Letter from the President on the Implementation of the Global Fragility Act
The world stands today at the dawn of a decisive decade — a moment of consequence and peril, of profound pain and extraordinary possibility. Perhaps now more than ever, we have seen how the most urgent challenges of our time do not confine themselves within national borders. A global pandemic that has claimed more than six million lives. A climate crisis that threatens the future of every continent. An emboldening of autocrats who believe that democracy and multilateralism cannot deliver in the 21st century. These tests, and more, are among the sternest that the world has ever faced.
It is against this backdrop — at this inflection point in history — that America must lead. We know all too well that today’s most pressing challenges — their root causes as well as their impacts — are global in nature. We know that America’s security and success hinge in no small measure on the peace and stability of the world beyond our borders. We know that beneath the global crises we face lie breathtaking opportunities for our Nation and the world — if we can summon the will to seize them.
This document — a prologue to the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability — represents an assertion of American leadership to take on the defining global challenges of our time. Driven in large part by the tireless commitment of humanitarian advocates and civil society organizations working on the front lines of conflict, this Strategy is the product of a bipartisan vision, manifested by the passage of the Global Fragility Act in December 2019 with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. It provides a roadmap: a 10-year effort to strengthen the security and prosperity of people everywhere by helping to fortify the footing of parts of the world that continue to grapple with challenges that can lead to destabilizing conflict and violence. It is, in short, an investment in global peace and security — one which will deliver critical returns not only in the nations with whom we’ll be working, but, most of all, here in the United States.
The heartbreaking images we are seeing in Ukraine — the result of a vicious and unprovoked attack by Vladimir Putin — are only the latest reminder of the tragic consequences of global conflict and the need to avert violence before it erupts. We know that working broadly, strategically, and cooperatively to prevent conflict and instability is the greatest investment we can make in America’s future, and in the future of the entire world. In Ukraine, as in Ethiopia, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere around the world, the incalculable toll of lives lost, families separated, economies destroyed, and social fabrics torn threatens to spiral whole regions into cycles of violence and loss that can linger for generations. Doing all that we can to assist communities around the world in their conflict prevention efforts is more than just the right thing to do. It saves lives, safeguards Americans’ own security and prosperity, and establishes the United States as a trusted partner — a force for peace and stability in the world, and a nation that can be counted on to work and learn productively alongside the nations of every region to tackle common challenges and strengthen our shared future.
This Strategy lays out a whole-of-government approach to advancing America’s national interests on the world stage. This means tapping into the expansive expertise and resources that reside across our Government, sharpening and updating those tools where needed, humbly applying the costly and painful lessons from the past, and transforming the way we work with each other. Our diplomats, officers, and experts in the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, the Department of the Treasury, and others across Government, as well as members of the Foreign Service and Armed Forces, will work in close cooperation with multilateral organizations and a wide variety of local partners in each nation where these efforts will be pursued — including civil society organizations, community leaders, businesses, and government officials.
Those who are closest and most vulnerable to these challenges know best where the opportunities for peace and stability lie — they represent the strongest source of promise and immunity from destabilizing forces, and we must support their strength and resilience. From strengthening social institutions and state-society relations, to mitigating the spread of extremist ideologies, to confronting the corrosive impact of gender inequality, to cultivating greater trust between security forces and citizens, to guarding against the destabilizing threat of climate change — we will help foster locally led, locally owned solutions grounded in mutual trust and long-term accountability.
Prevention is hard work — measured not in days and weeks, but in years and generations. Its successes are never as evident as its failures, and it requires us to remain focused on lasting peace and stability over the allure of easier, more temporary gains that may not strengthen our position in the long term. But, with this Strategy, we are committing ourselves to the effort. As we implement this Strategy, my Administration looks forward to working closely with the Congress on a bipartisan basis, and in close consultation with civil society institutions and stakeholders on every level. United in our vision, America can and must lead this essential new effort to interrupt potential pathways to conflict, alleviate threats before they escalate and arrive on our shores, and help safeguard the economy, health, and security of our Nation for generations to come. –Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Addressing the Collective Challenges of our Time:
Implementing the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability
Every country, including our own, experiences risks and challenges related to stability and conflict. The international community grapples with issues that cut across borders, societies, ways of life, and economies. As the world has witnessed too often, the effects of conflict and instability are not constrained by borders or technologies. Cooperation and long-term investments in conflict prevention and stabilization are needed now more than ever to build peace across divided communities and boundaries. We must collectively bolster societal resilience to prevent and reduce the heavy human and financial costs of conflicts that undermine global peace, security and sustainable development.
On March 24, 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration launched the implementation of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability with partner countries across the globe. The Strategy outlines a ten-year, evidence-based, whole-of-government effort to foster peace and long-term stability through integrated U.S. diplomacy, development, and security-sector engagement with dual goals of strengthening national and regional peace, resilience and stability and enhancing the way our government operates in a variety of contexts.
Through collective action and partnership, the United States seeks to advance the vision and goals of the landmark Global Fragility Act through this Strategy in four diverse countries and one sub-region facing a wide variety of challenges to peace and stability. This Strategy advances U.S. national security and interests. The work now underway represents an important milestone, and next step, in the implementation of the Global Fragility Act, which continues to enjoy strong support within the U.S. Congress and among civil society. Through a spirit of partnership, we can and will build on strengths of communities, governments, and nations to rebound from shocks, confront negative global trends and create new paradigms for broader cooperation. The Strategy and Prologue chart a new path toward positive results that strengthen democracy, rule of law, security, good governance, gender equity and equality, health, education, and respect for human rights all aligned to fuel reservoirs of peace, strength and recovery and extinguish potential discord before it is sparked.
The United States will partner with Haiti, Libya, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, and Coastal West Africa (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Togo) guided by these principles:
Work collaboratively with government and civic partners on an integrated approach to prevent conflict, promote resilience and stability, and advance economic development;
Look beyond urgent crises and near-term needs to focus on mutually determined strategic goals and interests through whole-of-government ten-year plans;
Utilize development, diplomacy, and security-sector means in a coordinated way to support the pursuit of goals, foster an enabling environment, and solidify progress;
Provide new tools and insights to strengthen democratic institutions, for example in the areas of rule of law, anti-corruption, law enforcement, and fiscal transparency, and to promote human rights and gender equity and equality;
Adapt to and learning from changing conditions, anchor efforts in local communities, and make strategic adjustments based on joint analyses, research, and monitoring and evaluation; and
Take a multifaceted approach to address other current and emerging challenges, such as the climate crisis, global pandemics and declining democratic practices.
The U.S. Congress authorized up to $200 million a year for these efforts and appropriated $125 million in Fiscal Year 2022 for the Prevention and Stabilization Fund, which supplements existing bilateral U.S. assistance to these partner countries. This funding will support the development of ten-year implementation plans and related regional and multilateral activities.
The Biden-Harris Administration will closely monitor progress, milestones, and accomplishments under the Strategy. These efforts will endure across future U.S. Administrations and advance much needed innovative approaches to peace and stability.
Today, in response to Vladimir Putin increasing hostilities against Ukraine, deploying Russian forces into Ukraine and giving a speech in which the Russian President dismissed Ukraine’s right to exist as a free and sovereign nation, President Joe Biden issued a tranche of new sanctions.
“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors? This is a flagrant violation of international law, and it demands a firm response from the international community…. He directly attacked Ukraine’s right to exist. He indirectly threatened territory formerly held by Russia, including nations that today are thriving democracies and members of NATO. He explicitly threatened war unless his extreme demands were met. And there is no question that Russia is the aggressor. So we’re clear-eyed about the challenges we’re facing.“
Here is a transcript of his remarks:
Yesterday, Vladimir Putin recognized two regions of Ukraine as independent states and he bizarrely asserted that these regions are no longer part of Ukraine and their sovereign territory. To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine.
Last night, Putin authorized Russian forces to deploy into the region — these regions. Today, he asserted that these regions are — actually extend deeper than the two areas he recognized, claiming large areas currently under the jurisdiction of the Ukraine government.
He’s setting up a rationale to take more territory by force, in my view. And if we listen to his speech last night — and many of you did, I know — he’s — he’s setting up a rationale to go much further.
This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, as he indicated and asked permission to be able to do from his Duma.
I’m going to begin to impose sanctions in response, far beyond the steps we and our Allies and partners implemented in 2014. And if Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further as — with sanction.
Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belonged to his neighbors? This is a flagrant violation of international law, and it demands a firm response from the international community.
Over the last few months, we have coordinated closely with our NATO Allies and partners in Europe and around the world to prepare that response. We’ve said all along and I’ve told Putin to his face more than a month ago that we would act together and the moment Russia moved against Ukraine.
Russia has now undeniably moved against Ukraine by declaring these independent states.
So, today, I’m announcing the first tranche of sanctions to impose costs on Russia in response to their actions yesterday. These have been closely coordinated with our Allies and partners, and we’ll continue to escalate sanctions if Russia escalates.
We’re implementing full blocking sanctions on two large Russian financial institutions: V.E.B. and their military bank.
We’re implementing comprehensive sanctions on Russian sovereign debt. That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western financing. It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either.
