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Analysis: Biden’s D-Day visit could mark the end of an American era

The new world in which the greatest generation was sacrificed in the bloody waves of the beaches of Normandy is fading into history along with the last old soldiers.

The 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, recognized by President Joe Biden in France this Thursday (6), will probably be the last major commemoration with the presence of a significant number of veterans. Even a 19-year-old young man who disembarked in the largest amphibious operation in history would soon turn 100 years old.

“We are not far from the moment when the last living voices of those who fought and bled on D-Day will no longer be with us, so we have a special obligation,” Biden said after hugging and saluting the last survivors of the invasion force, above the beaches where thousands of Americans died.

This year’s memorial ceremony represents much more than a moving farewell to the survivors of more than 150,000 Allied soldiers who forged a foundation for the liberation of Europe from Adolf Hitler’s Nazis.

Presidents, prime ministers and monarchs of NATO countries met in a paradoxical moment.

The alliance has a new sense of mission as it opposes another war started by a leader bent on territorial expansion – this time in Ukraine.

But at no time since June 6, 1944, has America’s unwavering leadership in the West and support for internationalist values ​​been so questioned.

Democracy faces its harshest test in generations due to far-right populism on the march on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Geopolitical empires such as Russia and China are, however, resurfacing and threatening to destroy the global system dominated by Western values ​​that has prevailed since the Second World War.

Biden drew a direct line between the evil that American soldiers were called upon to combat in the 1940s and the current attempt by President Vladimir Putin’s Russia to wipe Ukraine off the map and extinguish its democracy.

“We cannot let this happen. Surrendering to bullies, bowing to dictators is simply unthinkable. If we did that, we would be forgetting what happened here on these sacred beaches. Make no mistake: we will not bow, we will not forget,” said the American president.

Those who served in Normandy, Biden said, “all understood that our democracy is only strong if we do it together. They knew, without any doubt, that there are things worth fighting and dying for. Freedom is worth it, democracy is worth it, America is worth it, the world is worth it – then, now and forever.”

The American leader’s words were especially resonant amid growing fears in Europe that the United States may be about to turn its back on the West.

US allies, already shaken by the constant attacks from the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, donald trump, to NATO in his first term, were further shaken by his recent comment that he would let Russia do “whatever the hell they want” with allies he felt were unable to “pay their bills” on defense spending.

The comment undermined NATO’s fundamental credo of mutual self-defense, without which the alliance is meaningless. Some of Trump’s former aides have warned that he may seek to exit the alliance if he wins a second term in November.

Even if Biden wins, there are growing indications that Americans’ willingness to maintain security guarantees — even for former enemies like Germany and Japan, who bought 80 years of peace — may be waning.

Trump’s “America First” philosophy took deep roots in the Republican Party, which prided itself on the U.S. victory in the Cold War.

The former president tried to overthrow American democracy to stay in power four years ago. And some Republican Party figures led by the former president now appear to have more empathy for Putin than for the European liberal democracies that the United States rebuilt after World War II.

Furthermore, the months-long delay in financing Biden’s latest aid package for Ukraine has raised doubts that Washington will always defend democracy in Europe and against aggression from autocrats.

Biden cited this Thursday (6) an irrepayable debt owed to American, British, Canadian and other troops involved in Operation Overlord.

The American president walked between rows and rows of white crosses and Stars of David in the shade of pine and oak trees overlooking Omaha Beach. In the place that more than 9,000 fallen Americans from all 50 states and the District of Columbia rested thousands of miles from the land they left to save strangers they never met.

When the last survivors of World War II soon disappear, the world will lose living testimony to a fight against tyranny that once involved millions of people and unimaginable pain and destruction.

This will usher in a dangerous period in which malevolent political actors will find it easier to distort history to bolster their own power.

This has already happened as the lessons of the Nazi Holocaust, of which there are a dwindling number of survivors to testify, have been challenged by a rise in anti-Semitism in Western societies.

Is America really ‘back’?

Biden took great pleasure in traveling the world after winning the 2020 election and declaring “America is back.”

The American president lived up to his words by exercising the most effective leadership of the Western alliance since President George HW Bush, at the end of the Cold War. But many foreign leaders fear that Biden’s term in office will be a break from normality rather than a return to the certainty of U.S. leadership.

With his volatile temper, transactional suspicion of alliances, and idolization of dictators, Trump’s first term transformed the United States from a base of stability into an unpredictable force of disruption.

After a long period of denial, many in Europe’s chancelleries hope Trump will return.

Trump’s mix of isolationism and populism didn’t come out of nowhere. It was distilled from years of U.S. military failures abroad, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and from a growing belief among many Americans that the globalized world was eroding the domestic dividend of prosperity and security that flowed from World War II and It was built by those returning from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific.

A growing sense that Americans are tired of their global role has sparked long-overdue debates in some European capitals about how to do more to ensure the continent’s own security.

Charles Kupchan, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, believes the internal threat to the West is as great as the external threat posed by America’s enemies. “And it’s not just Trump,” he said.

“It is also what is happening to the political center in France, to the political center in Germany, to the likely gains of the far right in the next elections in the European Union. Even if Biden were to win, Americans and Europeans are asking difficult questions about American reliability,” Kupchan added.

See old images from “D-Day”:

Source: CNN Brasil

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