In First Speech on World Stage, Biden Reverses Trump

He disavows 'America First' message and pledges support of NATO, Europe
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2021 1:14 PM CST
In First Speech on World Stage, Biden Reverses Trump
President Biden participates in a virtual event with the Munich Security Conference in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Biden gave his first major speech to foreign leaders Friday in a virtual address to the Munich Security Conference. Two big themes: He declared that democracy was "under assault" in the US and around the world, and he stressed that the US would once again be working closely with allies. Coverage:

  • New message: The New York Times sees the speech as a clear break from former President Trump's "America First" theme. "The trans-Atlantic alliance is back,” said Biden, adding that the US is committed to NATO and “determined to reengage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership.”
  • A 'fundamental debate': Biden also asserted that "we are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future direction of our world," per the AP. The debate is "between those who argue that—given all of the challenges we face, from the fourth industrial revolution to a global pandemic—autocracy is the best way forward and those who understand that democracy is essential to meeting those challenges.”
  • Democracy: "We must demonstrate that democracy can still deliver for our people in this changed world," he added, per Axios. "That, in my view, is our galvanizing mission. ... We have to prove that our model isn't a relic of history." At another point, he said, "In so many places, including in Europe and the United States, democratic progress is under assault.”

  • China: “We have to push back against the Chinese government’s economic abuses and coercion that undercut the foundations of the international economic system,” Biden said, per the Washington Post. “Everyone—everyone—must play by the same rules.” He predicted competition with China is "going to be stiff," adding: "That is what I expect. And that's what I welcome."
  • Russia: Biden also called out Moscow and pledged to rebuff its efforts to "bully and threaten" other nations. “The Kremlin attacks our democracies and weaponizes corruption to try to undermine our system of governance,” Biden said. “Russian leaders want people to think that our system is more corrupt or as corrupt as theirs. But the world knows that isn’t true.” The Times notes that Biden referred to Vladimir Putin only by his last name, without his title.
(Read more President Biden stories.)

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