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America is back in the conversation

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By Michael Olympios

Joe Biden is no stranger to the State Department, during his first visit last week in his capacity as the new commander in chief, left many in Europe breathe a sigh of relief.

“America is back,” he was quoted as saying twice.

President Biden opened his remarks regarding the new Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, with whom he worked for over 20 years.

Biden praised Blinken as a man whose “diplomatic skills are respected equally by your friends and our competitors around the world.”

In sharp contrast to his predecessor, Joe Biden wasted no time in asserting America’s leadership in the world as a champion of democracy, human rights, and the environment.

And he left no room for misunderstanding as to how he will deal with Russia and China.

The US President said: “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.”

Biden reiterated long-held values that defined the American foreign policy agenda for decades. He made it clear: “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.

“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.”

In the case of the coup in Myanmar, the Democratic President was quick to explore and find common ground with the Republicans, forming a united front against this major foreign policy challenge for his administration.

Russia challenge

But perhaps the single most important issue that will challenge the resolve of the new US administration is Russia’s degeneration into an autocratic regime with no tolerance for any political opposition, as the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny demonstrated two weeks ago.

Biden referred to a conversation he had with the Russian leader, “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.”

Clearly, Joe Biden will revert to a multilateral foreign policy agenda that will engage America’s allies around the world in dealing with aggression and border disputes dictated by changes in military power.

China’s increasing disregard for human rights and mounting tension with Taiwan represents a threat to global stability.

However, the new president signalled he is “ready to work with Beijing when it’s in America’s interest to do so.

“We will compete from a position of strength by building back better at home, working with our allies and partners, renewing our role in international institutions, and reclaiming our credibility and moral authority, much of which has been lost.”

Following Barack Obama’s foreign policy footsteps, Joe Biden underlined: “To successfully reassert our diplomacy and keep Americans safe, prosperous, and free, we must restore the health and morale of our foreign policy institutions.

“The United States will again lead not just by the example of our power, but the power of our example.”

Michael Olympios is an economist, business consultant, special contributor to the Financial Mirror