By Steve Holland and Alexandra Alper
WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden promised a new era on Thursday following the foreign policy scattershot of his predecessor Donald Trump, who declared “America is back” on the global stage in his first diplomatic address as president.
In his speech, Biden signaled aggressive moves against China and Russia, called on the military leaders in Myanmar to stop their coup and declared the end of US support for a Saudi Arabia-led military campaign in Yemen.
“American leadership must face this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including China’s growing ambitions to compete with the United States and Russia’s determination to damage and disrupt our democracy. We must face the new moment … the global ones Pandemic challenges accelerate nuclear proliferation on the climate crisis, “Biden said.
Trump angered European and Asian leaders with tariffs, the breakdown of global alliances, and threats to withdraw US troops. He has done little to counter a wave of authoritarianism in some countries.
After a Trump-inspired mob attacked US Citol on Jan. 6 to protest Biden’s election victory, foreign allies and rivals expressed doubts about the health of American democracy.
Biden’s speech on Thursday was an attempt to overcome these doubts and to convince Americans of the value of a strong international approach.
“Investing in our diplomacy is not something we do just because it is right for the world,” he said. “We do it to live in peace, security and prosperity. We do it because it is in our own bare self-interest.”
Biden’s choice of the State Department as the venue for his first major diplomatic address was an important symbol of the value he attaches to career diplomats, whom Trump largely viewed as opponents.
“American alliances are our greatest asset. And leading with diplomacy means standing hand in hand with our allies and important partners again,” said Biden.
Biden tried in his early days to mend what he called damage to America’s worldwide reputation by taking back Trump’s policies. He is working on the revival of the Iran Agreement and renews the US membership in the Paris Agreement and in the World Health Organization.
He challenged Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I made it clear to President Putin, in a very different way than my predecessor, that the days of the United States are over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions that disrupt our elections, launch cyberattacks and poison citizens.” he said.
Trump had initially sought a cordial relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but differences in trade, Hong Kong and Beijing’s destabilizing and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea created a rift.
China, which is expanding its military and working to expand its influence around the world, is Biden’s greatest international challenge as he begins his presidency. He called Beijing “our most serious competitor”.
“We will address China’s economic abuses and counteract its aggressive coercive measures to reverse China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property and global governance. But we stand ready to work with Beijing if it is in America’s interests.” he said.
Not all US allies may be interested in the sharp turnaround in US foreign policy, including Poland, where Trump once pledged to deploy US troops, or a host of nations that have historically criticized Washington’s persistent intervention.
“We are a country that does great things. American diplomacy makes it hpen and our government is ready to take over and lead again,” said Biden.