Biden returns to US after first overseas trip – NBC10 Philadelphia


President Joe Biden spent his first overseas trip highlighting a sharp break with his disruptive predecessor, selling that the United States was once again a reliable ally with a steady hand at the wheel. European allies hailed the ground – and even a long-standing enemy recognized it.

But as Biden returned to Washington on Wednesday night after a week across the Atlantic that was a mix of messages and deliverables, questions remained as to whether these allies would trust Biden to truly represent a lasting reset or whether Russian President Vladimir Putin would curb the nation’s bad behavior.

Biden’s mantra, which he spoke in Geneva and Brussels and on the rugged coast of Cornwall, England, was that “America was back”. It was Putin, of all, during the last moments of the trip, who perhaps best defined Biden’s initial trip abroad.

“President Biden is an experienced statesman,” Putin told reporters. “He is very different from President Trump. “

But the summit with Putin in Geneva, which overshadowed the entire trip and brought it to a close, also underscored the fragility of Biden’s claims that world order had returned.

Although the two men declared the talks constructive, Putin’s rhetoric has not changed as he has refused to accept any responsibility for his country’s electoral meddling, cyber-hacking, or crackdown on domestic political opponents. At the summit’s conclusion, Biden admitted he couldn’t be sure Putin would change his behavior, even with further threats of consequences.

Biden’s multilateral summits with other democracies – the Group of Seven rich countries and NATO – were largely punctuated with sighs of relief from European leaders who had been rocked by President Donald Trump for four years. Yet there were still disagreements behind closed doors over how Western powers should treat Russia or Biden’s statement that economic competition with China would define the 21st century.

“Everyone at the table has understood and understands both the gravity and the challenges we face, as well as the responsibility of our proud democracies to step up and take action for the rest of the world,” Biden said. Sunday in England.

As vice chairman and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden had traveled the world for more than four decades before leaving Air Force One and visiting foreign soil for the first time as Commander-in-Chief. . His first stop, after a speech thanking American troops stationed in England, was for a rally with other G-7 leaders.

Leaders affirmed their commitment to pull the world out of the pandemic and the coronavirus crisis, pledging more than a billion doses of coronavirus vaccine to the poorest countries, pledging to help developing countries develop while fighting climate change and supporting a minimum tax on multinational companies.

In the group’s first face-to-face meeting in two years due to the pandemic, leaders dangled pledges of support for global health, green energy, infrastructure and education – all of it to demonstrate that international cooperation is back after the upheaval caused by the pandemic and Trump’s unpredictability. However, some feared that enough was not being done to tackle climate change and that one billion doses were not enough to meet the stated goal of ending the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. by the end of 2022.

The Seven Nations met in Cornwall and widely endorsed Biden’s hope of coming together to declare that they would be best friends to poorer nations than authoritarian rivals like China. A massive infrastructure plan for the developing world, meant to rival Beijing’s efforts, has been commissioned and China has been denounced for human rights abuses, sparking an angry backlash from the Asian power.

But even then there were tensions, with Germany, Italy and representatives of the European Union reluctant to call China too harshly a valued trading partner. And there is a distrust in some European capitals that it is Biden, rather than Trump, that is the aberration of American foreign policy and that the United States may soon fall back into a transactional, largely introspective approach.

After Cornwall, the scene moved to Brussels where many of the same faces met for a NATO rally. Biden took the opportunity to underline the United States’ renewed commitment to the 30-country alliance that was formed as a bulwark against the Moscow aggression but frequently disparaged by its predecessor.

He also underlined the United States’ commitment to Article 5 of the Alliance Charter, which states that an attack – including, from this summit, certain cyberattacks – against a member is an aggression against all and must be the subject of a collective response. Trump had refused to commit to the pact and threatened to pull the United States out of the alliance.

“Section 5 which we regard as a sacred obligation,” Biden said. “I want NATO to know America is here.”

When Air Force One landed in Washington, Biden again faced an uncertain future for his legislative agenda, the time allotted to strike a bipartisan infrastructure deal as the president faced growing Republicans’ intransigence and the growing impatience of his fellow Democrats. But Biden and his associates believe he accomplished what he set out to do in Europe.

The most tactile of politicians, Biden reveled in face-to-face diplomacy, having become frustrated with trying to negotiate with world leaders over Zoom. Even amid some disagreement, he was greeted warmly by most of his peers, other presidents and prime ministers eager to exchange awkward elbows and embrace his ‘build back better’ slogan.

At the end of each day, Biden would gather with assistants, including Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, eagerly reviewing the day’s meetings and preparing for the next. Aides spiced up his schedule with some downtime to punctuate the 78-year-old president, although there were still a few missteps, including verbal errors and when he simply neglected to announce a Boeing deal. -Airbus before the European Council.

His summit with Putin, which came three years after Trump sided with the Russian leader against US intelligence agencies when the two men met in Helsinki, hovered over the trip, with cable networks giving him levels of hype Super Bowl media. Aides wanted to face Putin early in the presidency, with some hope of overpowering Moscow and achieving some stability so that the administration could focus more directly on China.

There was no fireworks display at their summit near the Swiss Alps, and the nations agreed to send ambassadors back to their respective capitals and took some small steps towards strategic stability.

But while Biden was able to issue stern warnings to Putin behind closed doors, he also extracted a few promises. In the Russian president’s post-summit remarks, he embarked on Putin’s classic wrong direction and “what about-ism” to undermine one of the moral highs of the United States.

At his own press conference in Geneva, Biden stood against a postcard-perfect backdrop of a tree-lined lake, removing his suit jacket as the sun set from behind, so bright reporters had to wrong to look directly at the president.

Once again, Biden said America is back, but he also soberly clarified that it was impossible to immediately know whether progress with Russia had in fact been made.

“What will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and it diminishes their position in the world,” Biden said. “I don’t trust anything; I am only stating a fact.


Madhani reported from Geneva.

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