COVID, climate and the ‘special relationship’ – all eyes are on Biden’s G7 performance
Any first foreign outing by an American president garners attention.
But Joe Biden‘s foray across the Atlantic this evening marks a sea change in the US attitude on a range of issues.
The leaders waiting to meet him in the UK will be doing so with a sense of relief after four rocky years under Donald Trump who pulled Washington out of a number of multilateral arrangements and even threatened to quit NATO.
President Biden travels with the express intent of trying to rally allies against common threats and difficulties including COVID, Russia and the environment.
New COVID variants and supplies of vaccines to poorer nations will feature heavily in discussions at the G7 Summitthis weekend.
America has already pledged to provide 80 million vaccines to other nations and the new president will want G7 leaders to reaffirm their promises to help tackle the global challenge from the virus.
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On the environment, Mr Biden brought America back into the fold of international action, rejoining the Paris Agreement on his first day in the Oval Office.
The G7 will give him a chance to reiterate his belief that leading democracies have to work together to tackle the world’s greatest issues.
He will also want to try to achieve a common purpose and voice in relation to Russia, be it in relation to cyber security, the recent build-up of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border or Moscow’s backing for Belarus after it forced a Ryanair flight to land so a dissident journalist could be arrested.
That unity of voice will be all the more important to Mr Biden as a meeting with Vladimir Putin will follow the G7.
But the so- called “special relationship” with the UK could be put to the test on his first engagement before he joins the G7 leaders as a group.
He will meet Boris Johnson who is said to be no fan of the term as a way of describing the UK’s friendship with its most powerful ally because he thinks it makes the UK seem needy and weak.
Mr Biden has used the term liberally ahead of the trip but being in a “special relationship” won’t preclude the US president from being tough with his UK counterpart.
The president is no fan of Brexit, seeing it as a challenge to EU unity and he’s likely to reiterate his belief that Mr Johnson must adhere to the Northern Ireland protocol.
Brexit disagreements aside, this is an important trip for the new president in terms of trying to rebuild relationships and commitments after four years of a very different US leader.