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All three leaders seemed to recognize, though, that their first virtual encounter was a moment to celebrate the end of the “America First” era.
President Biden used his first public encounter with America’s European allies to describe a new struggle between the West and the forces of autocracy, declaring that “America is back” while acknowledging that the past four years had taken a toll on its power and influence.
His message stressing the importance of reinvigorating alliances and recommitting to defending Europe was predictably well received at a session of the Munich Security Conference that Mr. Biden addressed from the White House.
But there was also pushback, notably from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who in his address made an impassioned defense of his concept of “strategic autonomy” from the United States, making the case that Europe can no longer be overly dependent on the United States as it focuses more of its attention on Asia, especially China.
And even Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who is leaving office within the year, tempered her praise for Mr. Biden’s decision to cancel plans for a withdrawal of 12,000 American troops from the country with a warning that “our interests will not always converge.” It appeared to be a reference to Germany’s ambivalence about confronting China — a major market for its automobiles and other high-end German products — and to the continuing battle with the United States over the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Russia.
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