Biden Declares ‘America Is Back’ on International Stage

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Biden Returns to the International Stage

On Friday, President Biden spoke about the struggles of democracy and the importance of building close alliances with foreign leaders.

When I last spoke in Munich, I was a private citizen. I was a professor, not an elected official, but I said at that time, we will be back. And I’m a man of my word — America is back. I speak to you today as president of the United States at the very start of my administration, and I’m sending a clear message to the world: America is back, the trans-Atlantic alliance is back, and we are not looking backward. We are looking forward together. The global dynamics have shifted. New crises demand our attention. We cannot focus only on the competition among countries that threaten to divide the world or only on global challenges that threaten to sink us all together if we fail to cooperate. We must do both, working in lockstep with our allies and partners. So let me erase any lingering doubt. The United States will work closely with our European Union partners and the capitals across the continent.

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On Friday, President Biden spoke about the struggles of democracy and the importance of building close alliances with foreign leaders.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

For anyone looking for evidence that boasts about “America First” — and the need for America to go-it-alone — are over, President Biden’s speech to the Munich Security Conference was meant as an opening argument.

“America is back, the trans-Atlantic alliance is back,” Mr. Biden declared. Trying to expunge the last four years without ever once naming his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, Mr. Biden said “we are not looking backward.”

And then he went on to offer a 15-minute ode to the power of alliances.

He talked about an America that was itself overcoming challenges to the democratic experiment.

“We have to prove that our model isn’t a relic of history,” he said, a clear reference to the critique that China and Russia have been helping to push. “We must demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people in this changed world. That is our galvanizing mission. Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it. Strengthen it. Renew it.”

In sharp contrast to Mr. Trump, who declined on several occasions to acknowledge the United States’ responsibilities under Article V of NATO to come to the aid of allies, he said “We will keep the faith” with the obligation. “An attack on one is an attack on all.”

But he also pressed Europe to think about challenges in a new way — one that differs from the Cold War, even if the two biggest adversaries were familiar from that period.

“We must prepare together for long-term strategic competition with China,” he said, naming “Cyberspace, artificial intelligence and biotechnology” as the new subjects of competition, which he said he welcomed. The West must again be setting the rules of how these technologies are used, he argued, rather than ceding those forums to Beijing.

And he argued for pushing back against Russia — he called Vladimir V. Putin only by his last name, with no title attached — mentioning in particular the need to respond to the SolarWinds attack that was aimed at federal and corporate computer networks. “Addressing Russian recklessness and hacking into computer networks in the United States and across Europe and the world has become critical to protect collective security.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain will play host to a summit meeting of the G7 leaders in June at a seaside resort in Cornwall, in what would be their first face-to-face meeting in two years.
Credit…Daniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened a video call of the leaders of the Group of 7 nations on Friday afternoon, seizing on the transition to a post-Trump world to push for greater global support and coordination to deliver coronavirus vaccines to billions of people in developing countries.

The call was part of a busy, if virtual, day of trans-Atlantic diplomacy that also featured the international debut of President Biden, who was set to deliver a foreign-policy address to the Munich Security Conference on Friday. Mr. Johnson and several other European leaders were also on the speaker lineup.

Multilateral cooperation — on the pandemic, climate change, and the Iran nuclear deal — was likely to be the watchword.

Whatever their lingering differences over Brexit or how to handle Russia and China, Mr. Johnson and other European leaders are eager to take advantage of an American president who wants to banish the “America First” policy of his predecessor, Donald J. Trump.

On the call, Mr. Johnson pledged that Britain would donate surplus supplies of vaccines to a program that will distribute doses in the developing world. Mr. Biden also confirmed that the United States will donate $4 billion to that effort over two years.

But even as the leaders pledged international cooperation, they faced very difficult situations at home. Mr. Johnson acknowledged as much in the video call, noting the Mr. Biden’s slogan — “Build Back Better” — had a familiar ring.

“I think he may have nicked it from us,” Mr. Johnson said laughing, “but I certainly nicked it from somewhere else — probably some U.N. disaster relief program.”

While Mr. Biden is clearly the star attraction, the video call was a major opportunity for Mr. Johnson, who vaulted himself into power by promising to deliver Britain’s departure from the European Union, to fashion a post-Brexit identity for his country as well.

In addition to Mr. Biden, the callers included Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan.

