The Biden-Putin meeting is scheduled for June 16 in Geneva (AFP)
WASHINGTON: As he embarks on the first overseas trip of his term, President Joe Biden is eager to reassert America on the world stage, stabilizing European allies deeply shaken by his predecessor and promoting democracy as the only bulwark for the growing forces of authoritarianism.
Biden has set the stakes for his eight-day trip in radical terms, believing that the West must publicly demonstrate that it can compete economically with China as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
Before boarding Air Force One for Wednesday’s flight, Biden told reporters that the trip is about making it clear to the leaders of China and Russia that the United States and Europe “are united.”
With a view to his end-of-travel summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden will try to reassure European capitals that the United States can once again be counted on as a reliable partner in thwarting Moscow’s aggression on both its eastern front and its eastern front. on their battlefields on the Internet.
The journey will focus more on messaging than specific actions or offers. And the top priority for Biden is convincing the world that his Democratic administration is not just a fleeting deviation in the trajectory of an American foreign policy that many allies fear will deviate irrevocably into a more transactional perspective under former President Donald Trump.
“The trip, at its core, will advance Joe Biden’s fundamental foreign policy drive,” said national security adviser Jake Sullivan, “to unite the world’s democracies to meet the great challenges of our time.”
Biden’s to-do list is ambitious.
At their face-to-face meeting in Geneva, Biden wants to privately pressure Putin to end countless provocations, including cybersecurity attacks on American companies by Russian-based hackers, the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei. Navalny and the Kremlin’s repeated overt and covert efforts to interfere in the US elections.
Biden also seeks to rally allies in his response to COVID-19 and urge them to unite around a strategy to control emerging economic and national security competitor China, even as the US expresses concern about Europe’s economic ties with Moscow. Biden also wants to push peripheral allies, including Australia, to make more aggressive commitments to the global effort to curb global warming.
The week-long trip is a great moment for Biden, who traveled the world for decades as vice chairman and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will now leave Air Force One for international soil as commander-in-chief. He will face off against world leaders still grappling with the virus and shaken by four years of Trump’s introspective foreign policy and moves that strained long-standing alliances as the former Republican president reached out to strongmen.
“At this time of global uncertainty, as the world still grapples with a pandemic only in a century,” Biden wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in a preview of his diplomatic efforts, “this trip is about making the commitment a reality. renewed commitment to the United States with our allies and partners, and demonstrating the ability of democracies to meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new era. ”
The president travels first to Britain for a summit of the leaders of the Group of Seven and then to Brussels for a NATO summit and a meeting with the heads of the European Union. It comes at a time when Europeans have lowered expectations of what they can expect from American leadership on the foreign stage.
Central and Eastern Europeans desperately hope to tie the United States closer to their security. Germany is looking to keep the US troop presence there, so it doesn’t need to increase its own. France, meanwhile, has taken the tactic that the US cannot be trusted as before and that the European Union must seek greater strategic autonomy in the future.
“I think the concern is real that Trumpian trends in the United States may return to normal in the midterm elections or the next presidential election,” said Alexander Vershbow, former US diplomat and once NATO undersecretary general. .
The sequence of the trip is deliberate: Biden consults with Western European allies for much of a week in a show of unity before his summit with Putin.
His first stop Wednesday night will be a speech to American troops stationed in Britain, and the next day he sits down with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The two men will meet the day before the G-7 summit to be held atop the rugged Cornish cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Biden, the most tactile politician, has been frustrated by the dynamics of diplomacy through Zoom of the pandemic and has enjoyed the ability to once again have face-to-face meetings that allow him to assess and connect with world leaders. While Biden himself is a veteran statesman, many of the world leaders he will see in England, including Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, took office after Biden left the vice presidency. Another, Germany’s Angela Merkel, will step down later this year.
There are several potential areas of tension. On climate change, the United States aims to regain its credibility after Trump withdrew the country from the fight against global warming. Biden could also feel pressure about the trade, an issue he hasn’t paid much attention to yet. And with the United States well supplied with COVID-19 vaccines but struggling to persuade some of its own citizens to use it, leaders whose inoculation campaigns have been slower will surely push Biden to share more surpluses around the world.
Another central focus will be China. Biden and the other G-7 leaders will announce an infrastructure financing program for developing countries that is intended to compete directly with Beijing’s Belt-and-Road Initiative. But not all European powers have seen China in such a harsh light as Biden, who has painted the rivalry with the techno-security state as the defining competition for the 21st century.