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Why Joe Biden’s trip to Europe is so unique and so important

No American president has ever left the shores of the nation with democratic values ​​attacked as widely and systematically at home as abroad. This extraordinary reality will complicate his mission to purge the trauma of the Donald Trump era and convince both his enemies and his friends that the United States is definitively resuming its role as world leader.

“We will make it clear that the United States is back and that the democracies of the world unite to tackle the most difficult challenges,” Biden told American troops at an air base in eastern England on Wednesday. .

For Biden, democracy isn’t just an abstract concept of civic class that Americans only know about when they step into the voting booth every few years.

It is a system, a way of life, and a set of rules and norms that have made the United States the strongest and richest country in history. The free and prosperous nations that the United States rebuilt and protected after World War II faced Communist tyranny in the form of the Soviet Union and guaranteed 70 years of peace. This network of open and like-minded countries is also key to America’s global power. If democracy is ebbing abroad, so too is American influence.

But now everything is threatened.

New challenges

The rise of a new superpower, China, determined to reorganize America’s wealth and power, becomes a serious threat to democracy and offers would-be autocrats a one-party model of alternative power.

Russia – the adversary Biden will face at the end of his trip to Europe – has meddled in the last two U.S. elections to help Trump, who often seemed to push his foreign interests ahead of those of the United States.

But the most extraordinary feature of Biden’s trip is that he’s not a US president going to face tyranny overseas – it’s happened before. He snuggles up with US allies at a time when the greatest threat to democracy comes from the United States.

The world watched in horror the Trump-orchestrated insurgency against the United States in January. Since then, the ex-president has poisoned millions of Americans against democracy with his bogus allegations of electoral fraud. Lawmakers in Republican states quickly pass bills that make it harder for everyone except their own supporters to vote and make it easier to steal elections. The principle that voters have the right to choose their own leaders is under threat.

Trump’s method of undermining elections, arming media coverage with propaganda, creating false realities, promoting cronyism and stigmatizing immigrants was painfully familiar to Europeans because of their own history and as autocracy takes root in new in the old Eastern bloc.

Biden, who was born during World War II, when Nazi tyranny ruled Europe, and came of age during the Cold War, identified a fateful moment. Often he doesn’t seem convinced that the sleeping West can prevail against threats to freedoms and global domination of its values ​​that it takes for granted – especially when it comes to China. And even President Franklin Roosevelt didn’t have to worry about the state of democracy in his country when he crossed the Atlantic for summits during World War II. As a tribute to Roosevelt, Biden will unveil an updated Atlantic Charter with Johnson on Monday – the document FDR signed with wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill created the foundation for the West.

Biden seeks to reinvigorate American alliances that for decades looked back to the glories of that time. The oldest president in the history of the United States looks to the future.

“I think we are at a turning point in world history,” Biden told US troops. He cited a “time when it behooves us to prove that democracies will not only last, but that they will excel, as we rise to seize the tremendous opportunities of the new era.”

And he offered a warning to his fellow leaders ahead of this weekend’s G7 summit on the rocky Cornish coast.

“We need to discredit those who believe the era of democracy is over, as some of our colleagues believe,” Biden said.

A post-Trump boost

Why Joe Biden’s trip to Europe is so unique and so important
The new American president is assured of a warm welcome. After all, it wasn’t his predecessor, who berated allies like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, preferred the company of autocrats over allies and didn’t really believe in the West.

But the Trump presidency and the former president’s horrific exit from power have traumatized many American friends abroad. This raised doubts that democracy could survive in the United States. Privately, allied diplomats will concede that they are not completely convinced that Biden has ended the populist nationalism of “America First”. Some fear that it is simply an interregnum and that Trump or a new president like him will return in January 2025.

Part of the whole reason for Biden’s trip is to start calming some of those nerves that raise concerns about resistance from the United States. European nations do not need to agree with the United States on all political issues. But after the upheavals of the Trump era, which turned America from a force for global stability into a force of disruption, they crave strategic certainty from Washington.

“What President Biden needs to do is show consistency, credibility, in American promises, and really see this as a stabilization of our network of alliance both in Europe and in India. Pacific, “Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia and the Arctic at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a briefing.

“Our allies won’t believe this will hold, until they see in multiple election cycles that regardless of administration, US politics sees the benefit of alliances,” Conley said.

Yet political leaders are pragmatic. They understand that Biden, despite doubts about his ability to push through the fullness of his agenda against Republican filibustering, is more than three years older in power. Its goals to fight global warming and defeat the pandemic reflect theirs. There is every chance for a successful first foray abroad for the president. Biden’s trip opened on Wednesday with news that the United States had purchased 500 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines and would be sending them to countries unable to purchase bulk supplies on their own. He has already joined the Paris climate agreement, which Trump has withdrawn from, and the United States will be a crucial player at the next global climate conference in Scotland in November.

While the president initially appeared to want to recruit European Union countries for a global pact against China, his team has cooled the rhetoric on the issue somewhat, acknowledging that although it is close to the United States on values democratic, the EU does not want to choose sides in a new cold war.

A confrontation with Putin

Why Joe Biden’s trip to Europe is so unique and so important
The deliberate choreography of the visit places Biden with American allies for nearly a week in the UK and NATO headquarters in Brussels before sitting down with Putin. If Biden is the personification of global democracy, the Russian leader is the opposite. On Wednesday, a Russian court designated organizations affiliated with opposition leader Alexei Navalny as “extremists”.
Putin is a supporter of Belarus and its strongman, Alexander Lukashenko, who recently forced an airliner to land in order to arrest a prominent journalist and dissident. With his annexation of Crimea and his incursions into Ukraine, he returned the horror of contested borders to continental Europe. More importantly from a national perspective, the United States blames Russia for failing to crack down on ransomware hackers who have targeted America’s food, water, transportation and gasoline infrastructure in recent weeks. And then there is Russian electoral interference.

CNN reported that Biden’s interest in a summit with the Russian leader was the subject of debate within his administration over the potential risks at a time when Washington-Moscow relations are at their lowest in decades.

While the meeting is likely to involve some tough talks – given that the heart of Putin’s political project is to diminish the power, prestige and influence of the United States as he possibly can – Biden was keen to move on. before. US officials hope to forge common ground – on Iranian nuclear talks and atomic weapons talks, for example – despite the broader atmosphere of hostility.

Biden told troops in England on Wednesday that he wanted to face Putin to “let him know what I want him to know.”

After waiting a lifetime to realize his dream of being president, Biden – who has traveled the world as a senator and vice president carrying the messages of others – now has this duty with everyone he meets at one point. dangerous to the power of America and the world it made.


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