On Thursday afternoon, Joe Biden spoke from the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C., delivering the first foreign policy speech of his presidency.
The legacy media unsurprisingly fawned over Biden’s words. Reuters reported “‘America is back’ – Biden touts muscular foreign policy in first diplomatic speech.” Slate wrote “After Trump, Biden’s Clichés Sound Revolutionary: The president said all the right things in his first foreign policy speech. That’s enough for now, but not for long.” The Washington Post published a piece titled “With his foreign policy speech, Biden begins to repair the damage that Trump did.”
What did Biden actually say during his first foray into foreign policy since returning to the White House, this time as President of the United States? Here’s everything you need to know:
‘America is back’
Soon after beginning his speech, and immediately after commending Secretary of State Tony Blinken as someone whose “diplomatic skills are respected equally by your friends and our competitors around the world,” Biden launched into “the message I want the world to hear today.”
“America is back. America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.”
Then, Biden called for what he deemed damaged global alliances to be repaired, and appeared to criticize the supposedly isolationist or nationalist approach of the previous administration.
“As I said in my inaugural address, we will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.”
China and Russia
While plaudits celebrated Biden for “calling out Russia,” he only mentioned the country briefly, and in the context of their “determination” to impact American democracy. Similarly, his language regarding China, while mentioned in the context of authoritarianism, was limited to their “growing ambitions.”
“American leadership must meet this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage and disrupt our democracy.”
Later, on the subject of “leading with diplomacy” in the context of American “adversaries and competitors,” Biden discussed the extension of a nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia.
“By leading with diplomacy, we must also mean engaging our adversaries and our competitors diplomatically, where it’s in our interest, and advance the security of the American people.
That’s why, yesterday, the United States and Russia agreed to extend the New START Treaty for five years to preserve the only remaining treaty between our countries safeguarding nuclear stability.”
Biden then spoke more firmly on the subject of Russia’s “aggressive actions,” saying that “the days of the United States rolling over” are over.
“At the same time, I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different from my predecessor, that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions — interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens — are over. We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people. And we will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like-minded partners.
The politically motivated jailing of Alexei Navalny and the Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are a matter of deep concern to us and the international community.
Mr. Navalny, like all Russian citizens, is entitled to his rights under the Russian constitution. He’s been targeted — targeted for exposing corruption. He should be released immediately and without condition.”
Biden went on to briefly address the issues posed by China, while being careful to describe them with language he has used previously: “competitor.”
“And we’ll also take on directly the challenges posed by our prosperity, security, and democratic values by our most serious competitor, China.
We’ll confront China’s economic abuses; counter its aggressive, coercive action; to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance.”
Global challenges and cooperation
In the same way as his Democratic predecessors, Biden referenced the urgent need to “meet” global “challenges.”
“We must meet the new moment accelerating glo- — accelerating global challenges — from the pandemic to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation — challenging the will only to be solved by nations working together and in common. We can’t do it alone.”
Later, Biden appeared to criticize the Trump administration as he boasted of his conversations with multiple leaders of American allies and organizations.
“Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with the leaders of many of our closest friends — Canada, Mexico, the UK, Germany, France, NATO, Japan, South Korea, Australia — to being [begin] reforming the habits of cooperation and rebuilding the muscle of democratic alliances that have atrophied over the past few years of neglect and, I would argue, abuse.
America’s alliances are our greatest asset, and leading with diplomacy means standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and key partners once again.”
Biden then continued to argue that these global challenges can only be achieved collaboratively, and that any diplomacy must be rooted in “American’s most cherished democratic values.”
“That must be this — we must start with diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.
That’s the grounding wire of our global policy — our global power. That’s our inexhaustible source of strength. That’s America’s abiding advantage.”
Speaking of the military coup which occurred following claims that Myanmar’s general election was illegitimate — which resulted in Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party being detained — Biden called for the Burmese military to “relinquish the power they have seized,” and that he would work with America’s “partners” to pursue the restoration of democracy.
“Over the past few days, we’ve been in close cooperation with our allies and partners to bring together the international community to address the military coup in Burma.
I’ve also been in touch with Leader McConnell to discuss our shared concerns about the situation in Burma, and we are united in our resolve.
There can be no doubt: In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election.
The Burmese military should relinquish power they have seized, release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions on telecommunications, and refrain from violence.