Mr. Johnson will play host to a summit meeting of the leaders in June at a seaside resort in Cornwall, in what would be their first face-to-face meeting in two years. The United States chaired the Group of 7 last year and was scheduled to host the meeting, but it was canceled because of the pandemic.

Even before the virus disrupted the gathering, Mr. Trump’s handling of it sowed dissent at home and abroad. He antagonized other leaders by inviting President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to attend. And he kicked up a domestic political storm by steering the summit to his Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.

Mr. Trump backed down, moving the meeting to Camp David, before it was scrapped entirely. His aides further inflamed matters by insisting that climate change would have no place on the agenda during Mr. Trump’s chairmanship.

Mr. Johnson, by contrast, was expected to make climate change a major theme in Friday’s call. Britain is also playing host to the United Nations’ climate change conference in Glasgow in November. It has announced ambitious emissions reduction targets that Mr. Johnson hopes will set the tone for the Glasgow conference.

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Merkel Calls for ‘Joint Strategy’ in Response to China and Russia

On Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called for the United States and Europe to reach a “joint agenda” for solving relations with China and Russia.

The trans-Atlantic partnership has two major tasks ahead of it, and we need a joint strategy to tackle that, and one of them is our relationship with Russia. When it comes to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, we have not really made any progress in recent years. The Minsk process is a diplomatic instrument that can be used, but it has not been successful. Russia has repeatedly caused hybrid conflicts that your states have been involved in. So we need a Russian agenda on Russia, a joint agenda. We must offer cooperation on the one hand. But on the other hand, we must be clear about the differences we have. And I can only agree with the U.S. president about the question of a strong European Union. The second thing, and that is more complex, we need a joint agenda with regard to China. China, on the one hand, is a competitor. But on the other hand, we need China to settle global problems such as climate change, biodiversity and others. In recent years, China has gained more power on the international stage. And we as a trans-Atlantic alliance and as Democratic countries need to react to that.

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On Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany called for the United States and Europe to reach a “joint agenda” for solving relations with China and Russia.CreditCredit…Pool photo by Markus Schreiber

BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the United States and Europe to find a common approach to China and Russia, adding that she had “no illusions” that interests from either side of the Atlantic will always line up.

She made it clear that even though she welcomed President Biden’s overtures, Germany is no longer willing to simply follow Washington on the world stage.

Speaking after Mr. Biden on Friday, in what will most likely be her final appearance at the Munich Security Conference as German chancellor, Ms. Merkel welcomed the United States’ return to multilateral organizations after four years of former President Trump’s antagonism.

But as she listed the issues she viewed as the most pressing — from fighting terrorism in Africa to reviving stalled diplomatic talks in Ukraine — the German chancellor stressed that words alone will not be sufficient.

“It’s only actually good if you follow through,” Ms. Merkel said.

She called for Europe and the U.S. to align in dealing with Russia and China, which she said was “perhaps more complicated,” given China’s dual role as competitor and necessary partner for the West.

“In recent years, China has gained global clout, and as trans-Atlantic partners and democracies, we must do something to counter this,” Ms. Merkel said, stressing the pledges by both Germany and the U.S. to distribute vaccines in the developing world.

On Russia, she was more pointed.

“Russia continually entangles European Union members in hybrid conflicts,” she said. “Consequently it is important that we come up with a trans-Atlantic agenda toward Russia that makes cooperative offers on the one hand, but on the other very clearly names the differences.”

Ms. Merkel has been a regular at the conference since the early 2000s, before she was elected as Germany’s first female chancellor. In an uncharacteristically impassioned speech at the event in 2019, she rejected the demands of the Trump administration for Europeans to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Germany remained in the agreement after the United States pulled out in 2018. Recent weeks have seen Iran grow increasingly bold, and in a call with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on Wednesday, the chancellor made her government’s position clear that the deal should be preserved.

She “expressed concern that Iran was continuing to fail to meet its obligations under the nuclear agreement,” her office said in a statement and called on Iran to produce “positive signals that would build confidence and increase the chances of a diplomatic solution.”

On Friday she welcomed Mr. Biden’s decision to return to the agreement. “I hope that this agreement can be given another chance,” the chancellor said.

