US President Joe Biden on Thursday promised a new era after his predecessor, Donald Trump’s spreading foreign policy, and declared “America is back” on the global stage in his first diplomatic speech as president.
In his speech, Biden signaled aggressive attitudes towards China and Russia, called on Myanmar’s military leaders to stop their coup and declared an end to US support for a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.
“American leadership must face this new moment of progressive authoritarianism, including China’s growing ambitions to compete with the United States and Russia’s determination to harm and disrupt our democracy. We must face the new moment … accelerate global challenges from the pandemic to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation, says Biden.
Trump angered European and Asian leaders with tariffs, violations of global alliances and threats to withdraw US troops. He did little to push back against a wave of authoritarianism in some countries.
After a Trump-inspired crowd attacked the US capital on January 6 and protested Biden’s election victory, foreign allies and rivals expressed doubts about the health of American democracy.
Biden’s speech on Thursday was a complete attempt to overcome these doubts and convince Americans of the value of a powerful international strategy.
“Investing in our diplomacy is not something we do just because it is the right thing to do for the world,” he said. “We do it to live in peace, security and prosperity. We do it because it is in our own naked self-interest. ”
Biden’s choice of State Department as the site of his first major diplomatic speech was an important symbol of the value he places on career diplomats, which Trump largely saw as an opponent.
“American alliances are our greatest asset. And leading with diplomacy means that we once again stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies and key partners, says Biden.
Biden has in his early days tried to repair what he has called the damage to the US position around the world and has restored Trump policy. He is working to revive the Iran deal and renew the US membership in the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization.
He challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I made it clear to President Putin, in a completely different way from my predecessor, that the days of the United States that rolled over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, which are disrupting our elections, cyber attacks, poisoning its citizens, are over,” he said.
Trump had originally sought a warm relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but differences between trade, Hong Kong and what the US military calls Beijing’s destabilizing and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea caused a rift.
China, which is expanding its military and working to increase its influence around the world, is perhaps Biden’s biggest international challenge when he begins his presidency. He called Beijing “our most serious competitor.”
“We will confront China’s economic abuses, counter its aggressive, coercive measures to push back China’s attacks on human rights, intellectual property rights and global governance. But we are ready to work with Beijing when it is in America’s interest to do so, he said.
Not all US allies may be happy about the sharp turnaround in US foreign policy, including Poland, where Trump once promised to deploy US troops, or a host of nations that have previously criticized Washington’s strong intervention.
“We are a country that does great things. American diplomacy makes it happen and our administration is ready to take up the mantle and lead again, says Biden.