At the very outset, he spoke of repairing alliances and engaging with the world once again. He pointedly stated that American leadership is faced with advancing authoritarianism especially the “growing ambitions of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage and disrupt our democracy.”
There was little that was surprising in his speech. As expected from the Democratic President, terms like ‘democracy’ ‘American Values’ ‘freedom’ figured heavily in his address. The desire to restore America’s moral authority was clearly reflected in the tenor of the speech which reiterated themes of ‘democratic values,’ ‘upholding universal rights,’ and ‘respecting the rule of law.’
In terms of global issues, at the outset, he addressed the military coup in Burma. Yes, he pointedly called the country Burma, because U.S. has never recognized the name Myanmar arguing that it was made without the consent of the people and was thus illegitimate. Interestingly, in 2016 soon after her party took office Aung San Suu Kyi had stated her preference for the colonial-era term Burma. Biden said that the Burmese military should relinquish the power they have seized.
After affirming America’s need for “engaging our adversaries and our competitors diplomatically” he made several references to Russia and directly stated that the “politically motivated jailing of Alexei Navalny and the Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression” are a matter of deep concern to the United States, demanding his unconditional release. He also called out Russia for interfering with American elections. Nonetheless, in a clear sign of progress, acting fast, Biden has agreed to extend the 2010 New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) which expires on Feb 5, for five years, something that the Trump administration had been vacillating over. Talks between the Trump administration and Moscow had stalled since October 2020. The treaty’s lapse which would have ended all restraints on deployments of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear warheads and the missiles, bombers and submarines that carry them, could have fueled a new nuclear arms race.
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