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At the Munich Security Conference on Friday, President Emmanuel Macron of France said Europeans and Americans need ‘effective multilateralism’ for climate, preserving democracies and protecting freedom of speech.CreditCredit…/EPA, via Shutterstock

PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron of France used a virtual appearance at the Munich Security Conference to make an impassioned defense of his concept of European “strategic autonomy,” arguing that it should not alarm the United States but would ultimately make NATO “even stronger than before.”

Speaking by video link after President Biden had addressed an upbeat “America-is-back” message to the conference, Mr. Macron made clear the postwar American-dominated world order needs to yield to new realities. He said Europe should be “much more in charge of its own security,” increasing its commitments to spending on defense to “rebalance” the trans-Atlantic relationship.

Speaking in English in answer to a question, he said the United States had spent decades “totally focused” on Europe but this had changed with the rising importance of Asia. “We must take more of the burden of our own protection,” the president said.

In practice, it will take many years for Europe to build up a defense arm that would make it more self-reliant. But Mr. Macron is determined to start now, just as he is determined to increase the European Union’s technological capacities so that it depends less on the United States or China.

Mr. Macron, who faces a presidential election in France next year, has made the need for “a sovereign Europe” a core theme. Other European countries, including Germany and Poland, worry about a weakening of the trans-Atlantic bond, which Mr. Biden clearly wants to restore and reinforce after the difficulties and provocations of the Trump years.

The rebuilding of NATO’S security architecture to face new challenges should involve “a dialogue with Russia,” Mr. Macron said. Given Mr. Biden’s firm tone on confronting President Vladimir V. Putin and restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine, this apparently softer French line on relations with Russia suggested possible future tensions.

While France, like other European allies, has been delighted to see the end of the Trump era and has welcomed Mr. Biden, it has concluded that complete trust in the reliability of the United States is no longer a viable strategic option.

President Joe Biden, left, and Vice President Kamala Harris, right, listen as Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks at the State Department in Washington this month.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The United States on Friday formally rejoined the Paris climate agreement, the international accord designed to avert catastrophic global warming.

President Biden has said tackling the climate crisis is among his highest priorities and he signed an executive order recommitting the United States to the accord only hours after he was sworn into office last month.

“We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change,” Mr. Biden said on Friday. “This is a global, existential crisis. And we’ll all suffer the consequences if we fail.”

It was a sharp repudiation of the Trump administration, which had pulled the country out of the pact and seemed eager to undercut regulations aimed at protecting the environment.

“The Paris Agreement is an unprecedented framework for global action,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a statement on Friday. “We know because we helped design it and make it a reality.”

With some 189 countries joining the pact in 2016, it had broad international support and Mr. Biden’s move to rejoin the effort was welcomed by foreign leaders.

“Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!” Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, said in a Twitter message at the time.

The galvanizing idea of the Paris climate accord is that only global solidarity and collective action can prevent the ravages of climate change: hotter temperatures, rising sea levels, more powerful storms, or droughts leading to food shortages.

President Biden has announced a plan to spend $2 trillion over four years to increase the use of clean energies in transportation, electricity and building sectors, while rapidly moving away from coal, oil and gas. He has set a goal of eliminating fossil fuel emissions from electricity generation by 2035 and has vowed to put the entire United States economy on track to become carbon neutral by midcentury.

Former President Trump had announced in 2017 that the United States would withdraw from the Paris agreement, but the exit could not be made official until Nov. 4 last year.

The United States was officially out of the agreement for 107 days.

On Friday, Mr. Blinken said fighting climate change would be once again at the center of U.S. domestic and foreign policy priorities.

“Climate change and science diplomacy can never again be ‘add-ons’ in our foreign policy discussions,” Mr. Blinken said.

But, he added, “as momentous as our joining the agreement was in 2016 — and as momentous as our rejoining is today — what we do in the coming weeks, months, and years is even more important.”

Since the start of the industrial era, the United States has emitted more greenhouse gases than any other country. And so, how the United States uses its money and power has both a symbolic and real bearing on whether the world’s roughly 7.6 billion people, and especially its poorest, will be able to avert climate catastrophes.

There are two immediate signals to watch for. First, how ambitious will the Biden administration be in its emissions reductions targets? It is under pressure from advocacy groups to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

And second, how much money will the United States provide to help poor countries adapt to the calamities of global warming and shift their economies away from fossil fuels?

The answers to both are expected in the next few weeks, in time for the April 22 virtual climate summit that President Biden has said he will host.

