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Biden opens overseas trip by declaring ‘US is back’

MILDENHALL, England (AP) – President Joe Biden on Wednesday opened the first overseas trip of his term by declaring that “the United States is back” as he seeks to reaffirm the nation on the world stage and to maintain European allies deeply shaken by his predecessor. .

Biden set the stakes for his eight-day trip in general terms, saying the West must publicly demonstrate that it can compete economically with China as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. It’s an open repudiation of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who scorned alliances and withdrew from a global climate change deal that Biden has since joined.

The President’s first stop was a visit with US troops and their families to Royal Air Force Mildenhall, where he outlined his mission for the trip.

“We are going to make it clear that the United States is back and democracies come together to tackle the toughest challenges and issues that matter most to our future,” he said. “That we are committed to leading with strength, defending our values ​​and serving our employees. “

The challenges that awaited Biden abroad were clear as the president and the public wore masks – a reminder of the pandemic that still rages across much of the world even as its threat recedes in the United States.

“We need to end COVID-19 not only at home what we do but everywhere,” Biden said.

Shortly before the president spoke, people with knowledge of the matter said the Biden administration had negotiated a deal with Pfizer to purchase 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to give to 92 low-income countries and the African Union over the next year.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that Biden was committed to sharing the vaccines because it was in the best interests of public health and the strategic interests of the United States. “

“As he said in his joint session (speech), we were the ‘arsenal of democracy’ during World War II,” Sullivan said. “We are going to be the ‘vaccine arsenal’ over this next period to help end the pandemic.”

After addressing the troops, Biden and First Lady Jill Biden drove to Cornwall Newquay Airport and then drove to Tregenna Castle in St. Ives, where they remain until Sunday.

Ahead of his end-of-trip summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden will aim to reassure European capitals that the United States can once again be counted as a reliable partner to thwart Moscow’s aggression at the same time. on their eastern front and on their Internet battlefields.

Travel will be more about messaging than specific actions or offers. And the top priority for Biden is convincing the world that his Democratic administration is not just a fleeting deviation from the trajectory of a U.S. foreign policy that many allies fear will irrevocably drift into a more transactional perspective under Trump.

“The journey, at the grassroots, will advance the fundamental direction of Joe Biden’s foreign policy,” said Sullivan, “to rally the democracies of the world to meet the great challenges of our time.”

Biden’s to-do list is ambitious.

During their face-to-face meeting in Geneva, Biden wants to privately pressure Putin to end a myriad of provocations, including cybersecurity attacks on American companies by Russian-based hackers, l imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the repeated open and secret efforts of the Kremlin to interfere in the US elections.

Biden is also seeking to rally allies on their response to COVID-19 and urge them to rally around a strategy to control the emerging economy and national security competitor, China, even as states -United express concern about Europe’s economic ties with Moscow. Biden also wants to push distant allies, including Australia, to make more aggressive commitments in the global effort to curb global warming.

The week-long trip is a big moment for Biden, who has traveled the world for decades as vice chairman and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has now left Air Force One on international soil. as commander-in-chief. He will face world leaders still grappling with the virus and shaken by four years of Trump’s introverted foreign policy and moves that have strained long-standing alliances as the former Republican president made advances in strong men.

The President first attends a Group of Seven leaders’ summit in the UK, then travels to Brussels for a NATO summit and a meeting with EU leaders. The trip comes at a time when Europeans have low expectations of what they can expect from American leadership on the foreign scene.

Central and Eastern Europeans desperately hope to tie the United States more closely to their security. Germany seeks to see the presence of American troops be maintained there so that it does not need to reinforce its own. France, for its part, has decided that we can no longer trust the United States as in the past and that the European Union must pursue greater strategic autonomy in the future.

“I think there is real concern that Trumpian tendencies in the United States may return to full force midway through or in the next presidential election,” said Alexander Vershbow, former US diplomat and former deputy secretary general of the United States. ‘NATO.

The travel order is deliberate: Biden consulted with Western European allies for much of a week as a sign of unity ahead of his summit with Putin.

Biden is speaking to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday a day before the G-7 summit to be held above the rugged Cornish cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

The most tactile of politicians, Biden became frustrated with the diplomacy dynamic via Zoom of the pandemic and relished the opportunity to once again have face-to-face meetings that allow him to measure himself and connect with world leaders. . Although Biden himself is a seasoned statesman, many world leaders he will see in England, including Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, took office after Biden stepped down as vice-president. Another, Germany’s Angela Merkel, will step down later this year.

There are several potential areas of tension. On climate change, the United States aims to regain its credibility after Trump pulled the country out of the fight against global warming. Biden could also feel pressure on the trade, an issue he has yet to pay much attention to. And with the United States well stocked with COVID-19 vaccines but struggling to persuade some of its own citizens to use it, leaders whose vaccination campaigns have been slower have pressured Biden to share more surpluses in the world.

Another focal point will be China. Biden and other G-7 leaders will announce an infrastructure finance program for developing countries, aimed at directly competing with Beijing’s Belt-and-Road initiative. But not all European powers saw China in as harsh a light as Biden, who described the rivalry with the tech-security state as the defining competition for the 21st century.

The European Union has avoided taking as strong a stance on Beijing’s crackdown on the Hong Kong democratic movement or the treatment of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in western Xinjiang as the Biden administration might wish. But there are signs that Europe is willing to watch Beijing more.

Biden is also set to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels, a face-to-face meeting between two leaders who have gone through many difficult times in their relationship over the years.

The final of the trip will be Biden’s meeting with Putin.

Biden took a very different approach from Russia compared to Trump’s friendly approach. Their only summit, held in July 2018 in Helsinki, was marked by Trump’s refusal to side with US intelligence services in the face of Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the elections two years earlier.

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