Starting tomorrow [today] and continuing in the days ahead, we will also impose sanctions on Russia’s elites and their family members. They share in the corrupt gains of the Kremlin policies and should share in the pain as well.
And because of Russia’s actions, we’ve worked with Germany to ensure Nord Stream 2 will not — as I promised — will not move forward.
As Russia contemplates its next move, we have our next move prepared as well. Russia will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression, including additional sanctions.
The United States will continue to provide defensive assistance to Ukraine in the meantime. And we’ll continue to reinforce and reassure our NATO Allies.
Today, in response to Russia’s admission that it will not withdraw its forces from Belarus, I have authorized additional movements of U.S. forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to strengthen our Baltic Allies — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Let me be clear: These are totally defensive moves on our part. We have no intention of fighting Russia. We want to send an unmistakable message, though, that the United States, together with our Allies, will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO.
We still believe that Russia is poised to go much further in launching a massive military attack against Ukraine. I hope I’m wrong about that — hope we’re wrong about that. But Russia has only escalated its threat against the rest of Ukrainian territory, including major cities and including the capital city of Kyiv.
There are still well over 150,000 Russian troops surrounding Ukraine. And as I said, Russian forces remain positioned in Belarus to attack Ukraine from the north, including war planes and offensive missile systems.
Russia has moved troops closer to Ukraine’s border with Russia. Russia’s naval vessels are maneuvering in the Black Sea to Ukraine’s south, including amphibious assault ships, missile cruisers, and submarines.
Russia has moved supplies of blood and medical equipment into position on their border. You don’t need blood unless you plan on starting a war.
And over the last few days, we’ve seen much of the playbook that Secretary Blinken laid out last week at the United Nations Security Council come to pass: a major increase in military provocations and false-flag events along the line of contact in the Donbas; dramatically staged, conveniently on-camera meeting of Putin’s Security Council to grandstand for the Russian public; and now political provocation of recognizing sovereign Ukrainian territory as so-called independent republics in clear violation, again, of international law.
President Putin has sought authorization from the Russian parliament to use military force outside of Russian territory. And this set the stage for further pretexts and further provocations by Russia to try to justify further military action.
None of us — none of us should be fooled. None of us will be fooled. There is no justification.
Further Russian assault into Ukraine remains a severe threat in the days ahead. And if Russia proceeds, it is Russia, and Russia alone, that bears the responsibility.
As we respond, my administration is using every tool at our disposal to protect American businesses and consumers from rising prices at the pump. As I said last week, defending freedom will have costs for us as well, here at home. We need to be honest about that.
But as we do this, I’m going to take robust action and make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at the Russian economy, not ours.
We are closely monitoring energy supplies for any disruption. We’re executing a plan in coordination with major oil-producing consumers and producers toward a collective investment to secure stability and global energy supplies.
This will be — this will blunt gas prices. I want to limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump. This is critical to me.
In the last few days, I have been in constant contact with European leaders, including with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. Vice President Harris met in person with leaders in Germany over the weekend at the Munich Conference, including President Zelenskyy.
At every step, we have shown that the United States and our Allies and partners are working in unison — which he hasn’t been counting on — Mr. Putin. We’re united in our support of Ukraine. We’re united in our opposition to Russian aggression. And we’re united in our resolve to defend our NATO Alliance. And we’re united in our understanding of the urgency and seriousness of the threat Russia is making to global peace and stability.
Yesterday, the world heard clearly the full extent of Vladimir Putin’s twisted rewrite of history, going back more than a century, as he waxed eloquently, noting that — well, I’m not going to go into it, but nothing in Putin’s lengthy remarks indicated any interest in pursuing real dialogue on European security in the year 2022.
He directly attacked Ukraine’s right to exist. He indirectly threatened territory formerly held by Russia, including nations that today are thriving democracies and members of NATO. He explicitly threatened war unless his extreme demands were met.
And there is no question that Russia is the aggressor. So we’re clear-eyed about the challenges we’re facing.
Nonetheless, there is still time to avert the worst-case scenario that will bring untold suffering to millions of people if they move as suggested.
The United States and our Allies and partners remain open to diplomacy if it is serious. When all is said and done, we’re going to judge Russia by its actions, not its words.
And whatever Russia does next, we’re ready to respond with unity, clarity, and conviction.
We’ll probably have more to say about this as we — if it moves on. I’m hoping diplomacy is still available.
FACT SHEET: United States Imposes First Tranche of Swift and Severe Costs on Russia
U.S. joined by Allies and partners to hold Putin accountable; Will impose additional costs if Russia goes further with this invasion
Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin of Russia recognized two regions of Ukraine as independent states and today claimed that recognition to include all of the Donbas region. The Russian Parliament also authorized the deployment of additional Russian forces into this Ukrainian territory.
As President Biden and our Allies and partners have made clear, we will impose significant costs on Russia for Russia’s actions. Today, the Administration is implementing the first tranche of sanctions that go far beyond 2014, in coordination with allies and partners in the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and Australia. And as President Biden promised, we worked with Germany to ensure the Nord Stream 2 pipeline will not move forward.
The President has directed the following measures:
Full blocking sanctions on two significant Russian financial institutions. The Secretary of the Treasury will impose full blocking sanctions on two large state-owned Russian financial institutions that provide key services crucial to financing the Kremlin and the Russian military: Vnesheconombank and Promsvyazbank and their subsidiaries. Collectively, these institutions hold more than $80 billion in assets and finance the Russian defense sector and economic development. These measures will freeze their assets in the United States, prohibit U.S. individuals and businesses from doing any transactions with them, shut them out of the global financial system, and foreclose access to the U.S. dollar.
Expanded sovereign debt prohibitions restricting U.S. individuals and firms from participation in secondary markets for new debt issued by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation, and the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. These prohibitions will cut off the Russian government from a key avenue by which it raises capital to fund its priorities and will increase future financing costs. It denies Russia access to key U.S. markets and investors.
Full blocking sanctions on five Russian elites and their family members: Aleksandr Bortnikov (and his son, Denis), Sergei Kiriyenko (and his son, Vladimir), and Promsvyazbank CEO Petr Fradkov. These individuals and their relatives directly benefit from their connections with the Kremlin. Other Russian elites and their family members are on notice that additional actions could be taken against them.
Today,the Secretary of the Treasury will determine that any institution in the financial services sector of the Russian Federation economy is a target for further sanctions. Over 80% of Russia’s daily foreign exchange transactions globally are in U.S. dollars and roughly half of Russia’s international trade is conducted in dollars. With this action, no Russian financial institution is safe from our measures, including the largest banks.
These actions come in addition to steps being taken by our Allies and partners and represent our first response to Russia’s actions. As President Biden made clear, Russia will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression
The text of the following statement was released by the G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, and the High Representative of the European Union.
We, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union, remain gravely concerned about Russia’s threatening military build-up around Ukraine, in illegally annexed Crimea and in Belarus. Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified massing of military forces, the largest deployment on the European continent since the end of the Cold War is a challenge to global security and the international order.
We call on Russia to choose the path of diplomacy, to de-escalate tensions, to substantively withdraw military forces from the proximity of Ukraine’s borders and to fully abide by international commitments including on risk reduction and transparency of military activities. As a first step, we expect Russia to implement the announced reduction of its military activities along Ukraine’s borders. We have seen no evidence of this reduction. We will judge Russia by its deeds.
We took note of Russia’s latest announcements that it is willing to engage diplomatically. We underline our commitment vis-à-vis Russia to pursue dialogue on issues of mutual concern, such as European security, risk reduction, transparency, confidence building and arms control. We also reiterate our commitment to find a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the current crisis, and we urge Russia to take up the offer of dialogue through the US-Russia Strategic Stability Dialogue, the NATO-Russia Council, and the OSCE. We commend the Renewed OSCE European Security Dialogue launched by the Polish OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office and express our strong hope that Russia will engage in a constructive way.
Any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states goes against the fundamental principles that underpin the rules-based international order as well as the European peace and security order enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act, the Paris Charter and other subsequent OSCE declarations. While we are ready to explore diplomatic solutions to address legitimate security concerns, Russia should be in no doubt that any further military aggression against Ukraine will have massive consequences, including financial and economic sanctions on a wide array of sectoral and individual targets that would impose severe and unprecedented costs on the Russian economy. We will take coordinated restrictive measures in case of such an event.
We reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Ukraine and our support to Ukraine’s efforts to strengthen its democracy and institutions, encouraging further progress on reform. We consider it of utmost importance to help preserve the economic and financial stability of Ukraine and the well-being of its people. Building on our assistance since 2014, we are committed to contribute, in close coordination with Ukraine’s authorities to support the strengthening of Ukraine’s resilience.
We reiterate our unwavering commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and territorial waters. We reaffirm the right of any sovereign state to determine its own future and security arrangements. We commend Ukraine’s posture of restraint in the face of continued provocations and efforts at destabilization.
We underline our strong appreciation and continued support for Germany’s and France’s efforts through the Normandy Process to secure the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which is the only way forward for a lasting political solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. We acknowledge public statements by President Zelensky underlining Ukraine’s firm commitment to the Minsk Agreements and his readiness to contribute constructively to the process. Ukrainian overtures merit serious consideration by Russian negotiators and by the Government of the Russian Federation. We call on Russia to seize the opportunity which Ukraine’s proposals represent for the diplomatic path.