President Joe Biden’s speech to the Munich security forum is expected to be broad in scope, those who have seen it say.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

As a senator and as vice president, Joe Biden was one of the few people in Washington who actually enjoyed summit meetings — and was eager to show up at the Munich Security Conference, the meeting of Europe’s diplomatic and defense elites.

Two years ago he even showed up in Munich as a private citizen — one who was already running for president — backslapping his way through the jammed Hotel Bayerischer Hof, where the event is always held, and assuring allies that the Trump era would end, some day.

On his return on Friday, there was no glad-handing as the event was being held virtually and Mr. Biden spoke by video link. But his message was clear. The Trump era of “America first” diplomacy is over.

For all the violence and tumult in Washington in recent months, autocracies will never outperform democracies, and restored alliances are the West’s pathway to restored influence. He chastised China and warned Europe about the need to push back hard on Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia.

For the Europeans, dealing with Mr. Biden will be like putting on a pair of well-worn shoes — they know just what it will feel like. But Mr. Biden, some aides acknowledge, will also face more than a few doubters, who wonder whether his presidency will be just a brief alliance-friendly interregnum, and that the era of America First has not been extinguished.

His speech to the Munich security forum was broad in scope, arguing that the United States and its European allies can take on China without descending into a Cold War, and that the only way to deal with Russia is to push back hard against Mr. Putin.

He listed the treaties and multinational institutions that the United States has re-entered or re-engaged with in recent weeks, from the Paris agreement on climate change to the World Health Organization to Covax, the public-private effort to distribute vaccines around the world equitably.

On Thursday night, just before the speech, the State Department issued its first road map for re-entering talks with Iran for the first time in four years. It marked the first time since early 2018 that Europe and the United States were on the same page on an Iran strategy.

In public this will all generate applause; European leaders are just happy, they say, to go to a meeting without fear that the United States will be hinting it is getting ready to depart from the NATO alliance.

But Europeans, Mr. Biden’s aides concede, do not have the same view of China and the threat posed by its economic dominance and political influence. And the dependence of European countries on Russian energy supplies limits their enthusiasm for joining Mr. Biden in declaring that Mr. Putin will pay a price for undermining democracies.

Ursula von der Leyen, a top European Union’s official, speaks on Friday by video link during the Munich Security Conference.
Credit…EPA, via Shutterstock

BRUSSELS — The European Union has largely set the regulatory framework for the chaos of the internet.

On Friday, a top official of the bloc, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, called for the United States to join Europe “in creating a digital economy rule book valid worldwide, a set of rules based on our values.”

Ms. von der Leyen, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, cited the storming of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 as “a turning point for our discussion of the impact social media has on our democracies.”

It was only a “short step from crude conspiracy theories to the death of police officers,” she said.

Regulating the power of big tech companies would be “an important step” in stopping political violence, she insisted, adding: “We want clear requirements that internet firms take responsibility for the content they distribute, promote and remove.”

Decisions on content must not be left to computer programs or to “the boardrooms of Silicon Valley,” she said. They must be made by democratically elected legislators, an argument France has consistently made.

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W.H.O. Warns of Unequal Vaccine Distribution

The World Health Organization on Friday warned that the unequal distribution of vaccines across the globe could further the spread of the coronavirus.

We need a new treaty if we’re serious enough about pandemics. And that will really help and prepare the world for the future. But the key is working together, considering the world as a small village, very much interconnected, and looking inwards wouldn’t help. And we should cooperate. And we have learned this lesson the hard way, by the way. And it’s a must to cooperate and it’s a must to take attention, to give attention to solidarity. Vaccine equity is not just the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do. The longer it takes to suppress the virus everywhere, the more opportunity it has to change in ways that could make vaccines less effective and opportunity to mutate. We could end up back at square one.

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The World Health Organization on Friday warned that the unequal distribution of vaccines across the globe could further the spread of the coronavirus.CreditCredit…Christopher Black/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W. H.O., on Friday urged countries and drugmakers to help speed up the manufacture and distribution of vaccines across the globe, warning that the world could be “back at square one” if some countries went ahead with their vaccination campaigns and left others behind.

“Vaccine equity is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smartest to do,” Dr. Tedros said at the Munich Security Conference, arguing that the longer it would take to vaccinate populations in every country, the longer the pandemic would remain out of control.

