Washington, Feb 4 (efe-epa).- President Joe Biden on Thursday announced that he is halting the withdrawal of US troops from Germany as well as curtailing Washington’s support for the military offensive led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, the new administration taking both measures to reverse controversial policies of former President Donald Trump.
On Thursday, foreign policy was the focus of the Biden administration and the president went to the State Department to deliver a speech to department personnel in which he sketched what will be the key elements of his international agenda.
In what has been the gist of his speeches since his Jan. 20 inauguration, the Democratic leader announced a pronounced shift in US foreign policy away from Trump’s stance and back to cooperation with Washington’s allies and renewed support for organizations and international agreements such as the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accord, from which his predecessor had withdrawn the country.
“America’s alliances are among our greatest assets,” he said. “And leading with diplomacy means standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies and key partners once more.”
Regarding specific measures, Biden said that he was halting the withdrawal of US troops from Germany that Trump had ordered.
He said that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will oversee a global review of US force deployments around the world to make sure that the US “military footprint is appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities.”
Biden said that while this review is under way, he will halt any plans to withdraw troops from Germany.
Last June, Trump had announced his intention to reduce the number of US troops in Germany in response to what he considered insufficient defense spending by Berlin and what he considered to be Germany’s taking advantage of the US on trade issues.
Later, the Pentagon said that it would withdraw 11,900 troops from Germany, 5,600 of whom would be relocated to other NATO countries, mainly Belgium and Italy, although another 6,400 would be brought back to the US under Trump’s plan.
Last summer, the US had 52,000 personnel deployed at German bases, about 34,500 of them active duty soldiers and the rest civilian Defense Department employees.
Biden also said he was going to increase US diplomatic efforts to end the conflict in Yemen, which he said was a war that has created a humanitarian catastrophe.
“This war has to end,” Biden said of the Yemen conflict, where Saudi-led forces have been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, adding that he would end US support for offensive operations there, “including relevant arms sales,” but would continue to help Riyadh “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
During his speech, Biden also mentioned China and Russia, offering both carrots and sticks, saying that the US should show leadership to limit the spread of authoritarianism, including the growing Chinese ambition to rival the US and Russia’s determination to harm and change US democracy.
Regarding Moscow, the president mentioned the agreement announced on Wednesday to extend for five years the New START nuclear arms treaty limiting the number of strategic nuclear weapons and which was due to expire on Friday.
“I made 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 … are over,” Biden said. “We will not hesitate to raise the cost to Russia and defend our vital interests.”
He also mentioned the case of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who was recently jailed for 3 1/2 years by Moscow and who Biden said must be freed immediately and without conditions.
On China, Biden warned that Washington will not permit Beijing’s “economic abuse” or attacks on human rights, intellectual property and global governance, although he said that the US was prepared to work with the Asian giant when it is in US interests.
“Leading with diplomacy must also mean engaging our adversaries and our competitors diplomatically where it is in our interest and advances the security of the American people,” he said.
In another 180-degree turn vis-a-vis Trump’s policies, Biden will also increase to 125,000 the annual number of refugees who will be admitted to the US after his predecessor pared down that number to a minimum.
He said that later on Thursday he would sign an executive order to begin work on restoring the US refugee admissions program to contribute to responding to an unprecedented global need.