with China without waiting for the Biden administration to take office.

The EU's top diplomat also went to meet Russia's foreign minister in Moscow before he had first met Biden's secretary of state.

And Biden did not mention two potentially divisive issues among Western allies: Nord Stream 2 and Iran.

Trump imposed sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 Russian gas pipeline to Germany in a move which Berlin has lobbied Washington to also overturn.

And Trump walked out of an EU-led nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran, amid hopes that Tehran and Washington might also see eye-to-eye now that Trump is gone.

EU tells China to let in WHO team to study Covid origins

The EU has demanded China cooperate with the international community to understand better the pandemic, after Chinese officials blocked the arrival of a group of World Health Organization (WHO) researchers investigating the origins of Covid-19 in Wuhan.

EPP to oppose Saudi Arabia human rights resolution

The European Parliament plenary on Thursday is set to vote on a joint resolution on "the situation of Ethiopian migrants in detention centres in Saudi Arabia." The largest political group, the EPP, is against a common position.

EU drawn into US disputes with Russia and China

The EU has gotten drawn into a verbal punch-up between the Kremlin and White House by endorsing US president Joe Biden's assertion that his Russian counterpart was a "killer".

News in Brief

  1. Lukashenko amends emergency transfer of power
  2. German centre-left picks Scholz as would-be chancellor
  3. EU has not ordered AstraZeneca vaccines beyond June
  4. Macron: Pandemic showed need for more EU integration
  5. Election win fuels Scottish nationalists' referendum plan
  6. Surge in migrant arrivals to Italian island
  7. EU embassy pays bail for Georgia opposition leader
  8. British aristocrats caught peddling Kremlin ties

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU and US urge Israel to defuse Jerusalem violence
  2. Frontex 'mislabelling minors as adults' on Greek islands
  3. Has Albania really met the 15 tests to join the EU? No
  4. Vaccine fairness plus Russia on table This WEEK
  5. EU ambassadors flock to Red Square for Putin's parade
  6. MEPs win battle for bigger citizens' voice at Conference
  7. Hungary gags EU ministers on China
  8. Poland and Hungary push back on 'gender equality' pre-summit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us