Recruiting Allies for Next Cold War: Joe Biden in Europe to Attend G7, NATO and Putin Meetings

Written by | Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

US President Joe Biden has embarked on his first overseas trip on Wednesday (9 June) where he will meet European partners and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. “In this moment of global uncertainty, as the world still grapples with a once-in-a-century pandemic,” Biden wrote in a Washington Post op-ed previewing his diplomatic efforts, “this trip is about realizing America’s renewed commitment to our allies and partners, and demonstrating the capacity of democracies to both meet the challenges and deter the threats of this new age.” After attending a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) leaders, the president will then head to Brussels for a NATO summit and a meeting with the heads of the European Union. Biden‘s trip to the EU comes at a moment when its citizens have diminished expectations for what they can expect of US leadership on the foreign stage.
After four years of Donald Trump, the US president comes to Europe on a tide of goodwill, when its leaders are grateful for the mere fact of a US president who believes in democracy and understands diplomacy. „Trump had no concept of historical alliance, strategic partnership or mutual interest,“ writes Rafael Behr in The Guardian. „He saw multilateral institutions as conspiracies against US power, which he could not distinguish from his own ego.“ Now Central and Eastern Europeans are desperately hoping to bind the US more tightly to their security. Germany is looking to see the US troop presence maintained there so it doesn’t need to build up its own. France, meanwhile, has taken the tack that the US can’t be trusted as it once was and that the European Union must pursue greater strategic autonomy going forward.
The sequencing of the trip is deliberate: Biden consulting with Western European allies for much of a week as a show of unity before his summit with Putin in Geneva. Biden is also looking to rally allies on their COVID-19 response and to urge them to coalesce around a strategy to check emerging economic and national security competitor China even as the US expresses concern about Europe’s economic links to Moscow. Biden also wants to nudge outlying allies, including Australia, to make more aggressive commitments to the worldwide effort to curb global warming. Another central focus will be China. Biden and the other G-7 leaders will announce an infrastructure financing program for developing countries that is meant to compete directly with Beijing’s Belt-and-Road Initiative.
The world’s democracies are in a competition of systems, above all with China – argues the latest Munich Security Report but in an effort to strike a balance, it also adds that global challenges like climate change and arms control still require cooperation. It is against this backdrop of transatlantic diplomacy, with Biden’s visit to Europe, that the report titled “Between States of Matter — Competition and Cooperation.” concludes that while Western democracies are being challenged, particularly by China, the two sides also need each other, not only as business partners, but also to confront major global challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic is just one obvious example of where cooperation is needed; so are climate change and an impending nuclear arms race. And the ambivalent relationship with China shows how, befitting its name, the Middle Kingdom is playing two parts: the competitor, on the one hand, and, in the EU’s case, the strategic partner.

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