Davos– Forty eight hours before the end of his role as U.S. vice-president, Joe Biden delivered his last official address before global political and economic leaders gathering in Davos, urging influential leaders in Europe and the U.S. to “lead boldly” and defend democracies against all dangers and challenges.
In a coincidence due to a technical problem, Biden saw the lights go out on him as he mentioned U.S. “leadership” during his speech. The incident took a symbolic meaning, as many attendees said it had illustrated the end of Obama’s era.
“In two days, there will be a new President of the United States, but the challenges we face and the choices we must make as an international community do not hinge exclusively on Washington’s leadership”, Biden said.
“Whether we reinforce the ties that bind us, or whether we unravel under current pressures- those choices must be made in every nation, and they will determine what kind of world we leave to our children”, he added.
Speaking on globalization, Biden said that international trade and greater economic integration “has lifted millions of people in the developing world out of abject poverty- improving education, extending life expectancies, opening new opportunities.”
He added, however, that for many communities in the developed world that have long depended on manufacturing, globalization had harmful consequences.
“Their relative standard of living has declined. They feel shut out of opportunities. And their economic security feels jeopardized”, he stated.
“We cannot undo the changes technology has wrought in our world- nor should we try”, Biden said. “But we can and we must take action to mitigate the economic trends that are stoking unrest in so many advanced economies and undermining people’s basic sense of dignity”, he added.
Commenting on some Western countries’ orientation towards protectionism, the U.S. official said: “Popular movements on both the left and the right have demonstrated a dangerous willingness to revert to political small- mindedness-to the same nationalist, protectionist, and isolationist agendas that led the world to consume itself in war during in the last century.”
“As we have seen time and again throughout history, demagogues and autocrats have emerged- seeking to capitalize on people’s insecurities.
In this case, using Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, or xenophobic rhetoric to stoke fear, sow division, and advance their own narrow agendas”, Biden stressed.
Pointing at Russia, he stated: “Those who wish to dissolve the community of democracies and our supporting institutions in favor of a more parochial international order-where power rules and spheres of influence lock in divides among nations.”
“We see this in Asia and the Middle East- where China and Iran would clearly prefer a world in which they hold sway in their regions. But I will not mince words. This movement is principally led by Russia”, Biden said.
He went on to say that under President Vladimir Putin, Russia “is working with every tool available to them to whittle away at the edges of the European project, test for fault lines among western nations, and return to a politics defined by spheres of influence.”