Russia must de-escalate and fulfil its commitments in implementing the Minsk Agreements. The increase in ceasefire violations along the line of contact in recent days is highly concerning. We condemn the use of heavy weaponry and indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, which constitute a clear violation of the Minsk Agreements. We also condemn that the Russian Federation continues to hand out Russian passports to the inhabitants of the non-government controlled areas of Ukraine. This clearly runs counter to the spirit of the Minsk agreements.
We are particularly worried by measures taken by the self-proclaimed “People’s Republics” which must be seen as laying the ground for military escalation. We are concerned that staged incidents could be used as a pretext for possible military escalation. Russia must use its influence over the self-proclaimed republics to exercise restraint and de-escalate.
In this context, we firmly express our support for the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission, whose observers play a key role in de-escalation efforts. This mission must be allowed to carry out its full mandate without restrictions to its activities and freedom of movement to the benefit and security of the people in eastern Ukraine.
For the first time ever, G20 Leaders agree to establish a historic Global Minimum Corporate Tax
The White House provided this fact sheet summarizing what was accomplished at the G20:
At the G20 Summit in Rome, President Biden coordinated with fellow Leaders on shared interests, including the climate crisis, global health and pandemic preparedness, and the global economic recovery, using the power of diplomacy to address key issues that matter to the American people. Together with the European Union, we achieved a major breakthrough arrangement to negotiate the world’s first carbon-based sectoral arrangement on steel and aluminum, protecting and creating American jobs and lowering costs for families while fighting the climate crisis.
Throughout the G20 President Biden stressed the need for balanced, well-supplied, and competitive global energy markets to underpin an inclusive economic recovery that supports working families at home and abroad. Leaders committed to guaranteeing just and orderly energy transitions of our energy systems that ensure affordability, including for the most vulnerable households and businesses as we recover from the global pandemic. They expressed their intent to explore among other things, paths to enhanced energy security and markets stability.
President Biden met with Leaders from France, Germany, and the United Kingdom to discuss the risks posed to international security by Iran’s escalating nuclear program, and hosted a supply chain summit with 14 countries and the European Union to discuss how we collectively tackle the immediate supply chain challenges from this unprecedented economic recovery and build long-term supply chain reliance for the future. President Biden also held bilateral meetings on the margins of the G20 with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore.
After the Summit, the G20 Leaders came to a consensus across a host of issues, including:
Historic Global Minimum Tax: G20 Leaders representing 80% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) endorsed the establishment of a historic Global Minimum Tax (GMT) to end the race to the bottom, ensure giant corporations pay their fair share no matter where they are located, help prevent the offshoring of good American jobs, and invest in our people at home. One recent independent study found that this agreement to establish a 15% GMT—up from 0% today—would lead to at least $60 billion in revenue per year in the United States alone. Today’s announcement is a testament to American diplomacy and leadership.
COVID-19 Pandemic and Health Security: The Leaders came together in support of the COVID-19 response and global vaccination targets. The Leaders also decide to take next steps toward the design and establishment of an inclusive, sustained, and adequate financing facility to improve global health security and bolster pandemic preparedness around the world. The Leaders agreed to establish a G20 Finance and Health Task Force to enhance global cooperation to detect and response to emerging health threats. The G20 Leaders also came out in support of a global ambition to channel $100 billion worth of reallocation of special drawing rights (SDRs) to help the world’s most vulnerable countries and restructuring debts for low-income countries on a case by case basis – a major step towards global economic recovery. The Leaders also supported efforts to shorten the cycle for the development of safe and effective vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics from 300 to 100 days (following the identification of such threats) and work to make them equitably and widely available. This work follows calls for more urgent action and continued focus from the United States following the President’s Global COVID-19 Summit.
Climate Change: G20 Leaders came out in support of ending public finance for new unabated coal power generation abroad, to contribute to keeping a 1.5 degrees Celsius limit on global temperature rise with reach. They stressed the importance of fully meeting, as soon as possible, the developed country collective goal of mobilizing $100B per year to help developing countries in the face of climate change. After a four-year absence of U.S. federal leadership, President Biden’s commitment to climate finance, alongside strong new pledges from other donors, are fundamental to achieving this goal no later than 2023. This is a decisive decade for climate action and the President will continue to rally the world to tackle the climate crisis together.
Anticorruption and Ransomware: The Leaders also lifted up the global fight against corruption as a shared priority, which includes transparency for beneficial ownership and real estate, and they committed to fight any new and sophisticated forms of corruption. The Leaders recognized the need for international cooperation to counter ransomware and other forms of cybercrime. Just this month, the Biden Administrationheld a meeting with more than 30 countries to accelerate cooperation to counter ransomware, including to improve collective resilience, address the misuse of virtual currency to launder ransom payments, and investigate and prosecute cyber criminals. This work builds on U.S. international efforts to promote cybersecurity, including our commitment to work with G7 partners to address criminal ransomware networks, our support for updating NATO cyber policy for the first time in seven years, and our continuing efforts to work with allies and partners to attribute malicious cyber activity, as evidenced by the broad international support we garnered in our attributions for SolarWinds and Hafnium malicious cyber activity.
Leaders also committed to achieving food security and adequate nutrition, particularly in famine-stricken parts of the world where armed conflicts have exacerbated these problems—such as Ethiopia. Leaders will continue to enhance concrete measures to advance gender equality in national policies. President Biden issued the first-ever national gender strategy to advance the full participation of all people – including women and girls – in the United States and around the world.
This summary of outcomes of President Joe Biden’s historic Leaders on Climate, held April 22-23, 2021, was provided by the White House:
After fulfilling his promise to bring America back into the Paris Agreement, President Biden convened 40 world leaders in a virtual Leaders Summit on Climate this week to rally the world in tackling the climate crisis and meeting the demands of science. The United States and other countries announced ambitious new climate targets ensuring that nations accounting for half of the world’s economy have now committed to the emission reductions needed globally to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5-degrees C within reach. Many leaders underscored the urgency of other major economies strengthening their ambition as well on the road to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November 2021 in Glasgow.
The Summit, which was the largest virtual gathering of world leaders, convened the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (the world’s 17 largest economies and greenhouse gas emitters) and included the leaders of other countries especially vulnerable to climate impacts or charting innovative pathways to a net-zero economy. President Biden was joined at the Summit by Vice President Harris, members of the President’s Cabinet, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, as well as senior representatives of other countries and leaders from business and civil society. The full agenda and list of participants is available at https://www.state.gov/leaders-summit-on-climate/.
With the science telling us that the world needs to significantly increase the scale and speed of climate action, President Biden considered it vital to host this Summit within his first 100 days in office to make clear that it is a top U.S. priority to combat the climate crisis at home and abroad.
Vice President Harris opened the Summit by emphasizing the intertwined imperatives of addressing the climate crisis, creating jobs, and protecting the most vulnerable communities. Her remarks set the stage for the launch of the Summit’s five sessions, which were live-streamed [https://www.state.gov/leaders-summit-on-climate/].
President Biden began Session 1 (“Raising Our Climate Ambition”) by framing enhanced climate action as necessary both to address the crisis and to promote economic opportunity, including the creation of good-paying, union jobs. He told Summit participants that the United States will halve its greenhouse gas emissions within this decade, noting that countries that take decisive action now will reap the economic benefits of a clean energy future. To enshrine this commitment, the United States submitted a new “nationally determined contribution” (NDC) under the Paris Agreement setting an economy-wide emissions target of a 50-52% reduction below 2005 levels in 2030. Secretary of State Blinken conveyed a strong sense of urgency in tackling the climate crisis, noting that this is a critical year and a decisive decade to take action. He noted the U.S. resolve to work with other countries to engage in all avenues of cooperation to “save our planet.”
Participants noted the need to work rapidly over the course of this decade to accelerate decarbonization efforts and are taking a range of actions to that end. Announcements during this Session included, among others:
Japan will cut emissions 46-50% below 2013 levels by 2030, with strong efforts toward achieving a 50% reduction, a significant acceleration from its existing 26% reduction goal.
Canada will strengthen its NDC to a 40-45% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, a significant increase over its previous target to reduce emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
India reiterated its target of 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030 and announced the launch of the “U.S.-India 2030 Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership” to mobilize finance and speed clean energy innovation and deployment this decade.
Argentina will strengthen its NDC, deploy more renewables, reduce methane emissions, and end illegal deforestation.
The United Kingdom will embed in law a 78% GHG reduction below 1990 levels by 2035.
The European Union is putting into law a target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030 and a net zero target by 2050.
The Republic of Korea, which will host the 2021 P4G Seoul Summit in May, will terminate public overseas coal finance and strengthen its NDC this year to be consistent with its 2050 net zero goal.
China indicated that it will join the Kigali Amendment, strengthen the control of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, strictly control coal-fired power generation projects, and phase down coal consumption.
Brazil committed to achieve net zero by 2050, end illegal deforestation by 2030, and double funding for deforestation enforcement.
South Africa announced that it intends to strengthen its NDC and shift its intended emissions peak year ten years earlier to 2025.