Wealthy countries have come under increased criticism in recent weeks for stockpiling doses, and keeping them away from low- and middle-income countries. Dr. Tedros used his comments to condemn the approach to public health in many countries, which he called “a failure even in the most advanced economies in our world.”

“It affects everything, and the whole world is now taken hostage by a small virus,” he said.

Speaking before Mr. Ghebreyesus, Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist, said that the tragedy now unfolding across the world because of the pandemic could have been largely avoided.

“It is a tragedy that the modest steps that would have been required to contain this epidemic were not taken in advance,” he said.

While Dr. Tedros welcomed new commitments from wealthy countries to fund international vaccine efforts, he said more needed to be done, and faster.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, who also spoke before Mr. Ghebreyesus, said more than 100 countries had not received a single dose, and humanitarian groups have urged the public-private health partnership leading the international vaccine effort, known as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to start delivering on its promises.

“While the Covax mechanism is designed specifically for equitable distribution and vaccine development, it has yet to deliver a single vaccine to a country,” says Claire Waterhouse, a South Africa-based advocacy coordinator for Doctors Without Borders.

More than 190 million people have been vaccinated worldwide, but almost none in Africa. Bodies have piled up on the streets in Bolivia, while in Mexico, oxygen shortage has led many to die at home.

“Accessing vaccines for low- and middle-income countries will remain a serious problem unless systemic issues linked to protectionist agreements between wealthy nations and pharma corporations are dealt with,” said Dr. Tom Ellman, the director of Doctors Without Borders’ medical unit in South Africa.

On Friday, Dr. Tedros called on countries of the Group of 7 to sponsor a new treaty on pandemics. “We know pandemics happen, it’s a matter of when, not if,” Dr. Tedros added. “It’s a must to cooperate and to give attention to solidarity.”

President Biden delivering remarks at the White House last month on the fight to contain the pandemic.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

An international effort to speed up the manufacture and distribution of coronavirus vaccines around the globe has gotten a boost.

On Friday, during a virtual meeting with other leaders from the Group of 7 nations, President Biden said that his administration would make good on a U.S. promise to donate $4 billion to the global vaccination campaign over the next two years. Other leaders also announced pledges, and at the end of the meeting, the European Union’s chief executive said that new commitments from the E.U., Japan, Germany and Canada had more than doubled the G7’s total support to $7.5 billion.

The World Health Organization released a statement welcoming the additional pledges for the campaign, known as Covax, and noting that commitments for the program now total $10.3 billion — but also saying that a funding gap of $22.9 billion remained for the campaign’s work this year.

The Covax effort has been led by the public-private health partnership known as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, as well as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization. It aims to distribute vaccines that have been deemed safe and effective by the W.H.O., with a special emphasis on providing them to low- and middle-income countries.

Public health experts often say that unless everyone is vaccinated, it’s as if no one is vaccinated.

So far, the United States has pledged more money than any other nation, with at least one official noting that diminishing the pandemic’s global impact would benefit the country’s own economy and security. White House officials said the money would be delivered in multiple tranches: an initial donation of $500 million right away, followed shortly by an additional $1.5 billion. The remaining $2 billion will delivered by the end of 2022. The funds were approved last year by a Republican-led Senate when President Donald J. Trump was still in office.

President Biden’s engagement in the global fight against the pandemic stands in stark contrast to the approach of Mr. Trump, who withdrew from the World Health Organization and disdained foreign assistance, pursuing a foreign policy he called “America First.” Mr. Biden rejoined the World Health Organization immediately after taking office in January.

National security experts have said the United States should consider donating vaccine doses to poorer countries, as India and China are already doing in an effort to expand their global influence. But an official said that the U.S. would not be able to share vaccines while the American vaccination campaign is still continuing to expand.

The global vaccination effort also stands to benefit from a commitment by the pharmaceutical company Novavax, whose coronavirus vaccine is still in trials.

Under a memorandum of understanding between Gavi and Novavax, the company agreed to provide “1.1 billion cumulative doses,” though it did not specify a time frame. The vaccine will be manufactured and distributed globally by Novavax and the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.

Novavax is expected to provide vaccines primarily to high-income countries, the company said in its announcement, while the Serum Institute will supply “low-, middle, and upper-middle-income countries,” using “a tiered pricing schedule.”

