Joe Biden left Wednesday, June 9, for his first overseas trip as president. He’ll meet with America’s Group of Seven (G7) and NATO allies to discuss such things as the continued coronavirus pandemic and the escalating aggression of both China and Russia. He might even sit down with Russia’s Vladimir Putin himself. Thus begins Biden’s first foreign adventure as president.
Biden landed in the United Kingdom Wednesday night. A bilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson kicks off the itinerary Thursday. Over the weekend, Biden will meet with leaders from France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Canada at the G7 summit.
“This trip is about realizing America’s renewed commitment to our allies and partners,” Biden wrote for an op-ed a few days before the trip. “Whether it is ending the COVID-19 pandemic everywhere, meeting the demands of an accelerated climate crisis, or confronting the harmful activities of the governments of China and Russia, the United States must lead the world from a position of strength.”
The president’s words inform what topics will likely come up: coronavirus, climate change, and Chinese/Russian aggression, as well as how to put an end to them all. He also set the tone with “America’s renewed commitment.” The insinuation, of course, is that President Donald Trump abandoned the nation’s commitment to allies around the globe, as well as the issues of climate change, COVID-19, and antagonistic rivals.
On the topic of China, Biden plans to focus on competitiveness in the market and the origins of the novel coronavirus. According to the president, the U.S. and other major democracies of the world should invest in infrastructure to create a “high-standard alternative to China for upgrading physical, digital and health infrastructure that is more resilient and supports global development.” Regardless of what other world leaders do, Americans can likely expect the president to push more federal spending to achieve these goals at home and abroad. For many, this would be a bit of a mixed bag; the increased taxation won’t be popular, but the idea of thwarting Chinese global dominance – militarily, economically, and technologically – likely would be.
As for Russia, Biden says he wants to make it clear that “Europe and the United States are tight.” The Biden administration didn’t blame Putin after the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack and explained that the U.S. did not officially believe Russia’s government was involved. The White House later said, however, that Putin and his government have “a role to play in stopping and preventing these attacks.”
The president is also expected to visit Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle before heading to Belgium for the NATO summit on Monday, June 14, where he will talk to President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey about Syria, Afghanistan, and other regional issues. Afterward, Biden plans to meet Putin in Geneva on June 16.
On the docket for discussion with the Russian president are the START nuclear arms treaty, the nuclear capabilities of Iran and North Korea, Syria, the Arctic, COVID-19, climate change, and, of course, the recent cybercrimes.
Given all the hate Russia and Putin got by proxy during the Trump presidency – including from the soon-to-be President Biden and nearly all his fellow Democrats – diplomacy may be difficult. Will Putin push back against the “I’ll let him know what I want him to know” tough guy approach or let it slide like water off a duck’s back? If he challenges the U.S. president over the anti-Putin, anti-Russia attitude of the last several years, will Biden stick to his guns or back down?
Read more from James Fite.