As I said earlier this week, we will work with our partners to support restoration of democracy and the rule of law, and impose consequences on those responsible.”
After discussing China and Russia, Biden touched on the subject of climate change, describing it as an “existential threat.”
“On day one, I signed the paperwork to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. We’re taking steps led by the example of integrating climate objectives across all of our diplomacy and raise the ambition of our climate targets. That way, we can challenge other nations, other major emitters, up to — to up the ante on their own commitments. I’ll be hosting climate leaders — a climate leaders’ summit to address the climate crisis on Earth Day of this year.
America must lead in the face of this existential threat. And just as with the pandemic, it requires global cooperation.”
In a surprisingly brief note, Biden mentioned that the United States had “reengaged with the World Health Organization” to “build better global preparedness to counter COVID-19, as well as detect and prevent future pandemics, because there will be more.”
Biden then moved on to announce “additional steps to course-correct our foreign policy and better unite our democratic values with our diplomatic leadership.”
“To begin, Defense Secretary Austin will be leading a Global Posture Review of our forces so that our military footprint is appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities. It will be coordinated across all elements of our national security, with Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken working in close cooperation.
And while this review is taking place, we’ll be stopping any planned troop withdrawals from Germany.”
Yemen and Saudi Arabia
A large proportion of Biden’s statements regarding military-related action was dedicated to policies regarding the ongoing war in Yemen.
“We’re also stepping up our diplomacy to end the war in Yemen — a war which has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe. I’ve asked my Middle East team to ensure our support for the United Nations-led initiative to impose a ceasefire, open humanitarian channels, and restore long-dormant peace talks.
This morning, Secretary Blinken appointed Tim Lenderking, a career foreign policy officer, as our special envoy to the Yemen conflict. And I appreciate his doing this. Tim is a life — has lifelong experience in the region, and he’ll work with the U.N. envoy and all parties of the conflict to push for a diplomatic resolution.
And Tim’s diplomacy will be bolstered by USI- — USAID, working to ensure that humanitarian aid is reaching the Yemeni people who are suffering un- — an undurable [sic] — unendurable devastation. This war has to end.
And to underscore our commitment, we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks, UAV strikes, and other threats from Iranian-supplied forces in multiple countries. We’re going to continue to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people.”
Refugee Executive Order
Moving on, Biden said that we “face a crisis of more than 80 million displaced people suffering all around the world,” and that the American “moral leadership” on refugee issues “pushed other nations to open wide their doors as well.”
“So today, I’m approving an executive order to begin the hard work of restoring our refugee admissions program to help meet the unprecedented global need. It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged, but that’s precisely what we’re going to do.
This executive order will position us to be able to raise the refugee admissions back up to 125,000 persons for the first full fiscal year of the Biden-Harris administration. And I’m directing the State Department to consult with Congress about making a down payment on that commitment as soon as possible.”
LGBTQI refugees and asylum-seekers
On the subject of repairing “moral leadership,” Biden called for the promotion of the rights of LGBTQ refugees and asylum-seekers.
“And to further repair our moral leadership, I’m also issuing a presidential memo to agencies to reinvigorate our leadership on the LGBTQI issues and do it internationally. You know, we’ll ensure diplomacy and foreign assistance are working to promote the rights of those individuals, included by combatting criminalization and protecting LGBTQ refugees and asylum-seekers.
And finally, to successfully reassert our diplomacy and keep Americans safe, prosperous, and free, we must restore the health and morale of our foreign policy institutions.”
‘Day One’ actions
Calling for the United States to “lead not just by the example of our power but the power of our example,” Biden celebrated that “Within hours of taking office, I signed an executive order overturning the hateful, discriminatory Muslim ban; reversed the ban on transgender individuals serving in our military.” He continued to list various other actions taken early in his presidency.
Then, Biden moved onto the subject of “white supremacy.” Immediately after boasting that his administration had “restored our commitment to science and to create policies grounded in facts and evidence,” Biden continued to discuss “systemic racism.”
“We’ve taken steps to acknowledge and address systemic racism and the scourge of white supremacy in our own country. Racial equity will not just be an issue for one department in our administration, it has to be the business of the whole of government in all our federal policies and institutions.
All this matters to foreign policy, because when we host the Summit of Democracy early in my administration to rally the nations of the world to defend democracy globally, to push back the authoritarianism’s advance, we’ll be a much more credible partner because of these efforts to shore up our own foundations.”
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.