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"America is back" : Is the USA up to the global challenges?

In normal years it is a fixed date in the calendars of international diplomats, the military and politicians: the Munich Security Conference. In this pandemic year, the otherwise multi-day event has shrunk to a three-hour digital conference. But for the first time since taking office, US President Joe Biden addressed the Europeans directly.

“America is back. The transatlantic alliance is back. And we don't look back. We look forward together, ”said Biden. Can that help you overcome the greatest challenges?

Fight the pandemic - a vaccination marathon

When China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke at the security conference about a corona outbreak in his country exactly a year ago, the room was sparsely filled. A couple of disinfectant dispensers reminded us that perhaps one should protect oneself from this new virus here too, the West believed it was safe. And Wang Yi assured: "The epidemic is controllable."

A year later, China is on the way back to its old strength, the EU and the USA fear the third wave. Beyond all reconstruction programs, it will be important that Europe and America quickly vaccinate their populations, the USA has better conditions thanks to the production capacities of Pfizer, the partner of Biontech - immediately after his speech, Biden flew to Michigan to visit a Pfizer plant visit.

Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) emphasized that a victory over the pandemic could only be achieved if poorer countries also had access to the vaccine, especially because of the mutants. French President Emmanuel Macron wants rich countries to deliver four to five percent of their vaccine doses to poorer countries as quickly as possible.

In a first step, Biden pledged two billion US dollars for the Covax vaccination alliance, which supports poorer nations. Merkel for Germany up to 1.5 billion euros in addition. The aim is to ensure vaccination of around 20 percent of the population in developing countries with 1.3 billion doses. Biden also stressed that an "early warning system" for future pandemics is needed.

Climate protection - far from the goals

Biden also wants to make Donald Trump forget here. “This is an existential global crisis. We will all suffer. ”And he demands:“ We have to increase our ambitions. ”So far, the return of the USA to the Paris climate agreement has only been on paper. Above all, a huge infrastructure program is needed to make the transport and energy sectors in America less CO2, to insulate buildings better and to improve the expansion of lines.

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The common goal is to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius, if possible even to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, the national commitments are far from being sufficient; from 2020, an additional 100 billion US dollars should be available annually for climate protection and adaptation to the effects of climate change in developing countries - the signatory states are also a long way from that.

Biden suggested that, for example, Brazil could be deterred from further deforestation with billions of dollars. But right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is called "Tropical Trump" for a reason. Biden has now announced that he will hold a summit on Global Earth Day (April 22) with the countries that emit the most carbon dioxide in order to sharpen reduction targets.

Defense - new partnership

In defense policy and especially in relation to his NATO partners, Biden has a lot of confidence to restore. His predecessor Donald Trump described the military alliance as "obsolete", announced in the summer of 2020 that American soldiers would be withdrawn from Germany and decided to evacuate US troops from the joint NATO mission in Afghanistan - which the NATO partners said, according to the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas found out from the press.

In his speech, Joe Biden left no doubt that he wanted to reverse this policy. “America is back,” he said. And: “The transatlantic alliance is back.” At the end of January, the White House published a video clip with scenes from Biden's first phone call with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Biden had described the support article of the NATO treaty as "holy". In his speech at the digital security conference, he again acknowledged: "An attack on one is an attack on all."

Biden did not mention points of conflict between the US and Germany, such as the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, but praised the growing European defense spending. Angela Merkel, who spoke afterwards, acknowledged the goal of the NATO countries to spend two percent of their gross domestic product on defense. She also acknowledged responsibility in the European neighborhood, in Syria, Libya and the terror-ridden Sahel zone.

Both emphasized that China and Russia presented a challenge, with Biden also saying that the rivalry should not fundamentally exclude cooperation with these countries, for example in the fight against pandemics.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who had recently sharply criticized NATO, also emphasized the importance of the alliance, but again called for reforms.

Trade - an end to tariffs?

Transatlantic trade relations are also in need of repair. Trump imposed punitive tariffs on the EU, including on steel and aluminum. For its part, just days after the US election, the EU imposed tariffs on US goods such as tractors and orange juice. These are the result of the tough dispute over state subsidies by the Americans for Boeing, which, from the point of view of the EU and the World Trade Organization, wrongly disadvantage the European company Airbus.

Some European politicians are now talking of a new beginning, CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak proposed negotiations on a new, comprehensive free trade agreement between the USA and Europe.

In his speech, Joe Biden barely addressed trade issues. The new US administration is still in its infancy, and Joe Biden's trade representative candidate, Katherine Tai, has not yet been confirmed by Congress. However, the US president called it a strategic goal to want to act against unfair trade practices in China and mentioned in particular the protection of intellectual property rights. We have to tackle this challenge together.

Iran conflict - US concessions

For days there were signs of confrontation. After many other violations of the nuclear agreement, Tehran now also threatened to drastically curtail controls by the UN - unless Washington lifted the sanctions against Iran. The USA rejected this and demanded that the Islamic Republic must first meet all the requirements of the treaty.

But now there is a rapprochement. The US government has accepted an invitation from the EU to hold talks with Tehran and other signatories to the nuclear treaty - a gesture of goodwill.

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In Munich, Biden again emphasized his willingness to negotiate. Transparency and communication are required "in order to minimize the risk of strategic misunderstandings or errors". That is still not enough for the mullah regime. It is said that one will not react to “gestures”, but to deeds.

Negotiations would not take place until the US ended its sanctions. That sounds harsh, but it doesn't have to be the last word. Observers suspect Iran wants to drive up the price of talks. Ultimately, the country, which has suffered a severe economic crisis, will agree to a meeting.

The world order - fragile

In his first keynote address on foreign policy, Biden declared Russia - alongside China - to be the main competitor of the West and called for a common, coordinated agenda in order not to be played off against one another. "The Kremlin is attacking our democracies and institutions," said Biden, connected to the White House.

President Vladimir Putin Putin wants to undermine transatlantic unity. Europe and the US would have to find a common strategy against Russian data hacking and attempts to influence public opinion.

He also announced a tough course towards China. There had to be clear rules in trade and in dealing with companies. "We can win this race for the future."

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