Joe Biden says EU alliance must be a ‘strong foundation’
Today, world leaders met virtually at the annual Munich Security Conference, faced with a deluge of pressing issues. President Joe Biden brought the US back to the table after four years of near isolationism from Donald Trump. In what is his first appearance on a world stage since coming to power, Mr Biden talked with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The US President has appeared twice at the event, both times as Vice-President under Barack Obama in 2009 and 2015.
Today, he declared that Mr Trump’s era of “America First” was over, offering global leaders a road map to a strengthened trans-Atlantic partnership.
Mr Biden formally rejoined the Paris Climate Accord, while also discussing the task liberal democracies face with the challenge of China and Russia.
He said: “We have to prove that our model isn’t a relic of history.”
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The New York Times claimed it was a “clear reference to the critique that China and Russia have been helping to push”.
Despite this, Mr Biden’s previous Munich conference speeches suggest the President might be willing to work with Mr Putin.
In 2009, in-person, he told those in attendance that the world must “work together with Russia”.
This was despite the Kremlin’s armed conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia and its subsequent temporary occupation of parts of Georgia, which sparked international concern over the balance of power in the region.
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Angela Merkel: The German Chancellor speaking at the virtual event
At the time, Mr Biden said: “The United States rejects the notion that NATO’s gain is Russia’s loss, or that Russia’s strength is NATO’s weakness.
“The last few years have seen a dangerous drift in relations between Russia and the members of our Alliance.
“It is time — to paraphrase President Obama — it’s time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia.”
He continued: “Our Russian colleagues long ago warned about the rising threat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
“Today, NATO and Russia can, and should, cooperate to defeat this common enemy.
“We can and should cooperate to secure loose nuclear weapons and materials to prevent their spread, to renew the verification procedures in the START Treaty, and then go beyond existing treaties to negotiate deeper cuts in both our arsenals.
“The United States and Russia have a special obligation to lead the international effort to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world.”
However, Mr Biden admitted that the US would not agree with “Russia on everything”.
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He referenced the conflict in South Ossetia, as well as the struggle for self-determination by the contested state of Abkhazia, also located in the official border of Georgia.
He said: “It will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances.
“But the United States and Russia can disagree and still work together where our interests coincide.
“And they coincide in many places.”
Meanwhile, despite wanting to rekindle a new and improved trans-Atlantic relationship with the EU, Mr Biden was reportedly outraged with the bloc in the waning days of 2020.
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It came as Brussels, led by Mrs Merkel, secured a handsome investment deal with China believed to be worth £176billion.
Further tension might be found in the German Chancellor’s replacement as leader of the Christian Democrats (CDU), Armin Laschet.
According to Politico, he is described in Germany as a Russlandversteher: a derogatory term for someone who takes a soft and sympathetic stance on Mr Putin’s Russia.
In 2019, he called for closer cooperation with the Kremlin and, reflecting on the Cold War, said: “Back then, in a tense situation with a totalitarian communist system, threads of conversation were established.
“Then it must be possible for us today too.
“We need Russia for many questions in the world.”
Armin Laschet: The new CDU leader has been described as a Russophile
He continued: “There are many conflicts where we have to move forward without giving up our position under international law, for example on Crimea.
“You can speak plainly and still cooperate in other fields and keep talking.”
He also pushed what is considered a conspiracy in 2014, accusing the US of supporting the so-called Islamic State.
Replying to a tweet by then US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Mr Laschet said: “Yes, Mr Kerry, but You supported ISIS and Al Nusra against President Assad in Syria.
“And they are financed by Qatar and Saudi-Arabia.”