Biden Honors D-Day Heroes, Urges Defense of Democracy Against Modern Threats

President Joe Biden, speaking atop the cliffs U.S. Army Rangers scaled on D-Day, compared the current threats of authoritarianism to those posed by Nazi Germany. He urged Americans to uphold democratic ideals and resist isolationism, particularly in the context of supporting Ukraine against Russia's aggression.

Reuters | Updated: 08-06-2024 05:39 IST | Created: 08-06-2024 05:39 IST
Biden Honors D-Day Heroes, Urges Defense of Democracy Against Modern Threats
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Atop the cliff that U.S. Army Rangers scaled 80 years ago on D-Day, President Joe Biden on Friday compared the threats posed by Nazi Germany to those facing the world today by dictators and authoritarianism, and urged Americans to resist isolationism. Biden's speech in Normandy, his second in as many days, sought to strengthen support for Ukraine, which is locked in a war with Russia and its President Vladimir Putin, and bolster democratic ideals at home. Biden said the Army Rangers who fought that day would want Americans to defend freedom.

"Does anyone doubt that they would want America to stand up against Putin's aggression here in Europe today?" he asked. Biden never mentioned his Republican rival in the Nov. 5 presidential election, Donald Trump, but his speech criticized the former president's isolationist inclinations.

"The most natural instinct is to walk away, to be selfish, to force our will upon others, to seize power and never give up," Biden said, in an apparent dig at Trump. "American democracy asks the hardest of things: to believe that we're part of something bigger than ourselves." Biden urged Americans to remember the Rangers whose dramatic heroism on D-Day helped make the invasion a success.

"As we gather here today, it's not just to honor those who showed such remarkable bravery on that day, June 6, 1944," Biden said. "It's to listen to the echo of their voices. To hear them... They're not asking us to scale these cliffs, but they're asking us to stay true to what America stands for." On June 6, 1944, the elite Ranger troops scaled the 100-foot (30-meter) cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach under withering gunfire and seized German artillery pieces that could have fired on American troops coming ashore at Omaha and nearby Utah Beach.

By setting his speech at Pointe du Hoc, Biden echoed Republican predecessor Ronald Reagan, who marked D-Day's anniversary there 40 years before. Reagan said democracy was "worth dying for" and emphasized an American desire for peace in what turned out to be the waning years of the Cold War. Biden's goal was to draw a "through line" from World War Two, connecting the Cold War, the establishment of the NATO military alliance and Russia's current war with Ukraine, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. "We're the fortunate heirs of a legacy of these heroes, those who scaled the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc. But we must also be the keepers of their mission," Biden said.

CONTRAST WITH TRUMP The U.S. president is in the middle of a five-day trip to France, a rare excursion abroad during an election year in which he faces a tight race against Trump, a Republican who has threatened to use a second four-year term to punish political rivals, deport immigrants and upend global alliances.

Trump has criticized the cost of supporting Ukraine after Russia's invasion, proposed higher tariffs as part of an "America First" policy and questioned America's decades-long commitment to NATO, saying European members are not paying their fair share. On Thursday, Biden made an impassioned call for the defense of freedom and urged Western powers to stand by Ukraine in its fight with Russia.

The D-Day anniversary on June 6 and surrounding events are part of Biden's presidential duties, not campaign events. But they gave him a chance to contrast himself with Trump. Biden, at 81 the oldest to serve in the office, has sought to rebut concerns about his age by focusing on the potential impact Trump, 77, could have during a second term.

The Democratic incumbent has characterized Trump, whose supporters raided the U.S. Capitol after the Republican declined to accept his 2020 election loss, as a threat to U.S. democracy. Meanwhile, hard-right parties are gaining ground in Europe, and Russia's President Putin said on Wednesday he could deploy conventional missiles within striking distance of the United States and its allies if they allowed Ukraine to strike deeper into Russia with long-range Western weapons.

"This will hit the core messages that Biden is wanting to highlight during his re-election campaign but also has real resonance still in Europe as well," said Max Bergmann, director of the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. Biden met with World War Two veterans in Normandy on Thursday and with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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