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Biden warns European allies that 'democratic progress is under assault'
President Biden on Friday warned that "democratic progress is under assault" in the United States and Europe as he pledged support for the transatlantic alliance and called on countries to work together to address shared challenges.
"We're at an inflection point between those who argue that, given all of the challenges we face, from the fourth industrial revolution to a global pandemic, that autocracy is the best way forward, they argue, and those who understand that democracy is essential, essential to meeting those challenges," Biden said in remarks from the East Room of the White House that were televised at a virtual session of the Munich Security Conference.
"Historians are going to examine and write about this moment as an inflection point, as I said. And I believe with every ounce of my being that democracy will and must prevail," Biden continued.
Biden, a regular fixture at the Munich Security Conference over the years, affirmed his commitment to European partners and alliances, drawing contrast with his predecessor, former President Trump, who often spurned multilateral organizations and criticized alliances and whose "America first" approach to foreign policy at times caused friction with Europe.
"I am sending a clear message to the world, America is back. The transatlantic alliance is back and we are not looking backward. We are looking forward together," Biden said.
Biden delivered the speech after meeting privately with the leaders of the Group of Seven nations in a virtual conference hosted by United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson. His remarks were aimed at reassuring European allies after four years of tumult under Trump, whose name he did not mention during the address.
Biden's remarks came almost two months after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters.
Biden issued a firm rebuke of Russia for its aggressive behavior in Europe and cyberspace. He pledged support for Ukraine sovereignty and the NATO alliance, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to divide and weaken the partnership between the U.S. and Europe.
"Putin seeks to weaken the European project and our NATO alliance. He wants to undermine the transatlantic unity and its resolve because it's so much easier for the Kremlin to bully and threaten individual states than it is to negotiate with a strong and closely-aligned transatlantic community," Biden said.
The president called on the U.S. and its European allies to work together to confront Russia's aggressive behavior and economic abuses and anti-democratic practices by China.
Biden's rhetoric on Russia diverged notably from Trump, who often spoke warmly of Putin and shied from publicly calling Moscow out for its malign behavior.
While Biden acknowledged the challenges posed by China and Russia, he also implored the global community to work together on shared challenges like the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. Biden announced plans to send $2 billion immediately to support Covax, the global initiative to vaccinate populations of lower-income countries.
"We cannot and must not return to the reflective opposition and rigid blocks of the Cold War. Competition must not lock out cooperation on issues that affect us all," Biden said.
Biden delivered the remarks immediately following his meeting with the leaders of the other G7 countries - the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Japan.
Following their meeting, the G7 leaders issued a joint statement pledging to work together to fight the coronavirus and help countries across the globe recover. The statement noted that G7 financial support to Covax totals $7.5 billion.
"Drawing on our strengths and values as democratic, open economies and societies, we will work together and with others to make 2021 a turning point for multilateralism and to shape a recovery that promotes the health and prosperity of our people and planet," the statement read.