Joe Biden will use his visit to Europe this week to “unite the world’s democracies” in a reboot of US foreign policy after four turbulent years under Donald Trump, all while the threats to American democracy, fueled by Trump, proliferate at home.
The president’s plan for the trip was established in a column for the Washington Post Saturday night as Trump spoke to Republicans in North Carolina.
Previewing meetings with “many of our closest democratic partners” and Vladimir Putin, Biden promised “to demonstrate the ability of democracies to meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new era.”
Critics may point out that the president would do well to confront attacks on democracy at home. He has put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of the matter, but there are many fronts in the battle.
In the states, Republicans have passed laws to restrict access to ballots and make it possible to override election results.
On the stump, Trump continues to sell his lie that Biden’s victory in November was the result of fraud. In Greenville on Saturday, the former president called his defeat “the crime of the century.”
In Washington last month, Republicans in the Senate blocked a bipartisan commission to investigate the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, by supporters whom Trump said would “fight like hell” for his cause.
In Biden’s own party, centrist senators got in the way of protecting the right to vote.
In his column for the Post, Biden linked another national priority, infrastructure spending, currently tied to seemingly doomed negotiations with Republicans, to a primary foreign policy goal.
“As at home,” he wrote, “perfecting the ability of democracies to compete and protect our people from unforeseen threats requires us to invest in infrastructure. The world’s leading democracies will offer a high-level alternative to China to improve physical, digital and health infrastructure that is more resilient and supports global development. “
In North Carolina, Trump said China should pay the United States and the world $ 10 trillion in reparations for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, while nations should pay off debt to Beijing.
Biden touted domestic successes, progress against the coronavirus, and the passage of his stimulus and relief package (without a single Republican vote), saying, “America must lead the world from a position of strength.”
He welcomed the announcement Saturday by the G7 finance ministers of a global minimum corporate tax rate. Moving further away from Trump, who withdrew from the Paris climate accord, he said: “We have an opportunity to make ambitious progress that slows the climate crisis and creates jobs by driving a global clean energy transition.”
In office, Trump attacked NATO. Biden hailed the “shared democratic values” of “the most successful alliance in world history.” In Brussels, at the NATO summit, I will affirm the unwavering commitment of the United States to … ensure that our alliance is strong in the face of all challenges, including threats such as cyberattacks on our critical infrastructure. “
Amid the proliferation of such attacks, he said, it was important that “when I meet Vladimir Putin in Geneva, it is after high-level discussions with friends, partners and allies who see the world through the same lens as the United States. ”.
Trump caused consternation among the American press in Helsinki in 2018, met with Putin without aides and appeared cowering in his presence.
Biden said the United States and its allies are “united to address Russia’s challenges to European security … and there will be no question about the United States’ determination to uphold our democratic values, which we cannot separate from our interests.”
Some have asked what Biden hopes to gain by meeting Putin: Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton told The Guardian this week: “You come together when you have a strategy rather than how to deal with Russia and I don’t think he will. I have it. . “
In the Post, Biden announced his extension of the New Sstart nuclear weapons treaty and responses to cyberattacks.
“I will once again underscore the commitment of the United States, Europe, and related democracies to uphold human rights and dignity,” he wrote.
“This is a defining question of our time: can democracies come together to deliver real results to our people in a rapidly changing world? Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped much of the last century demonstrate their capacity in the face of modern threats and adversaries?
“I think the answer is yes. And this week in Europe, we have a chance to prove it.”