Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Friday, President Biden assured European allies that “America is back” and said the US is “fully committed” to NATO. He spoke of the importance of “transatlantic” cooperation in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and emphasized working with Europe to confront China and Russia.
“You know, we must prepare together for a long-term strategic competition with China,” Biden said. “How the United States, Europe, and Asia work together to secure the peace and defend our shared values and advance our prosperity across the Pacific will be among the most consequential efforts we undertake.”
Confronting China appears to be the priority for the Biden administration’s foreign policy. The Pentagon is currently reviewing its posture in Asia and US warships are regularly sailing near China’s coast. European countries are also starting to challenge China’s claims in the South China Sea with naval deployments.
Taking a hostile tone on Russia, Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to “weaken European — the European project and our NATO Alliance.” He mentioned Ukraine and said “standing up for the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Russia’s neighbor is a “vital concern” for Europe and the US. “The challenges with Russia may be different than the ones with China, but they’re just as real,” he said.
NATO concluded a two-day meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers on Thursday where the US-Taliban peace deal was discussed. No decision was made on whether or not NATO and the US will leave Afghanistan by the May 1st deadline, but all signs indicate foreign troops will stay in the country.
On Friday, Biden said the US is “committed to consulting closely with our NATO Allies and partners on the way forward in Afghanistan.” Although he gave no hints about a possible withdrawal, Biden did speak favorably of the attempt at talks between the Taliban and the US-backed Afghan government. “My administration strongly supports the diplomatic process that’s underway and to bring an end to this war that is closing out 20 years,” he said.
Over in Iraq, NATO announced a major force increase, bringing troop levels from 500 to about 4,000. Biden welcomed the decision. He said the troop increase is “vital to the ongoing fight against ISIS.”
In his speech, Biden took shots at the previous administration’s stance on NATO and its overall relationship with Europe. Besides the rhetoric, the only significant change President Trump attempted in Europe was a troop drawdown in Germany, something Biden reversed. “I’ve ordered the halting of withdrawal of American troops from Germany,” he said.
Under Trump’s plan, the US was set to reduce troop numbers in Germany from about 36,000 to 24,000 and cap the number of soldiers allowed in the country at 25,000. “I’m also lifting the cap imposed by the previous administration on the number of US forces able to be based in Germany,” Biden said.
While Biden took an aggressive tone in his speech and signaled more intervention across the world, he did mention the importance of cooperation and treaties, like New START, the vital nuclear arms control treaty Washington and Moscow recently agreed to extend. He also discussed Iran and the 2015 nuclear deal.
“We have said we’re prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear program,” Biden said, referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, the signatories of the Iran nuclear deal. His comments came a day after the State Department said the US would be willing to talk with Iran if the EU initiated a meeting.