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President Biden committed the U.S. to "working in lockstep with our allies and partners" to protect democracy and promote prosperity, telling the Munich Security Conference on Friday: "Democracy doesn't happen by accident. We have to defend it. Fight for it. Strengthen it. Renew it."

Why it matters: In his first major speech to world leaders, Biden acknowledged that four years of former President Trump's "America First" foreign policy has left the transatlantic relationship in disrepair.

  • He pledged to reengage with Europe as it confronts unprecedented global challenges ranging from the pandemic to climate change to assaults on democracy by the likes of Russia and China.

What they're saying: "Let me erase any lingering doubt — the United States will work closely with our European Union partners and capitals across the continent, from Rome to Riga, to meet the shared challenges we face. We continue to support the goal of a Europe whole and free and at peace. The United States is fully committed to our NATO alliance," Biden declared.

  • The president went on to refer to NATO's Article V commitment to collective defense — which provides that an attack on any member state is an attack on the whole alliance — as an "unshakeable vow."
  • Biden's posture toward NATO stands in stark contrast to that of former President Trump, who didn't mention Article V on his first visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels and later questioned the U.S. commitment to defending newer members of the alliance — like tiny Montenegro — if they were attacked.

The big picture: "We are in the midst of a fundamental debate about the future and direction of our world. We're at an inflection point. Between those who argue that given all of the challenges that we face, from the fourth Industrial Revolution, to a global pandemic, that autocracy is the best way forward, " Biden said.

  • "We must demonstrate that democracy can still deliver for our people in this changed world. That, in my view, is our galvanizing mission. ... We have to prove that our model isn't a relic of history," he continued.

The intrigue: Biden, whose administration has adopted elements of Trump's harder line on China in response to its growing authoritarianism and aggression, acknowledged that competition with the rising superpower is "going to be stiff."

  • "That is what I expect. And that's what I welcome," Biden said.
  • "Because I believe in the global system that Europe and the United States together, with our allies in the Indo-Pacific, worked so hard to build over the last 70 years. We can own the race to the future."

Go deeper

Feb 18, 2021 - World

Austin warns of NATO threats and signals new era of cooperation with allies

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signaled a new era of cooperation during a NATO meeting Wednesday while warning of the threat from "strategic competitors," per a news conference with Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

Why it matters: Austin's first meeting with NATO defense ministers marks a clear shift from the previous administration. Relations with European allies became so strained under former President Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron referred to NATO as "brain dead."

Dave Lawler, author of World
Feb 19, 2021 - World

What to make of the Biden administration's first overseas calls

Expand chart

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to wait a month for a call from President Biden, and while Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman got a call Thursday, it came not from Biden but from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

The big picture: Biden, Austin, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and national security adviser Jake Sullivan have together called officials from at least 43 countries, with Blinken alone calling 39 (there’s considerable overlap between their call lists).

Updated 8 mins ago - World

U.S. and UN express concern to Israel over Jerusalem violence

Israeli soldiers throw tear gas canisters at Palestinian demonstrators during a protest near the Jewish settlement of Beit El near Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, on Sunday. Photo: Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations called on Israel Sunday to show "maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly" and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan expressed "serious concerns" about violence in Jerusalem.

Driving the news: Over 250 Palestinians and several Israeli police officers have been wounded since Friday during protests over planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in the city's east — which Sullivan also expressed concern about, per a White House statement.