Russia noted the importance of carbon capture and storage from all sources, as well as atmospheric carbon removals. It also highlighted the importance of methane and called for international collaboration to address this powerful greenhouse gas.
Session 2 (“Investing in Climate Solutions”) addressed the urgent need to scale up climate finance, including both efforts to increase public finance for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries and efforts to catalyze trillions of dollars of private investment to support the transition to net zero emissions no later than 2050. President Biden stressed the importance of developed countries meeting the collective goal of mobilizing $100 billion per year in public and private finance to support developing countries. He also announced that the Administration intends to seek funding to double, by 2024, annual U.S. public climate finance to developing countries, compared to the average level of the second half of the Obama-Biden Administration (FY 2013-2016). This would include tripling public finance for adaptation by 2024. President Biden also called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and announced that his Administration will undertake a series of steps to promote the measurement, disclosure, and mitigation of material climate risks to the financial system.
Treasury Secretary Yellen highlighted the role of multilateral development banks in supporting the transition. She also said that the Treasury Department will use all its tools and expertise to help support climate action. Special Envoy Kerry moderated a discussion among leaders from government, international organizations, and multilateral and private financial institutions. These leaders noted the importance of concessional finance to leverage much larger sums of private capital, as well as to provide finance to technologies, activities, and geographies where private capital is not flowing. They noted the urgent need to increase finance for adaptation and resilience in developing countries. The participants also recognized the need for governments to embrace key policies, including meaningful carbon pricing, enhanced disclosure of climate-related risks, and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Several of the private financial institutions expressed their support for coalitions such as the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero and the Net Zero Banking Alliance. They also referred to recent commitments by U.S. banks to invest $4.16 trillion in climate solutions over the next ten years.
Session 3 elevated four specific topics for more focused consideration by government officials and, in some cases, a broader range of stakeholders.
The discussion on climate action at all levels, hosted by U.S. EPA Administrator Regan and including participation from a wide range of governors, mayors, and indigenous leaders from around the world, illustrated the importance of marshalling a multi-level “all-of-society” approach to climate action. The Session showcased States, cities, and indigenous groups that are committed to an equitable vision for advancing bold climate ambition and building resilience on the ground. Participants discussed the critical importance of building just and inclusive societies and economies as they accelerate efforts to transform their communities in line with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Participants discussed not only the importance of leadership at all levels of society and government, but also the importance of collaboration between national and subnational governments to catalyze additional ambition.
The discussion on adaptation and resilience, hosted by Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack and Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas, focused on innovative ways in which countries from a wide variety of regions are responding to climate change in the areas of water and coastal management, food security, and human impacts. On the theme of coastal and water management, panelists offered up innovative solutions to prepare for water-related climate challenges, such as locally-owned disaster insurance instruments, relocation, and the use of green and blue bonds to finance nature-based solutions. Focusing on food security and climate, participants highlighted the need for better technology to address a changing agricultural landscape as well as the importance of supporting small-scale farmers. On human health and security, the discussion centered on scaling up locally-led solutions to climate vulnerability, emphasizing that economic opportunities are key to keeping communities healthy and stable. The session emphasized that adaptation and mitigation go hand in hand.
The discussion on nature-based solutions, hosted by Interior Secretary Haaland, addressed how achieving net zero by 2050 is not possible without natural climate solutions, such as stopping deforestation and the loss of wetlands and restoring marine and terrestrial ecosystems. She announced U.S. support of a proposal to protect the Southern Ocean through the three marine protected area proposals under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). All participants highlighted their support for protecting and conserving land and marine areas to sequester carbon and build climate resilience, and several made announcements. Seychelles is dedicating a chapter of its enhanced NDC to ocean-based solutions and is committing to protect at least 50% of its seagrass and mangrove ecosystems by 2025 and 100% by 2030, with support. Canada, for its part, is committing $4 billion in its new federal budget for land and ocean protection. In addition, Costa Rica underlined its co-leadership of the High-Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and the intention to have 30% of its ocean under protection by 2022; Peru highlighted that more than a fifth of its NDC measures are associated with nature-based solutions; Indonesia discussed its Presidential decree to permanently freeze new license for logging and peatland utilization, as well as its mangrove rehabilitation program; and Gabon noted that its intact and logged forests absorb four times more CO2 annually than its total emissions across all sectors. Representatives of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities and of the Kharia Tribe of India highlighted the need to recognize the contributions and traditional knowledge of local and indigenous communities in ecosystem protection.
The discussion on climate security was hosted by Defense Secretary Austin. His remarks were followed by remarks from both Director of National Intelligence Haines and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas-Greenfield, who then moderated a panel discussion. Speakers included NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg, defense officials from Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Spain, and the UK, as well as the Philippines’ finance minister. A common theme throughout the discussion was how climate impacts exacerbate security concerns and, as a result, affect military capabilities, heighten geopolitical competition, undermine stability, and provoke regional conflicts. Participants further emphasized that their nations and regions are vulnerable to extreme weather events, including sea level rise, cyclones, typhoons, drought, and increasing temperatures. All of these intensify underlying political, social, and economic conditions, which in turn can lead to food insecurity and water scarcity, violent extremism, and mass population movement, with disproportionate effects on vulnerable populations, especially women. Defense officials noted that their ministries are increasingly called upon to respond to disasters, which taxes their resources, thus elevating the need for enhanced disaster preparedness and response. In looking at their own operations and readiness, they showcased current efforts to decrease their militaries’ emissions, emphasizing how incorporating climate considerations into their operational planning can increase the agility of their forces. Additionally, they described the benefits of collaboration between defense ministries on shared climate risks. Participants highlighted the NATO climate security action plan and called on countries to incorporate climate considerations more broadly into multilateral fora, including UN peacekeeping missions. Perhaps most noteworthy, this was the first-ever U.S. Secretary of Defense convening of Secretaries of Defense focused on climate change.
Session 4 (“Unleashing Climate Innovation”) explored the critical innovations needed to speed net-zero transitions around the world and highlighted the efforts of governments, the private sector, and civil society in bringing new and improved technologies to market. Energy Secretary Granholm and Commerce Secretary Raimondo emphasized the economic rewards from investing in innovation as multi-trillion dollar markets for clean technologies emerge in the coming decades and announced reinvigorated U.S. international leadership on innovation. The discussion underscored the urgent need for innovation: 45% of the emissions reductions needed for a swift net-zero transition must come from technologies that are not commercially available, according to the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, and Bill Gates urged investment to drive down “green premium” prices of most zero-carbon technologies compared with fossil fuel alternatives. Several leading countries — Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Kenya, Norway, and Singapore — described their approaches to investing in mitigation and adaptation technologies. These included clean fuels such as hydrogen, renewables such as offshore wind and geothermal energy, energy storage, clean desalination, carbon capture, advanced mobility, sustainable urban design, and monitoring technologies to verify emissions and stop deforestation. Leaders from the private sector, including from GE Renewables, Vattenfall, and X, as well as from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, focused on training the diverse innovators of the future and investing in technologies for digitalized, electrified, decarbonized, and resilient energy systems. Special Envoy Kerry closed by emphasizing that raising our innovation ambition enables us to raise the world’s climate ambition.
Several speakers made announcements during this Session: Denmark announced a technology mission under Mission Innovation to decarbonize the global shipping sector, in collaboration with the United States, and that it will build the world’s first energy islands to produce clean fuels and supply power to Europe. The United Arab Emirates launched the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate in partnership with the United States, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Israel, Singapore, and Uruguay. Bill Gates launched the Breakthrough Energy Catalyst to drive public, private, and philanthropic capital to scale up critical emerging technologies. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced the Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems to decarbonize urban systems. GE Renewable Energy announced that the GE Foundation is committing up to $100 million to increase the diversity of the next generation of engineers. And X, Alphabet’s Moonshot Factory, announced a Moonshot for the electric grid.
President Biden began Session 5 (“The Economic Opportunities of Climate Action”)by recognizing the opportunity that ambitious climate action presents to countries around the world to create good, high quality jobs. He noted that countries that prioritize policies that promote renewable energy deployment, electric vehicle manufacturing, methane abatement, and building retrofits, among other actions, would likely reap the rewards of job growth and economic prosperity in the years ahead. The U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Tai, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, and National Climate Advisor McCarthy underscored that the climate agenda could be a race to the top for countries that are pursuing the most ambitious methods to tackle the crisis, noting the American Jobs Plan that President Biden has proposed.
Participants echoed this vision and elaborated their own projects and programs to maximize the economic benefits of their climate actions. Leaders of countries recognized that the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for countries to build back better and invest in the industries of the future. Community, tribal, private sector, and labor leaders also weighed in on the opportunities that decarbonization provided. Panelists noted that climate action presents economic opportunities to all parts of society, from energy workers to vehicle manufacturers, from large businesses to small. In particular, there was general alignment among both country representatives and other participants that governments should promote equitable opportunities for workers and that labor unions can play a key role in promoting high quality employment opportunities for people around the world. To that end, Poland announced that they had just concluded negotiations with coal mine labor unions to ensure a just transition of workers as part of their coal-fired power phasedown. In response to the discussion, President Biden closed by emphasizing that climate action might represent the largest economic opportunity of this century and urging leaders to stay focused.
