WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday sought to reassure world leaders of America's commitment to its European allies after relationships eroded under his predecessor.
In his first major address to European leaders since taking office a month ago, Biden said at virtual version of the annual Munich Security Conference that "America is back."
"The range of challenges the U.S. and Europe must take on together is broad and complex," Biden said from the White House. "The last four years have been hard, but Europe and the United States have to lead with confidence once more."
Although never mentioning former President Donald Trump by name, Biden stressed that the U.S. was committed to re-engaging with allies after four years of an isolationist approach to foreign policy.
"The United States is fully committed to our NATO alliance. We will keep faith with Article 5, it's a guarantee. An attack on one is an attack on all; that is our unshakeable vow," Biden said, referring to the treaty requirement that the United States comes to the defense of other NATO members if they are attacked.
Trump spent much of his presidency railing against global alliances, particularly NATO, which he called "obsolete," and questioned Article 5. Biden noted in his speech that the only time Article 5 had been invoked was after the U.S. was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
In a wide-ranging address, Biden said that while he expected competition with China to be "stiff," Europe and the U.S. should deal with China in concert without tumbling into a Cold War. "Competition must not lock out cooperation on issues that affect us all," he said.
Biden also took criticized Russia, accusing President Vladimir Putin of trying to portray Western democracies as corrupt.
"The Kremlin attacks our democracies and weaponize corruption to try undermine our system of governance," Biden said. "It is so much easier for the Kremlin to bully and threaten individual states than it is to negotiate with a strong and closely united trans-Atlantic community."
Biden warned that the world was at an "inflection point" in the debate over democracy versus autocracy and that in the U.S. and Europe, "democratic progress is under assault."
"We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future direction of our world. Between those who argue that — given all of the challenges we face, from the fourth industrial revolution to a global pandemic — autocracy is the best way forward and those who understand that democracy is essential to meeting those challenges," Biden said.
"We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people. That is our galvanizing mission."
Earlier Friday Biden participated in a virtual Group of Seven meeting with leaders of the world’s largest economies.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson applauded Biden during the meeting for recommitting to the Paris climate agreement, which the U.S. officially rejoined on Friday, calling it "a great step forward."
Biden later stressed at the Munich Security Conference that he viewed climate change as a "global existential crisis," saying that "we will all suffer the consequences if we fail."
Biden has been attending the Munich Security Conference for decades, dating to when he was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Two years ago, Biden attended the conference as a private citizen, promising that America "will be back, don’t have any doubt about that."
"I am a man of my word," Biden said Friday. "America is back."