CARBIS BAY, England – President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday signed a new version of the 80-year-old ‘Atlantic Charter’, using their first meeting to redefine the Western alliance and accentuate this which they said was a growing rift between defeated democracies and their autocratic rivals, led by Russia and China.
The two leaders unveiled the new charter as they sought to draw the world’s attention to emerging threats from cyber attacks, the Covid-19 pandemic that has rocked the global economy and climate change, using language on the strengthening of NATO and international institutions that Mr. Biden hoped to clarify that America First’s Trump era was over.
But the two also continued to grapple with old-world challenges, including Mr Biden’s private warning of the PM against any action that could fuel sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.
The new charter, a 604-word declaration, was an effort to define a grand vision for world relations in the 21st century, just as the original, first written by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a declaration of a western commitment. democracy and territorial integrity just months before the United States entered World War II.
“It was a statement of first principles, a promise that the UK and US would meet the challenges of their time and we would meet them together,” Biden said after his private meeting with Mr. Johnson. “Today, we build on that commitment, with a revitalized Atlantic Charter, updated to reaffirm that promise while directly addressing the major challenges of this century.”
Reunited at a seaside resort on the Cornish coast in England, with Royal Navy ships patrolling to protect the in-person meeting of the Group of 7 leaders, the two clearly sought to fit the Churchill and FDR mold. While reviewing a small exhibit of the original Atlantic Charter, agreed to aboard a ship off Newfoundland in August 1941, less than four months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. de l ‘NATO.
But Mr Biden’s aides said they believed the Charter had gone moldy and did not reflect a world with different challenges – from cyberspace to China – in which Great Britain is a greatly diminished power.
Where the original charter envisioned the “final destruction of Nazi tyranny” and called for the freedom to “cross the high seas and oceans unhindered”, the new version focused on the “climate crisis” and the need to “protect the biodiversity”. It is interspersed with references to “emerging technologies”, “cyberspace” and “sustainable global development”.
In a direct rebuke to Russia and China, the new deal calls on Western allies to “oppose interference through disinformation or other malicious influences, including in elections.” He classifies threats to democratic nations in a technological age: “We affirm our shared responsibility to maintain our collective security, international stability and resilience against the full spectrum of modern threats, including cyber threats.
And he swears that “as long as there are nuclear weapons, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. Our NATO allies and partners can always count on us, even as they continue to strengthen their own national forces. “
It would be hard to imagine Mr Johnson, who has maintained his relationship with President Donald Trump, signing such a document in the Trump era. Yet he clearly veers on the side of Mr. Biden, born just two years after the signing of the first charter and who, throughout his political life, has come to embrace the alliance it has created.
The new charter explicitly calls on both countries to adhere to the “rules-based international order,” a phrase that Mr. Trump and his aides have sought, in vain, to ban from previous statements by Western leaders, believing he It was a globalist threat to Mr. Trump’s America First agenda at home.
Mr Biden also used his first full day abroad to officially announce that the United States will donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine to 100 of the poorest countries, a program which officials say , would cost $ 3.5 billion, including $ 2 billion in donations to the previously announced Covax consortium.
“Right now, our values call on us to do all we can to vaccinate the world against Covid-19,” Biden said. He dismissed fears that his administration would use vaccine distribution as a diplomatic weapon in the global market.
“The United States is providing these half a billion doses without any strings attached,” he said. “Our vaccine donations do not include pressure for favors or potential concessions. We do this to save lives. To end this pandemic. That’s it. Period.”
But the donation, while billed as a humanitarian initiative that was also in America’s own best interests, also carries a political message. Biden’s aides say it’s a powerful demonstration that democracies – not China or Russia – are capable of responding to global crises, and can do so faster and more effectively.
By taking a leading role in the world’s immunization effort and providing resources to address the most serious public health challenges, officials said the United States is recapturing a role it seeks to play. since the end of World War II.
Mr Johnson, who is keen to use the summit as a showcase for a post-Brexit identity dubbed ‘Global Britain’, also presented ambitious plans to help end the pandemic. As the summit approaches, Mr Johnson called on leaders to pledge to vaccinate everyone in the world against the coronavirus by the end of 2022.
Public health experts applauded Mr Biden’s announcement. If past donations had been just band-aid on a huge global vaccine deficit, the 500 million doses were more in line with the scale of the challenge, they said.
The announcement came as Covax, the vaccine-sharing partnership, struggled to deliver enough doses, especially as India blocked shipments from a large factory there to speed up its campaign. national vaccination program. Covax shipped 82 million doses, less than a fifth of the supply it once expected to have available by June.
But getting doses into people’s arms continues to be difficult. Global public health officials have urged wealthy countries to start distributing their donations soon, rather than releasing extra doses all at once later this year, so countries can administer the doses when they arrive.
During his meeting with Mr Johnson, Mr Biden also touched on an old issue he is familiar with: the British territory of Northern Ireland. It first erupted as a source of tension between Mr Biden and Mr Johnson during the 2020 presidential campaign, when Mr Biden warned against Twitter that “we cannot allow the Good Friday deal that brought peace to Northern Ireland to be a victim of Brexit”. He added that any trade deal between the United States and Britain would depend on preventing the return of a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which is part of the European Union.
A proud Irish American who enjoys quoting Yeats’ poetry, Mr. Biden’s loyalty on this issue has never been questioned. They stand in stark contrast to Mr Trump, who has championed Brexit and once pushed Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May to sue the European Union. Mr Biden, on the other hand, called Brexit a mistake.
The problem is that tensions over post-Brexit trade deals in Northern Ireland have only intensified since Mr Biden was elected. Britain has blamed the European Union for the trade disruptions that left some supermarket shelves empty in Northern Ireland after Britain officially exited the bloc in January.
Negotiations over the agreements, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, have become increasingly controversial, with Britain threatening to end the deal unless Brussels makes concessions. Last week, leading US diplomat in London Yael Lempert bluntly expressed the administration’s concerns over rising tensions to UK chief Brexit negotiator David Frost.
News of the meeting surfaced in The Times of London on Wednesday evening as Mr Biden arrived in the country. While some analysts predicted it would overshadow Mr Biden’s meeting with Mr Johnson, others stressed it served one purpose – publicly recording US concerns in a way that spared Mr Biden the need to. to stress the point in person.
White House officials were careful to say they did not want to be drawn into a dispute between London and Brussels. At the same time, they leave no doubt as to the depth of Mr Biden’s feelings about the Good Friday deal, which was negotiated with the help of one of his Democratic predecessors, Bill Clinton.
“He’s not issuing threats or ultimatums,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One. “He will just convey his deep conviction that we must support and protect this protocol. “
Mark Landler has contributed reporting from Falmouth, England, and Benjamin Mueller from London.