In between the five Sessions, several other speakers provided important perspectives. Youth speaker Xiye Bastida, declaring that climate justice is social justice, underlined that youth need to be a part of decision-making processes and called for a stop to fossil fuel subsidies and extraction. Current and future Conference of Parties Presidents Minister Carolina Schmidt (Chile) and MP Alok Sharma (UK) discussed the urgency of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Minister Schmidt noted that COP25 included, for the first time, a mandate to address the ocean-climate nexus, while MP Sharma noted that we must put the world on a path to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 through long-term targets and aligned NDCs, as well as immediate action, such as phasing out coal. Pope Francis, who has been a climate leader for many years, underlined the need to “care for nature so that nature may care for us.” Chair Mallory of the White House Council on Environmental Quality highlighted the Biden Administration’s commitment to environmental justice and introduced Peggy Shepard, Co-Chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council; she underlined the need to build back better to lift up the communities struggling with climate impacts and environmental injustice. Michael Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, noted the key role of cities and businesses in tackling the climate crisis.
Alongside the Summit, Special Envoy Kerry hosted two Ministerial Roundtables to provide a broader group of countries an opportunity to contribute to the discussions. He heard from representatives of more than 60 countries from all over the world, reflecting a wide range of regions, geographic features, and national circumstances, and summarized their input for leaders on the second day of the Summit. Many Roundtable participants expressed concern about the inadequacy of global climate action to date and/or shared the unprecedented climate impacts they are experiencing. At the same time, participants enthusiastically reported on the significant, exciting efforts they are undertaking to confront the climate crisis, even while facing the global pandemic. Beyond many commitments to net zero emissions, enhanced NDCs, and innovative adaptation efforts, participants included a carbon-negative country, countries that have successfully decoupled economic growth from carbon emissions, leaders in carbon storage, countries with extensive forest cover, issuers of green bonds, and countries focusing on gender-responsive approaches and the participation of indigenous communities. It was notable that many of those passionately embracing climate solutions contribute far less than 1% of global emissions. The Roundtables contributed to the Summit’s sense of urgency as countries rally around increased ambition on the road to Glasgow.
Roundtable participants represented: Afghanistan, Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Federated States of Micronesia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, North Macedonia, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Republic of Congo, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, The Bahamas, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, and Zambia.
President Joe Biden visited the US State Department to give his first major foreign policy speech in which he declared emphatically, “America is back.” He noted the importance – the obligation – of America to assert its global leadership, and said he would repair the alliances broken and weakened by the Trump Administration, along with reinforcing his respect and commitment to the people who serve in the diplomatic corps, often in dangerous and difficult circumstances.
He emphasized that diplomacy is not just because of the moral imperative, but also helps America and Americans prosper and live in peace.
And he said he would reassert American values in diplomacy: reinstating a refugee admissions program that would accommodate up to 125,000 in the first full fiscal year of his administration; would seek a ceasefire in Yemen and would send humanitarian aid; and would stand up for human rights.
He said he would assert American interests in Russia and China, and suggested there would be sanctions against the military leadership that fomented a coup in Myanmar. “In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election,” he declared, in a statement that had eerie resonance in the United States.
“Investing in our diplomacy isn’t something we do just because it’s the right thing to do for the world. We do it in order to live in peace, security, and prosperity. We do it because it’s in our own naked self-interest. When we strengthen our alliances, we amplify our power as well as our ability to disrupt threats before they can reach our shores.
“When we invest in economic development of countries, we create new markets for our products and reduce the likelihood of instability, violence, and mass migrations.
“When we strengthen health systems in far regions of the world, we reduce the risk of future pandemics that can threaten our people and our economy. “When we defend equal rights of people the world over — of women and girls, LGBTQ individuals, indigenous communities, and people with disabilities, the people of every ethnic background and religion — we also ensure that those rights are protected for our own children here in America.
“America cannot afford to be absent any longer on the world stage. I come today to the State Department, an agency as old and as storied as the nation itself, because diplomacy has always been essential to how America writes its own destiny.”
Here is a highlighted transcript of President Biden’s remarks:
It’s great to be here and stand alongside our most recent and senior diplomat, Secretary Tony Blinken. Mr. Secretary, thank you for welcoming us today. We’ve worked together for over 20 years. Your diplomatic skills are respected equally by your friends and our competitors around the world.
And they know when you speak, you speak for me. And so — so is the message I want the world to hear today: America is back. America is back. Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.
As I said in my inaugural address, we will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s. 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.
We must meet the new moment accelerating global challenges — from the pandemic to the climate crisis to nuclear proliferation — challenging the will only to be solved by nations working together and in common. We can’t do it alone.
That must be this — we must start with diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.
That’s the grounding wire of our global policy — our global power. That’s our inexhaustible source of strength. That’s America’s abiding advantage.
Though many of these values have come under intense pressure in recent years, even pushed to the brink in the last few weeks, the American people are going to emerge from this moment stronger, more determined, and better equipped to unite the world in fighting to defend democracy, because we have fought for it ourselves.
Over the past few days, we’ve been in close cooperation with our allies and partners to bring together the international community to address the military coup in Burma.
I’ve also been in touch with Leader McConnell to discuss our shared concerns about the situation in Burma, and we are united in our resolve.
There can be no doubt: In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election.
The Burmese military should relinquish power they have seized, release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions on telecommunications, and refrain from violence.
As I said earlier this week, we will work with our partners to support restoration of democracy and the rule of law, and impose consequences on those responsible.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve spoken with the leaders of many of our closest friends — Canada, Mexico, the UK, Germany, France, NATO, Japan, South Korea, Australia — to being [begin] reforming the habits of cooperation and rebuilding the muscle of democratic alliances that have atrophied over the past few years of neglect and, I would argue, abuse.
America’s alliances are our greatest asset, and leading with diplomacy means standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and key partners once again.
By leading with diplomacy, we must also mean engaging our adversaries and our competitors diplomatically, where it’s in our interest, and advance the security of the American people.
That’s why, yesterday, the United States and Russia agreed to extend the New START Treaty for five years to preserve the only remaining treaty between our countries safeguarding nuclear stability.
At the same time, I made it 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 — interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens — are over. We will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people. And we will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like-minded partners.
The politically motivated jailing of Alexei Navalny and the Russian efforts to suppress freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are a matter of deep concern to us and the international community.
Mr. Navalny, like all Russian citizens, is entitled to his rights under the Russian constitution. He’s been targeted — targeted for exposing corruption. He should be released immediately and without condition.
And we’ll also take on directly the challenges posed by our prosperity, security, and democratic values by our most serious competitor, China. We’ll confront China’s economic abuses; counter its aggressive, coercive action; to push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance.
But we are ready to work with Beijing when it’s in America’s interest to do so. We will compete from a position of strength by building back better at home, working with our allies and partners, renewing our role in international institutions, and reclaiming our credibility and moral authority, much of which has been lost.
That’s why we’ve moved quickly to begin restoring American engagement internationally and earn back our leadership position, to catalyze global action on shared challenges.
On day one, I signed the paperwork to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. We’re taking steps led by the example of integrating climate objectives across all of our diplomacy and raise the ambition of our climate targets. That way, we can challenge other nations, other major emitters,to up the ante on their own commitments. I’ll be hosting climate leaders — a climate leaders’ summit to address the climate crisis on Earth Day of this year.
America must lead in the face of this existential threat. And just as with the pandemic, it requires global cooperation.
We’ve also reengaged with the World Health Organization. That way, we can build better global preparedness to counter COVID-19, as well as detect and prevent future pandemics, because there will be more.
We’ve elevated the status of cyber issues within our government, including appointing the first national — Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology. We’re launching an urgent initiative to improve our capability, readiness, and resilience in cyberspace.
Today, I’m announcing additional steps to course-correct our foreign policy and better unite our democratic values with our diplomatic leadership.
To begin, Defense Secretary Austin will be leading a Global Posture Review of our forces so that our military footprint is appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities. It will be coordinated across all elements of our national security, with Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken working in close cooperation.
And while this review is taking place, we’ll be stopping any planned troop withdrawals from Germany. We’re also stepping up our diplomacy to end the war in Yemen — a war which has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe. I’ve asked my Middle East team to ensure our support for the United Nations-led initiative to impose a ceasefire, open humanitarian channels, and restore long-dormant peace talks.
This morning, Secretary Blinken appointed Tim Lenderking, a career foreign policy officer, as our special envoy to the Yemen conflict. And I appreciate his doing this. Tim is a life — has lifelong experience in the region, and he’ll work with the U.N. envoy and all parties of the conflict to push for a diplomatic resolution.
And Tim’s diplomacy will be bolstered by USAID, working to ensure that humanitarian aid is reaching the Yemeni people who are sufferinguunendurable devastation. This war has to end.
And to underscore our commitment, we are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arms sales.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks, UAV strikes, and other threats from Iranian-supplied forces in multiple countries. We’re going to continue to support and help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people.
We also face a crisis of more than 80 million displaced people suffering all around the world. The United States’ moral leadership on refugee issues was a point of bipartisan consensus for so many decades when I first got here. We shined the light of lamp on — of liberty on oppressed people. We offered safe havens for those fleeing violence or persecution. And our example pushed other nations to open wide their doors as well.
