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Munich Security Conference

By B. John Zavrel


US Vice President Joe Biden with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Photo: Sebastian Zwez


München/Washington/Berlin (bpb) The new foreign policy of the United States under President Barack Obama is characterized by the willingness to enter into dialog on the one hand, and a consistent call for international cooperation on the other hand. This was the message that the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden brought to the Munich Security Conference in his much anticipated speech. While Biden repeatedly stressed the willingness of the new Administration in Washington to enter into dialog, he warned Iran quite bluntly against continuing with its nuclear course. In a similar way, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy had pressed Tehran for more international cooperation.


Biden, who delivered his speech from a special lectern decorated with the American coat-of-arms, stressed the United States' preparedness to set a new tone in international relations. He left no doubt that the new willingness to engage in dialog was combined with the expectation that the partners of the United States stand up more often for their shared values and objectives. In Munich, this was seen as a clear appeal to provide more military support to the U.S., for instance regarding Afghanistan.

"America needs the world just as the world needs America," Biden said. One example of this statement is the U.S. Vice President's first official announcement saying that Washington will ask other countries to take inmates from the United States' Guantanamo Bay prison. So far, the international community had merely speculated on this issue. "We need your help," Biden said in a general statement directed at the German Chancellor Merkel.

Biden urged Russia to relaunch their relations with NATO. It was time to work together in many areas, and whenever possible. The same applied to future missile technology, where the U.S. were planning to cooperate with Moscow. There would be coordination on the issue of a missile defense shield to be sited in Poland and the Czech Republic, Biden assured. In Biden's opinion, it was not recommendable to whitewash the discrepancies between America and Russia. Washington, for instance, was not willing to recognize the independence of South Ossetia, which had been forcibly separated from Georgia. The U.S. generally refused to recognize the Russian sphere of influence Moscow claims to have along its borders, Biden said.

According to Biden, the biggest foreign policy priority of the United States focuses on diplomacy. Consequently, the U.S. would not force democracy on other nations in the future, but try to enhance democratic tendencies by entering into more dialog with moderate elements. Regarding the defense of shared values, the U.S. Vice President asked his partners to strengthen the allied forces. He expressly welcomed the French return to the military structure of NATO.


French President Sarkozy with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Munich Security Conference.


Biden, who had repeatedly participated in the Munich Security Conferences in the past years when he was a senator, won strong and lasting applause for his speech. When conference chairman Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger thanked Joe Biden for his speech, he said he was proud that President Obama had chosen this conference to present his ideas on foreign policy issues for the first time outside the United States. So far, numerous speakers at the conference had repeatedly referred to the new Administration of the United States as anchor and start of a new era of international relations.

Biden and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel met for informal talks at the Munich Security Conference. According to the German government's spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm, the main issues of their meeting were Iran's nuclear program, the situation in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the global climate change and the worldwide economic and financial crisis.


© PROMETHEUS 140/2009

PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin - News, Politics, Art and Science. Nr. 140, February, 2009