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Biden Says 'America Is Back' As He Strikes New Tone In U.S. Foreign Policy

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a foreign policy address as Vice President Kamala Harris listens during a visit to the State Department in Washington on February 4.

President Joe Biden has promised a new era in U.S foreign policy, declaring "America is back" on the global stage and vowing to confront “authoritarianism" in China and Russia while reengaging with allies.

In his first foreign policy address as president, Biden on February 4 said his administration will seek to lead in the world after four years under President Donald Trump.

"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 said, speaking at the State Department.

The Kremlin on February 5 called Biden's comments on Russia "aggressive," but said it hopes the new administration will be pragmatic in its approach to foreign relations.

In a series of policy announcements, Biden said he would halt a Trump-initiated redeployment of troops stationed in Germany, end U.S. support for offensive operations to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen and increase the refugee cap to 125,000 from the current Trump-imposed cap of 15,000.

He also attempted to vanquish any doubts about the strength of U.S. democracy after the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 and signaled a desire to rebuild alliances frayed under Trump’s "America First" foreign policy.

"Investing in our diplomacy isn't something we do just because it's the right thing to do for the world," he said. "We do it in order to live in peace, security, and prosperity. We do it because it's in our own naked self-interest."

On Russia, Biden said he warned President Vladimir Putin in their first call that the days of the United States "rolling over" to Russia’s “aggressive actions” have come to an end.

"I made it clear to President Putin, in a manner very different than 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," Biden said.

"We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interest and our people," Biden said.

His comments on Russia come as Washington and its European allies barrel toward fresh tensions with Moscow over the jailing of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny.

"Mr. Navalny, like all Russian citizens, is entitled to his rights under the Russian Constitution. He's been targeted for exposing corruption. He should be released immediately and without condition," the U.S. president said.

A Moscow court this week ordered Navalny to serve nearly 3 1/2 years in prison after he returned to Russia in January from Germany, where he had been receiving treatment for a nerve agent poisoning. Having already spent time in detention, he will serve 2 years and 8 months behind bars.

More than 10,000 Russian protesters have been arrested during protests demanding Navalny’s release.

"The Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are a matter of deep concern to us and the international community," Biden said.

Biden said Washington and Moscow could still cooperate in some areas, pointing to the New START arms control treaty that the two sides extended by five years this week.

The Kremlin described Biden's comments as aggressive and unconstructive, but said it hoped the two countries could set aside their differences and cooperate where it made sense.

"This is very aggressive, unconstructive rhetoric, to our regret," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on February 5.

"Any hints of ultimatums are unacceptable to us. We have already said that we won't pay attention to any lecturing announcements," he added.

China also featured prominently in his speech as the Biden administration seeks to pursue a pivot of U.S. economic, political, and military power to the Asia-Pacific region.

Trump sought a warm relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping early in his term, but differences over trade, Hong Kong, and Beijing's behavior in the South China Sea created a rift.

Calling Beijing "our most serious competitor," Biden said the United States would take on challenges posed to U.S. prosperity, security, and democratic values directly.

"We will confront China's economic abuses, counter its aggressive course of action to push back China's attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance," he said. "But we're ready to work with Beijing, when it's in America's interest to do so."

With reporting by AFP, dpa, AP, and Reuters
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