So today, I’m approving an executive order to begin the hard work of restoring our refugee admissions program to help meet the unprecedented global need. It’s going to take time to rebuild what has been so badly damaged, but that’s precisely what we’re going to do.
This executive order will position us to be able to raise the refugee admissions back up to 125,000 persons for the first full fiscal year of the Biden-Harris administration. And I’m directing the State Department to consult with Congress about making a down payment on that commitment as soon as possible.
And to further repair our moral leadership, I’m also issuing a presidential memo to agencies to reinvigorate our leadership on the LGBTQI issues and do it internationally. You know, we’ll ensure diplomacy and foreign assistance are working to promote the rights of those individuals, included by combatting criminalization and protecting LGBTQ refugees and asylum-seekers.
And finally, to successfully reassert our diplomacy and keep Americans safe, prosperous, and free, we must restore the health and morale of our foreign policy institutions.
I want the people who work in this building and our embassies and consulates around the world to know: I value your expertise and I respect you, and I will have your back. This administration is going to empower you to do your jobs, not target or politicize you. We want a rigorous debate that brings all perspectives and makes room for dissent. That’s how we’ll get the best possible policy outcomes.
So, with your help, the United States will again lead not just by the example of our power but the power of our example.
That’s why my administration has already taken the important step to live our domestic values at home — our democratic values at home.
Within hours of taking office, I signed an executive order overturning the hateful, discriminatory Muslim ban; reversed the ban on transgender individuals serving in our military.
And as part of our commitment to truth, transparency, and accountability, we stated on day one — we started on day one with daily briefings of the press from the White House. We’ve reinstituted regular briefings here at State and at the Pentagon. We believe a free press isn’t an adversary; rather, it’s essential to the health of a democracy.
We’ve restored our commitment to science and to create policies grounded in facts and evidence. I suspect Ben Franklin would approve.
We’ve taken steps to acknowledge and address systemic racism and the scourge of white supremacy in our own country. Racial equity will not just be an issue for one department in our administration, it has to be the business of the whole of government in all our federal policies and institutions.
All this matters to foreign policy, because when we host the Summit of Democracy early in my administration to rally the nations of the world to defend democracy globally, to push back the authoritarianism’s advance, we’ll be a much more credible partner because of these efforts to shore up our own foundations.
There’s no longer a bright line between foreign and domestic policy. Every action we take in our conduct abroad, we must take with American working families in mind. Advancing a foreign policy for the middle class demands urgent focus on our domestic economic renewal.
And that’s why I immediately put forth the American Rescue Plan to pull us out of this economic crisis. That’s why I signed an executive order strengthening our Buy American policies last week. And it’s also why I’ll work with Congress to make far-reaching investments in research and development of transformable technologies.
These investments are going to create jobs, maintain America’s competitive edge globally, and ensure all Americans share in the dividends.
If we invest in ourselves and our people, if we fight to ensure that American businesses are positioned to compete and win on the global stage, if the rules of international trade aren’t stacked against us, if our workers and intellectual property are protected, then there’s no country on Earth — not China or any other country on Earth — that can match us.
Investing in our diplomacy isn’t something we do just because it’s the right thing to do for the world. We do it in order to live in peace, security, and prosperity. We do it because it’s in our own naked self-interest. When we strengthen our alliances, we amplify our power as well as our ability to disrupt threats before they can reach our shores.
When we invest in economic development of countries, we create new markets for our products and reduce the likelihood of instability, violence, and mass migrations.
When we strengthen health systems in far regions of the world, we reduce the risk of future pandemics that can threaten our people and our economy.
When we defend equal rights of people the world over — of women and girls, LGBTQ individuals, indigenous communities, and people with disabilities, the people of every ethnic background and religion — we also ensure that those rights are protected for our own children here in America.
America cannot afford to be absent any longer on the world stage. I come today to the State Department, an agency as old and as storied as the nation itself, because diplomacy has always been essential to how American — America writes its own destiny.
For the diplomacy of Ben Franklin helped assure the success of our revolution. The vision of the Marshall Plan helped prevent the world from foundering on the wreckage of war. And the passions of Eleanor Roosevelt declared the audacious idea of universal rights that belong to all.
The leadership of diplomats of every stripe, doing the daily work of engagement, created the very idea of a free and interconnected world. We are a country that does big things. American diplomacy makes it happen. And our administration is ready to take up the mantle and lead once again.
Thank you all. And may God bless you and protect our troops, our diplomats, and our development experts, and all Americans serving in harm’s way.
Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for President, issued a forceful statement decrying the Trump administration’s failure to protect America’s election and democracy from foreign interference, warning how the threat undermines America’s sovereignty and describing what he would do – indeed, what a functioning President and government should do – immediately upon taking office . Here is his statement:
Foreign interference in the U.S. electoral process represents an assault on the American people and their constitutional right to vote. When foreign states direct hackers, trolls, money launderers, and misinformation to subvert or cast doubt on our elections, they threaten America’s sovereignty, democratic institutions, and national security. They undermine the vote and the voice of every U.S. citizen. They attack our very way of life.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has concluded that the Kremlin’s interference in past elections represented “only the latest installment in an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States.” Despite the exposure of Russia’s malign activities by the U.S. Intelligence Community, law enforcement agencies, and bipartisan Congressional committees, the Kremlin has not halted its efforts to interfere in our democracy. In Senate testimony on July 23 2019, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that Russia was “absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections.” And on March 27, 2020, the State Department held a briefing describing how Russia was recklessly spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. Russia is not the only foreign actor seeking to interfere in our democracy. Increasingly, other states have shown an interest in copying Russia’s tactics.
Congress passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017. The Trump administration has thus far failed to make adequate use of these authorities to counter and deter foreign election interference. Instead, President Trump has repeatedly denied that Russia interfered in our elections, most egregiously during a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.
In spite of President Trump’s failure to act, America’s adversaries must not misjudge the resolve of the American people to counter every effort by a foreign power to interfere in our democracy, whether by hacking voting systems and databases, laundering money into our political system, systematically spreading disinformation, or trying to sow doubt about the integrity of our elections.
That is why, today, I am putting the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice. If elected president, I will treat foreign interference in our election as an adversarial act that significantly affects the relationship between the United States and the interfering nation’s government. I will direct the U.S. Intelligence Community to report publicly and in a timely manner on any efforts by foreign governments that have interfered, or attempted to interfere, with U.S. elections. I will direct my administration to leverage all appropriate instruments of national power and make full use of my executive authority to impose substantial and lasting costs on state perpetrators. These costs could include financial-sector sanctions, asset freezes, cyber responses, and the exposure of corruption. A range of other actions could also be taken, depending on the nature of the attack. I will direct our response at a time and in a manner of our choosing.
In addition, I will take action where needed to stop attempts to interfere with U.S. elections before they can impact our democratic processes. In particular, I will direct and resource the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Foreign Interference Task Force to develop plans for disrupting foreign threats to our elections process. This will be done, wherever possible, in coordination with our allies and partners, so that we are isolating the regimes that seek to undermine democracies and civil liberties.
I have no desire to escalate tensions with Russia or any other country. I would prefer to focus the full energies of my administration on bringing the international community together to fight COVID-19 and the economic pain it has caused, and to tackle other pressing issues of international concern. But if any foreign power recklessly chooses to interfere in our democracy, I will not hesitate to respond as president to impose substantial and lasting costs.
Demonstrating once again a clear contrast between the failed leadership of a clueless Donald Trump, who only knows how to politicize, attack and destroy, Vice President Joe Biden is calling for the US to lift sanctions on Iran, which is undergoing one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. “America should lead. We should be the first to offer help to people who are hurting or in danger… To stop this pandemic effectively, every country on earth will need to work together.” Here is Biden’s statement: –Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com.
In times of global crisis, America should lead. We should be the first to offer help to people who are hurting or in danger. That’s who we are. That’s who we’ve always been. And, in the midst of this deadly pandemic that respects no borders, the United States should take steps to offer what relief we can to those nations hardest hit by this virus — including Iran — even as we prioritize the health of the American people.
Iran is struggling to contain one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. While the Iranian government has failed to respond effectively to this crisis, including lying and concealing the truth from its own people, and it continues to act provocatively in the region, the Iranian people are hurting desperately. It is bad enough that the Trump administration abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in favor of a “maximum pressure” strategy that has badly backfired, encouraging Iran to become even more aggressive and restart its nuclear program. It makes no sense, in a global health crisis, to compound that failure with cruelty by inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance. Whatever our profound differences with the Iranian government, we should support the Iranian people.
There are already humanitarian exceptions in place for sanctions, but in practice, most governments and organizations are too concerned about running afoul of U.S. sanctions to offer assistance. As a result, our sanctions are limiting Iran’s access to medical supplies and needed equipment. The Trump Administration should take immediate steps to address this problem and streamline channels for banking and public health assistance from other countries in response to the health emergency in Iran.
