Patrick Semansky / AP
President Biden arrived in the UK on Wednesday, starting his eight-day trip abroad by declaring that “the United States is back” and that the world’s democracies “stand together.”
Speaking to US troops at Mildenhall Royal Air Force Base, Biden also had strong words for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he will meet next week.
Biden said he would meet with Putin “to let him know what I want him to know.” Biden said that while the United States wants a “stable and predictable relationship” with Russia, the United States “will respond in a strong and meaningful way if the Russian government engages in harmful activities.”
Biden will sit down with Putin in Geneva, after meeting with G-7 and then NATO allies. Although this is Biden’s first overseas trip as president, he is no stranger to the world stage, having met many leaders during his political career, most notably as vice-president. Chairman and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Although the summit is taking place in person, Biden noted that the coronavirus pandemic is far from over.
“We need to end COVID-19, not just at home which we are doing, but everywhere,” he said. “There isn’t a wall high enough to protect us from this pandemic or the next biological threat we face.”
Biden has said he wants to use the trip to organize a plan with other G7 countries to help end the pandemic around the world, and to that end he is set to announce that the United States has bought 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer to donate to COVAX, which distributes vaccines to countries that cannot afford to buy enough vaccines, a source close to the deal confirmed to Tamara Keith from NPR.
Putting other issues on the travel agenda – what he called “critical national security issues” – Biden said nations must “embark on ambitious climate action if we are to prevent worst impacts of climate change ”and that“ new technologies and standards of conduct in cyberspace ”must be established, including addressing“ the growing threat of ransomware ”.
Ransomware attacks – including the one that crippled the colonial pipeline in the United States and which federal officials say was carried out by a criminal entity in Russia – are becoming a growing threat to national security. Speaking of the matter, Biden emphatically pointed to the “autocrats who let this happen.”
Biden also described a drastically different approach to NATO, the alliance former President Donald Trump has often despised. Trump has threatened to withdraw US troops from Germany and has focused most of his attention on having NATO member countries pay a greater share of the costs of the alliance.
Biden said he would make it clear that “the United States’ commitment to our NATO alliance in Article 5 is rock solid,” referring to the provision that an attack on a member of the The alliance is treated as an attack on all members.
Biden said the United States was not seeking to come into conflict with Russia, but would make it clear “that there are consequences to violating the sovereignty of democracies in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. “.
He repeated his claim that “we are at an inflection point in world history – the time when it behooves us to prove that democracies will not only last, but that they will excel.”
Biden said “we must discredit those who believe that the era of democracy is over, as some of our colleagues believe”, and that leaders “must work harder than ever to prove that democracy can still be useful to our people “.
Biden, whose son Beau served overseas in the Delaware Army National Guard and died six years ago of cancer, thanked the US troops stationed there. “We owe you. We are so proud of you. So proud,” he said, his voice broken.
“I only wish my major was here to thank you too,” he said, wiping away a tear.
NPR’s Roberta Rampton contributed reporting.