Joe Biden: Melanie Phillips slams ‘approach’ to world politicsUS President Joe Biden is tipped to bring the US back into the fold tomorrow in what
Joe Biden: Melanie Phillips slams ‘approach’ to world politics
US President Joe Biden is tipped to bring the US back into the fold tomorrow in what will be his first appearance among world leaders since he came to power in January. He will attend the annual Munich Security Conference on Friday – this year virtually. Mr Biden previously made in-person trips to the conference as Vice-President under Barack Obama in 2009 and 2015.
Much has been made of his clean break from Donald Trump’s position on leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, both of whom will be in attendance.
Mr Biden has made clear his want of better ties to Europe and the EU, with his opposition to Brexit obvious.
Yet, moves from the bloc in recent months appear to have forced Mr Biden to reevaluate his loyalties to the continent.
In the waning days of 2020, Brussels, led by Mrs Merkel, signed a handsome investment deal with China worth an estimated £176billion.
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It moved in stark contrast to Mr Biden’s tough stance on China and desire to curb its global influence.
Tensions between Washington and Berlin are also high over the Russia-backed Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
New Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he is “determined” to stop Nord Stream 2’s completion, which countries like Germany and France will rely on for natural gas supplies from Russia.
Mrs Merkel was recently replaced as leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats (CDU) by centrist Armin Laschet.
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Mr Laschet – the “continuity” candidate – has been described in Germany as a Russlandversteher: a derogatory term for someone who takes a soft and sympathetic stance on Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
In 2019, he called for closer cooperation with Russia 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.”
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.”
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Mr Biden’s previous rhetoric could prove decisive in his future relationship with Europe and Germany as it appears to become lax on both Russia and China.
A message, perhaps, to Mr Laschet and Europe as a whole, can be found in Mr Biden’s memoir, ‘Promise Me, Dad’, where he said it was the US’ job to make Russia “pay the price” for its belligerent actions.
This was especially prevalent as it came amid Mr Putin’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.
Recalling the importance of his trip to the Munich conference in 2015, Mr Biden wrote: “Putin was willing to test European resolve on the principle of sanctity of borders ‒ and he was doing it with impunity in Ukraine.
“My main objective in Munich was to continue to encourage our European allies to stand with us: to make sure Putin understood that Russia would pay a price for bullying a weaker neighbour.
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“The Ukrainian people had been on a thrilling and sometimes harrowing rollercoaster for the previous year and I felt like I’d been on it with them.”
Mr Biden later criticised Mrs Merkel for not being “strong enough” in pressuring Russia over the crisis.
He said that while Mr Obama was sympathetic to Kiev, he was not prepared to allow a war with Mr Putin.
The events led to Mr Biden arranging a three-way meeting with Mrs Merkel and Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s President at the time.
When Mrs Merkel addressed the issue at the Munich conference a few days later, he said the US was “disappointed” with her “flat refusal” to provide weapons to Ukraine.
Mr Biden might also lock horns with Mr Laschet – Germany’s potential future Chancellor – following his comments on the US’ involvement in Syria in 2014.
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Replying to a tweet by then US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Mr Laschet accused the US of supporting ISIS.
While Mr Kerry wrote: “ISIL must be destroyed/will be crushed.”
Mr Laschet, who was then MP for North Rhine-Westphalia, replied: “Yes, Mr Kerry, but You supported ISIS and Al Nusra against President Assad in Syria.
“And they are financed by Qatar and Saudi-Arabia.”
Mr Kerry, a close ally of Mr Biden, was recently appointed as the US’ special envoy for climate change.
Meanwhile, Mr Biden may also have something to say over Europe’s quiet over the arrest of Russian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny.
Just days after he was sentenced to nearly three years in a penal colony, the EU dispatched its foreign chief to Moscow.
The trip, Politico notes, “turned into a PR disaster for the EU,” and came just as Mr Biden wanted to show that his “administration could build a united Western front against” Mr Putin.