Specific steps should include: issuing broad licenses to pharmaceutical and medical device companies; creating a dedicated channel for international banks, transportation companies, insurers, and other service firms to help Iranians access life-saving medical treatment; issuing new sanctions guidance to these groups and international aid organizations to make it clear how they can immediately, directly, and legally respond to the tragedy in Iran, without fear of penalty; and, for entities already conducting enhanced due diligence, it should issue comfort letters to reassure them that they will not be subject to U.S. sanctions if they engage in humanitarian trade with Iran to support its COVID-19 response. The administration should also consider similar steps to ensure that U.S. sanctions do not inhibit live-saving medical assistance to other countries hard hit by the virus.
The administration’s offer of aid to Iran is insufficient if not backed by concrete steps to ensure the United States is not exacerbating this growing humanitarian crisis. Whatever our many, many disagreements with the Iranian government, it’s the right and the humane thing to do. And Iran also should make a humanitarian gesture and allow detained American citizens to return home.
To stop this pandemic effectively, every country on earth will need to work together. We must address COVID-19 outbreaks wherever they occur, because as long as this virus is spreading anywhere in the world, it is a danger to public health everywhere. Artificially limiting the flow of international humanitarian assistance to pursue a political point will not only allow the Iranian government to deflect responsibility for its own botched response, it will increase the threat this virus poses to the American people, now and in the future.
We, the Leaders of the Group of Seven, acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic is a human tragedy and a global health crisis, which also poses major risks for the world economy. We are committed to doing whatever is necessary to ensure a strong global response through closer cooperation and enhanced coordination of our efforts. While current challenges may require national emergency measures, we remain committed to the stability of the global economy. We express our conviction that current challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic need a strongly coordinated international approach, based on science and evidence, consistent with our democratic values, and utilizing the strengths of private enterprise.
We are committed to marshalling the full power of our governments to: Coordinate on necessary public health measures to protect people at risk from COVID-19; Restore confidence, growth, and protect jobs; Support global trade and investment; Encourage science, research, and technology cooperation. By acting together, we will work to resolve the health and economic risks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and set the stage for a strong recovery of strong, sustainable economic growth and prosperity.
Accelerate Our Response to COVID-19
We will work hard to protect the health and safety of everyone in our countries. Stepping up the response to the outbreak remains our foremost priority. We will coordinate our efforts to delay the spread of the virus, including through appropriate border management measures.
We will enhance our efforts to strengthen health systems in our countries and globally. We fully support the World Health Organization in its global mandate to lead on disease outbreaks and emergencies with health consequences, leaving no geographical vacuum, and encourage all countries, international organizations, and the private sector to assist global efforts such as the Global Preparedness and Response Plan.
We stress the value of real-time information sharing to ensure access to the best and latest intelligence, improving prevention strategies and mitigation measures.
We will pool epidemiologic and other data to better understand and fight the virus.
We will increase coordinated research efforts, including through voluntary support for the global alliance Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation. We will support the launch of joint research projects funded by both public and private resources, and the sharing of facilities, towards rapid development, manufacture and distribution of treatments and a vaccine, adhering to the principles of efficacy, safety, and accessibility.
We will make efforts to increase the availability of medical equipment where it is most needed.
We will coordinate with online platforms to maximize public access to the latest correct and relevant official information, in recognition that millions of citizens receive information and news via social media.
To implement these objectives, and adapt measures if necessary, will require efforts across all parts of our governments, and we ask our health ministers to continue to coordinate on a weekly basis.
Forcefully Address the Economic Impact of the Outbreak
We resolve to coordinate measures and do whatever it takes, using all policy tools, to achieve strong growth in the G7 economies, and to safeguard against downside risks.
To this end, we are mobilizing the full range of instruments, including monetary and fiscal measures, as well as targeted actions, to support immediately and as much as necessary the workers, companies, and sectors most affected. This is particularly important for small and medium businesses and working families.
We also ask our central banks to continue to coordinate to provide the necessary monetary measures in order to support economic and financial stability, and to promote recovery and growth.
We ask our finance ministers to coordinate on a weekly basis on the implementation of those measures and to develop further timely and effective actions.
We reinforce the importance of coordination among international organizations even in the face of challenges to business continuity. We call on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group and other International Organizations to further support countries worldwide as part of a coordinated global response, focused on this specific challenge. We also ask our finance ministers to work closely with International Organizations to design and implement swiftly the international financial assistance that is appropriate to help countries, including emerging and developing economies, face the health and economic shock of COVID-19.
We will address disturbances to international supply chains and continue our work to facilitate international trade.
Restore and Expand Growth
We will continue to work together with resolve to implement these measures to respond to this global emergency. In facing the economic challenge, we are determined not only to restore the level of growth anticipated before the COVID-19 pandemic but also to build the foundation for stronger future growth. We will continue to coordinate through the G7 Presidency including at the G7 Leaders’ Summit and call upon the G20 to support and amplify these efforts.
While most Americans give little consideration to foreign policy credentials of their candidates for president, over the “kitchen table” issues such as health care, education, taxes, foreign policy should loom largely over the 2020 election as Americans are waking up to the fact that while a president is for the most part constrained by the legislative branch (Congress) on what can be accomplished domestically (recall how Republicans obstructed Obama on health care, immigration reform, gun safety, climate action and infrastructure and why Medicare for All, a wealth tax may still be a pipe dream), a president is virtually unrestrained in making foreign policy at a time when the world is smaller and more globally interdependent, such as addressing climate change.
And while the Constitution theoretically gives Congress the power to declare war, presidents have found loopholes in addressing “imminent threats.” Trump has gone so much further in pulling out of treaties (the Iran nuclear deal), trade agreements and mutual assistance pacts like the Paris Climate Accord, while taking actions to weaken NATO alliance. The way he has dealt with North Korea has only made the world less safe and the list goes on: Iraq, Syria and ISIS, Turkey and the Kurds, Yemen, Venezuela, Australia.
Of the Democratic candidates for president, Vice President Joe Biden is hoping that voters will appreciate his vast experience (which Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg try to diminish because of his vote, along with just about every other Senator, to give George Bush power to address what they were told (lied) was an imminent threat of Saddam Hussein’s use of Weapons of Mass Destruction).
Now there are a few Democrats, like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who are introducing legislation to rescind the 2002 AUMF and require the President to get Congress’ authorization for use of military force, make it specific and require reauthorization after a period of time. But that is already in the Constitution and they are faced with a president who has demonstrated over and over he does not respect the bounds or oversight on him by the Constitution, with Congress apparently unwilling to do anything about it.
Vice President returned to New York to speak again on foreign policy and the unfolding situation in Iran, drawing a contrast to how Trump has mishandled the situation. These are his prepared remarks:
Six months ago, here in New York City, I made the case that Donald Trump was “dangerously incompetent and incapable … of world leadership.”
In the past few days, in the wake of the killing of Iranian General Soleimani, Donald Trump has proven it beyond dispute.
The haphazard decision-making process that led up to it, the failure to consult our allies or Congress, and the reckless disregard for the consequences that would surely follow — was dangerously incompetent.
In the wake of such an enormous escalation that has exploded geo-politics in the region and put the United States and Iran on a collision course, what would we expect of an American President – and what have we heard from President Trump?
We have not heard a sober-minded explanation to reassure the American people about his decision and its consequences.
Not level-headed words meant to dial down tensions and take us off the path of conflict.
No press conference or consultation with Congress.
No — all we have heard from this president is tweets. Threats. Tantrums.
And all we have heard from his administration are shifting explanations, evasive answers, and repeated assertions of an imminent threat, without the necessary evidence to support that conclusion.
And since this is a president with a history of lying about everything — who has destroyed his own credibility, and that of the United States on the global stage — neither the American people, nor our allies, are inclined to take his word for it.
If there was an imminent threat that required extraordinary action, then we are owed that explanation — and the facts to back it up.
These are matters of deadly import, so let me be unmistakably clear: Donald Trump does not have the authority to go to war with Iran without Congressional authorization.
Working with Congress is not an optional part of the job. Presidential notification to Congress about the need to exercise war powers cannot be satisfied in 280 characters or less.
And no president should ever take the United States to war without securing the informed consent of the American people.
So — because he refuses to level with the American people about the danger in which he has placed American troops and our diplomatic personnel and civilians, as well as our partners and allies, or to demonstrate even a modicum of presidential gravitas — I will.
That starts with an honest accounting of how we got here.
Make no mistake: this outcome of strategic setbacks, heightened threats, chants of “death to America” once more echoing across the Middle East, Iran and its allies vowing revenge. This was avoidable.
The seeds of these dangers were planted by Donald Trump himself on May 8, 2018 — the day he tore up the Iran nuclear deal, against the advice of his own top national security advisors. The day he turned his back on our closest European allies, and decided it was more important to him to destroy any progress made by the Obama-Biden Administration than build on it to create a better, safer world.
When we had the Iran Deal, we had verifiably cut off every one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon. International inspectors repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance, as did our intelligence agencies. One of the greatest threats to stability in the region and global security was off the table.
And when the Iran Deal was in force, we did not have this dangerous cycle of tit-for-tat provocation and response.
There was a united front of allies and partners to address Iran’s other destabilizing actions throughout the region.
The Iran Deal was not only accomplishing the critical mission it was designed for, it created an environment where diplomacy was possible.
But Trump walked away — not Iran.
Trump made the United States the international outlier.
