Biden touts ‘tight’ US-Europe alliance on departure for G7 summit, Putin meeting
Joe Biden left on the first foreign trip of his presidency Wednesday, touting the strong transatlantic alliance ahead of summits with G7, European and NATO partners, then a face-to-face with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Boarding Air Force One outside Washington, Biden said his trip would make “clear to Putin and China that Europe and the United States are tight.”
From there, in rapid succession, he will visit Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, fly to Brussels for summits with the NATO military alliance and the European Union, then finish up in Geneva, where he meets Putin next Wednesday.
With the world still crawling out from under the wreckage of Covid-19, Biden has cast his diplomatic marathon as a return to badly needed US leadership.
“This is a defining question of our time,” Biden wrote in The Washington Post ahead of his trip.
US allies are looking for concrete signs of change.
Shortly after his departure, the White House revoked executive orders issued by Trump seeking to ban Chinese-owned mobile apps TikTok and WeChat over national security concerns.
– Avoiding ‘chaos’ –
That’s a message that the trip’s choreography, with Biden meeting a Who’s Who of US allies before sitting down with Putin, reinforces.
As he boarded his plane, Biden jokingly warned journalists to “watch out for cicadas,” saying one of the insects currently invading the Washington area had just landed on him. Earlier, a separate plane carrying White House journalists was delayed due to technical problems caused by a cicada swarm.
The Biden administration sees the pivot back from Trump’s isolationism as vital to world order. The alternative to US leadership, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, is China taking over or “chaos.”
There was friction last month when Washington blocked French attempts at the United Nations to demand a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Biden’s ramping up of vaccine donations around the world also follows what critics saw as a long period of hoarding.
Biden has irked Erdogan, a sometimes Trump ally, by highlighting Turkey’s dire human rights situation and recognizing the Ottoman Empire’s genocide against the Armenians. Washington risks “losing a precious friend,” Erdogan has warned.
Expectations for the Putin summit are so low that simply making US-Russian relations “more stable” would be considered a success, Blinken and other White House officials say.
The list of tensions, however, is far longer.
Biden will also press Putin about sabre-rattling on the Ukrainian border, the imprisonment of opponent Alexei Navalny, and his support for Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarussian strongman who forced a Ryanair airliner to land in Minsk, then arrested an opponent on the flight.
But Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that with decades in the Senate and eight years as vice president under Barack Obama, Biden has done his homework.