Biden’s first speech to Europe: A big line under the Trump era

Everything is different under Joe Biden: The new US president has described the partnership between the United States and Europe as a “cornerstone” of American foreign policy and has clearly committed himself to NATO. “America is back. The transatlantic alliance is back, ”he said on Friday at the Munich Security Conference. “And we don’t look back. We look forward together. “

Biden drew a thick line under the era of his predecessor Donald Trump, in which relations between the United States had plummeted to a low point. “I know the past few years have strained our transatlantic alliance and put it to the test. But the United States is determined to work with Europe again, ”said Biden. A free, prosperous and peaceful Europe continues to be a core concern of the United States.

Change of course

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had terminated international treaties, made the advantage of one’s own country a maxim and alienated allies in a row. Relations with Germany also became increasingly frosty under Trump. The new US president now wants to initiate a change of course. He advocates a return to international organizations and agreements and wants to work again more closely with traditional US allies.

Chancellor Angela Merkel accepted her hand in response to Biden’s speech. “Germany is ready for a new chapter in the transatlantic partnership.” She offered the new US president more engagement – also militarily – especially in the European neighborhood. It also clearly committed itself to NATO’s goal of spending two percent of gross domestic product on defense. This year Germany will probably be 1.5 percent despite a significant increase.

NATO commitment

For Trump, the lack of military spending in his view was one of the strongest points of criticism of Germany. Biden, on the other hand, welcomed the fact that European states are now investing more in their military capabilities and thus in “common defense”. In his first speech to a European audience, he completely refrained from making specific demands on Germany or other allies.

Instead, unlike Trump in the past four years, he clearly committed himself to NATO: “The United States is fully committed to our NATO alliance.” The United States would honor its obligation to provide military assistance. “An attack on one is an attack on all.”

Under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, the relationship between the US and NATO was extremely tense. Regardless of the consequences, Trump had repeatedly aroused doubts as to whether the United States would meet its obligation to provide military assistance in an emergency. In addition, there was the unsettled announcement of a withdrawal of US troops from Germany and other solo efforts. To the horror of the Allies, Trump even threatened to leave NATO.

Yes to Iran negotiations

He also turned around with regard to Iran: he confirmed the willingness of the USA to start new negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program. The threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons requires “careful diplomacy” and international cooperation, said Biden on Friday in a video link at the Munich Security Conference. “We need transparency and communication in order to minimize the risk of strategic misunderstandings or errors.”

The US would accept a possible invitation from EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to a meeting with representatives of Iran and the other six contracting states in order to jointly find a diplomatic solution. As a result, Iran did not rule out a meeting on Friday. A spokesman for the State Department demanded, however, that the US must first lift the sanctions against Iran’s economy that were introduced during President Donald Trump’s term in office.

Biden was the first US president to speak at a Munich security conference. The world’s most important expert meeting on security policy should actually last three days and take place in the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich. Because of the corona pandemic, it has now turned into a digital event to which the participants connected via video. A physical conference should – as far as the pandemic permits – be rescheduled later in the year.


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