President Biden on Thursday recommitted the United States to global alliances and a role in the world that projects democratic principles, using his first major foreign policy address to promise that he will counter “advancing authoritarianism” and to announce an end to U.S. support for offensive operations in Yemen that are blamed for thousands of civilian deaths.
Biden also said he would increase the number of refugees admitted to the United States and freeze troop redeployments from Germany, reversing Trump administration policies that the new president sees as out of step with American values.
“We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s,” Biden said during an address at the State Department that attempted to turn the page on isolationism and restore diplomacy as the tool of choice.
“America is back. Diplomacy is back,” Biden said, vowing that the United States will rebound from the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last month “stronger, more determined and better-equipped to unite the world in fighting to defend democracy because we have fought for it ourselves.”
Biden sketched his traditional foreign policy views with a broad brush, pledging to confront human rights abuses, tyranny and intolerance in China, Russia, Myanmar and elsewhere while seeking cooperation with competitors where possible. He promised American diplomats demoralized by the Trump years, “I’ll have your back.”
As part of the effort to project American values abroad, Biden announced a policy of support for LGBT rights worldwide.
On Russia, Biden drew a stark contrast with former president Donald Trump, who was frequently deferential to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, 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,” Biden said.
“We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests,” he said, while working alongside Russia on some international problems.
Biden said Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny should be released from detention immediately and unconditionally.
Calling China “our most serious competitor,” Biden promised a similar approach balancing confrontation and cooperation.
“We’ll confront China’s economic abuses, counter its aggressive, coercive action, to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property and global governance,” Biden said. “But we’re ready to work with Beijing, when it’s in America’s interest to do so.”
There were no specifics about trade talks with China, which were suspended last year without reaching the grand bargain Trump had promised, nor about the U.S. response to Chinese human rights abuses or military aggression in the South China Sea.
Biden did not mention Iran and the obsession of the Trump administration with undoing the international nuclear agreement reached under President Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president. Biden faces a crossroads on Iran, probably within a few weeks or months, in which he must decide whether or how to rejoin that 2015 agreement.
Throughout his administration, Trump was hostile to many allies, often claiming they took advantage of U.S. military might and accusing them of unfair trade practices.
Trump’s plan to move some U.S. forces in Europe had been seen as punitive. He routinely criticized Germany and its leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, for what he called a cheapskate approach to defense.
The American president previously declared that the US “will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia”, saying the days of “the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions are over”.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has slammed US President Joe Biden’s demand to free Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, saying that some kind of ultimatums are unacceptable.
The official also expressed hope that the US has enough “political willpower” to continue constructive interaction with Moscow.