Novovax recently reported that its vaccine showed robust protection in a large British trial, but was less effective against the variant of the virus first identified in South Africa. Trials are also underway in the United States, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

President Emmanuel Macron is shown speaking via video link at the Munich Security Conference.
Credit…Pool photo by Thibault Camus

Two weeks after President Biden’s inauguration, Emmanuel Macron, his French counterpart, spoke publicly about the importance of dialogue with Moscow, saying that Russia is a part of Europe that cannot simply be shunned and that Europe must be strong enough to defend its own interests.

On Dec. 30, just weeks before the inauguration, the European Union clinched an important investment agreement with China, days after a tweet by Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, asking for “early consultations” with Europe on China and seeming to caution against a quick deal.

So even as the United States resets under new White House leadership, Europe is charting its own course on Russia and China in ways that do not necessarily align with Mr. Biden’s goals, posing a challenge as the new American president sets out to rebuild a post-Trump alliance with the continent.

Speaking at the Munich Security conference two years ago, Mr. Biden lamented the damage the Trump administration had inflicted on the once-sturdy postwar relationship between Washington and Europe’s major capitals. “This too shall pass,” Mr. Biden said. “We will be back.” He promised that the United States would again “shoulder our responsibility of leadership.”

The president’s remarks on Friday are sure to repeat that promise and spotlight his now-familiar call for a more unified Western front against the anti-democratic threats posed by Russia and China. In many ways, such talk is sure to be received like a warm massage by European leaders shellshocked by four years of President Donald J. Trump’s mercurial and often contemptuous diplomacy.

But if by “leadership” Mr. Biden means a return to the traditional American assumption — we decide and you follow — many Europeans feel that world is gone, and that Europe must not behave like America’s junior wingman in fights defined by Washington.

Demonstrated by the European Union’s trade deal with China, and conciliatory talk about Moscow from leaders like Mr. Macron and Germany’s likely next chancellor, Armin Laschet, Europe has its own set of interests and ideas about how to manage the United States’ two main rivals, ones that will complicate Mr. Biden’s diplomacy.

“Biden is signaling an incredibly hawkish approach to Russia, lumping it in with China, and defining a new global Cold War against authoritarianism,” said Jeremy Shapiro, the research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

That makes many European leaders nervous, he said. And other regional experts said they had seen fewer signs of overt enthusiasm from the continent than Biden administration officials might have hoped for.

“There was always a cleareyed recognition that we weren’t just going to be able to show up and say, ‘Hey guys, we’re back!’” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, who was in line to become the National Security Council director for Russia but who did not take the job for personal reasons.

Iran’s economy has been severely damaged by Trump era sanctions, and Tehran is insisting on their removal before negotiations can begin.
Credit…Majid Asgaripour/Wana News Agency, via Reuters

On the eve of a virtual summit of world leaders on Friday, the United States took a major step toward restoring the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration abandoned, offering to join European nations in what would be the first substantial diplomacy with Tehran in more than four years, Biden administration officials said.

In a series of moves intended to make good on one of President Biden’s most significant campaign promises, the administration also backed away from a Trump administration effort to restore United Nations sanctions on Iran. That effort had divided Washington from its European allies.

And at the same time, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told European foreign ministers in a call on Thursday morning that the United States would join them in seeking to restore the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which he said “was a key achievement of multilateral diplomacy.”

Hours later, Enrique Mora, the European Union’s deputy secretary general for political affairs, appealed to the original signers of the nuclear deal — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — to salvage it at “a critical moment.”

“Intense talks with all participants and the US,” Mr. Mora said on Twitter. “I am ready to invite them to an informal meeting to discuss the way forward.”

While it was unclear whether the Iranians would agree to join discussions, three people familiar with the internal debate said it was likely Iran would accept. The officials said Iran would probably be more open to a meeting with the European Union, where the United States was a guest or observer, rather than direct formal talks with Washington as a participant.

In recent days, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and President Hassan Rouhani have suggested they were open to discussing some kind of synchronized approach, in which both sides would act on a certain date. That has an appeal inside the White House, one senior American official said, noting it was how key steps for carrying out the original 2015 deal were coordinated.

But with an Iranian presidential election only four months away, it was not clear if the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the nation’s political and military leadership would fully support re-engagement with the United States.

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