Trump re-imposed significant sanctions designed to exert “maximum pressure” on the regime, with claims that it would deter Iranian aggression and return Iran to the negotiating table to secure a much-promised “better deal.” And on both fronts, as many anticipated at the time, Trump’s promises were empty, baseless, and naïve.
And since then, all that has materialized is an utterly predictable cycle of escalating conflict with Iran.
Of course Iran would seek to demonstrate that the pressure we were exerting was not cost free – that it could take actions to make life more difficult for us, as well.
So Iran began again to enrich uranium beyond the limits allowed under the Iran deal. Iran attacked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone.
Yet the administration had no plan to prevent, mitigate, or appropriately respond to these provocations. Instead, Trump acted erratically and impulsively. He ordered a retaliatory strike, then called it off at the last minute — feeding Iran’s sense of impunity.
Then, the administration imposed more sanctions, shot down an Iranian drone, issued a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker.
Before long, Iran attacked Saudi oil facilities and Iranian-backed militia in Iraq restarted rocket attacks against our bases. Until one of those attacks, against our base in Kirkuk, killed a U.S. citizen and wounded others. It was a tragic loss of life, and an act condemned by all Americans.
In response, Trump bombed five sites in Iraq and Syria tied to the militia group, killing at least 25.
Iraqi protestors, organized by Iranian-backed militia, assaulted our Embassy in Baghdad and breached the outer wall. No injuries were reported, but Trump was embarrassed by the images of a burnt-out reception area.
He ordered a drone strike to kill Soleimani — perhaps the second most important official in Iran — near the Baghdad airport. And rushed thousands more troops to the region to deal with the fallout.
Action and reaction. Provocation and response. All predictable — and, indeed, all predicted.
A president who says he wants to end endless war in the Middle East is bringing us dangerously close to starting a new one.
A president who says he wants out of the region sends more than 18,000 additional troops to deal with a crisis of his own making.
And an administration that claims its actions have made Americans safer in the same breath urges our citizens to leave Iraq and puts Americans throughout the region on notice because of the increased danger.
I have no illusions about Iran. The regime has long sponsored terrorism and threatened our interests. It continues to detain American citizens. They’ve ruthlessly killed hundreds of protesters, and they should be held accountable for their actions.
But there is a smart way to counter them — and a self-defeating way. Trump’s approach is demonstrably the latter.
Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops and thousands of innocent lives throughout the region. He was the mastermind, but he was not the whole of the regime or its capacity to strike back.
So the question is: was the reward of removing a bad actor worth the risk of what comes next?
We don’t have any evidence to suggest that Trump or anyone around him thought seriously about that calculus. It’s been reported that the Pentagon — which has long warned against taking a shot like this — was shocked that Trump would take such a risk.
This is not just a question of whether Iran will retaliate — it almost certainly will — but what it will mean for our troops and our personnel throughout the region. What it will mean for our allies and partners who also have troops in harm’s way that are impacted by this decision. What it will mean for our long-term mission to counter Iran and prevent ISIS from bouncing back, and our ability to pursue our broader strategic aims in the region.
Already, we are seeing the fall out.
Iran has declared it will no longer abide by any of the constraints set up under the nuclear deal — putting it back on track to obtaining material for a nuclear weapon, and pushing the region closer to a nuclear crisis.
Our forces in Iraq and Syria are now focused on protecting themselves and preparing to leave — putting the counter-ISIS mission on hold, and allowing a deadly terrorist organization the room to regroup and reactivate.
The Iraqi parliament has voted to eject all American and coalition forces from the country. And however you may feel about an American military presence in the Middle East, there is a right way and a wrong way to draw down our troop presence. Getting unceremoniously kicked out is unequivocally the wrong way. And if we do end up having to leave, that would be another boon to Iran — tipping the balance of power in the region.
Where, just weeks ago, there were spontaneous protests across Iran against the regime, the killing of Soleimani has taken that pressure off the regime.
Trump’s impulsive decision may well do more to strengthen Iran’s position in the region, than any of Soleimani’s plots could have ever accomplished.
Whether or not we see more loss of life, more threats against American interests and assets — this is already a debacle.
And at what is possibly the most dangerous time in recent American history — at precisely the moment when we should be rallying our allies to stand beside us and hold the line against threats — Donald Trump’s short-sighted “America First” dogmatism has come home to roost.
Our closest allies are calling for restraint and de-escalation — on both sides. Making a moral equivalence between us and Iran.
Russia and China are quietly reveling in the prospect that the United States may once more be bogged down in another major conflict in the Middle East. They would love nothing more than to be able to pursue their own interests, and carve out their own spheres of influence, without the United States challenging them on human rights, on abusive trade practices, or on meddling in other nations’ democracies — because we are too busy fighting Iran.
We are alone. And we alone will have to bear the costs of Donald Trump’s folly.
This is also the moment when we most feel the lack of a functioning national security process or any investment in diplomacy.
After three years of hollowing out the State Department; disrespecting and dismissing our intelligence community; destroying the relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill; throwing out the deliberate policy making process that has served Republican and Democratic administrations for decades; corroding the value of the word of the United States; abusing our allies; embracing dictators; creating, not solving, foreign policy crises on the international stage — we are in a much worse position to meet the demands of this crisis than we were when President Obama and I left office.
President Trump has no strategy here. No endgame. And here’s the hardest truth of all: His constant mistakes and poor decision making have left us with a severely limited slate of options for how to move forward — and most of the options are bad.
But there are some key steps that any responsible commander in chief would take. And, while I don’t expect Donald Trump will listen to me, I hope he listens to those around him who understand the gravity of the threats we now face.
He should take all necessary steps to protect our forces and ensure the security of our diplomats, civilians, and overseas facilities — not just in the Middle East, but anywhere that Iran might strike back.
He should ensure that federal authorities are working with states, local governments, and private institutions to guard against the heightened risk of cyber attacks.
He should stop tweeting so he doesn’t box us in with his threats, such that the only options left to us or Iran are increasingly damaging strikes and counterstrikes.
And he should immediately reach out to our European partners and others to send private signals of deterrence and de-escalation to Iran and find a way to avoid the onrush of war.
The best way to do that, of course, would be for President Trump, to rejoin the Iran Deal and build on it — if Iran also moves back into compliance with its obligations — and re-establish international consensus about how to confront the threats from Iran.
The only way out of this crisis is through diplomacy — clear-eyed, hard-nosed diplomacy grounded in strategy, that’s not about one-off decisions or one-upsmanship. Diplomacy that is designed to de-escalate the crisis, protect our people, and secure our regional interests — including our counter-ISIS campaign.
No one wants war. But it’s going to take hard work to make sure we don’t end up there by accident.
Finally, and this one’s not optional, Mr. President, you have to explain your decisions and your strategy to the American people.
That is your job as President — Not Dear Leader, not Supreme Leader.
Democracy runs on accountability. And nowhere is that more important than in the power to make war and bring peace. You are required to work with Congress. You are required to abide by the War Powers Resolution. You cannot pursue a war with Iran absent Congressional authority. The existing AUMFs — the Congressional Authorizations for the Use of Military Force — do not apply.
The American people do not want, and our Constitution will not abide, a president who rules by fiat and demands obedience.
I served in the executive branch of our government for eight years, but I served in the legislative branch for 36 prior to that, and I understand better than anyone that the system will not hold unless we find ways to work together to advance our national interests — not the political interests of one person or one party.
We need to restore the balance of powers between the branches of government.
We need checks and balances that actually serve to check and balance the worst impulses of our leaders — in any branch.
We need to use our system to bring us together as a nation — not abuse it to rip us apart.
That’s not a naïve or outdated way of thinking. That’s the genius and timelessness of our democratic system, which has, for more than 240 years, allowed us to remake ourselves, reckon with our shortcomings, and move ever forward.
That’s what we owe to those brave men and women who step forward to wear the uniform of these United States; who dedicate their lives to diplomatic service; who choose to join the Peace Corps or to work in development; who represent the best of our country all around the world — and who are, today, doing so at greater risk because of the actions of our president.
Thank you — and in these dangerous times — may God protect our troops.
At a fundraiser before his speech, he told the gathering:
“Did you ever think you’d see the time when we would be engaged in potential conflict and our NATO allies would be applying a moral equivalence between what we do and what the Iranians do? I never thought I see that day I spent my entire professional career dealing with NATO and dealing with foreign policy…Now the president says he did this to make us safer. Make Americans safer. Yet, we’re surging another roughly 18,000 forces in the region. And we find ourselves in position where there’s no evidence that they thought through how to protect our diplomats and our military personnel.”
Mr. Biden used the Iran situation to argue “the next president better be able to on day one, know how to begin to bring things together.”
Later in the day, at another fundraising event, news of an Iranian air strike on a US military base in Iraq started breaking. Without more details about the event, Biden said he would only speak briefly and generally about what happened:
“What’s happening in Iraq and Iran today was predictable – not exactly what’s happening but the chaos that’s ensuing,” he said, faulting Trump for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and the recent order of a missile strike killing a high ranking Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, according to the pool report by Julia Terruso of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Some of the things he’s done and said in the meantime have been close to ludicrous, including threatening to bomb holy sites…And I just pray to God as he goes through what’s happening, as we speak, that he’s listening to his military commanders for the first time because so far that has not been the case.”