US President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Europe on Wednesday to reassure his allies and stand firmly before Russia, a visit that includes a G7 summit, one with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and another with the European Union, before a meeting with Russia. Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
On his first trip abroad, the President of the United States (46) chose to highlight transatlantic relations, which were subjected to severe strains during the presidency of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
“My trip to Europe is an opportunity for the United States to mobilize democracies around the world,” he wrote, presenting himself as a central player in what he described as the ideological confrontation with “authoritarian regimes” led by China.
Since arriving in the White House, Biden has insisted that the United States is back at the multilateral table, determined to play a major role, from fighting the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change.
But far from real relief after the controversies and threats of the Trump years, the European side is viewed with a form of impatience.
For Benjamin Haddad of the Atlantic Council think tank, although the tone is distinctly more positive, there is a certain “disappointment” that is clear.
“There is a lot of talk about the return of America (the United States is back) and there is positive rhetoric, but it is time for action,” he told AFP.
For many, the distribution of US vaccines to other countries has been too slow. Washington’s lack of reciprocity in the wake of the European Union’s decision to reopen its doors to American travelers has caused discontent. And the way the withdrawal from Afghanistan was announced, without real prior consultation, was not appreciated in European capitals.
This situation can be explained by circumstantial factors related to priorities at the beginning of the mandate. But there are also deeper reasons. “Basically, Europe is much less important in US foreign policy than it was 20 or 30 years ago,” says the French scholar.
In addition, Trump’s mandate, which came to describe NATO as “obsolete,” left the surgeon.
“Allies are still suspicious and are taking into account the forces that brought Trump to power in 2016,” says US diplomat Alexander Vershbow, a former second-in-command in NATO.
After arriving in Cornwall, southwest England on Wednesday evening, Biden will attend the G7 summit (Germany, Canada, the United States, France, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom) after a face-to-face meeting with Britain’s first minister. Boris Johnson.
On Sunday, he is scheduled to visit First Lady Jill Biden, Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle.
With the exception of Lyndon Johnson, the Queen is scheduled to meet every US president in her 69-year reign.
He is then scheduled to travel on Air Force One to Brussels (the NATO leaders summit and the European-American summit), before ending his eight-day trip in Geneva with a long-awaited summit with Putin.
Ukraine, Belarus and the Fate of Imprisoned Russian Adversary Alexei Navalny, Cyber Attacks: Discussions with the Russian leader are expected to be tough and challenging. The White House, exchanging conciliatory messages and warnings, insists its expectations are modest.
The only goal is to make relations between the two countries more “stable and predictable”.
The US presidency gave very few details about the development of this meeting, only indicating that the joint press conference of the two leaders was not on the agenda.
The event that took place between Trump and Putin in Helsinki in July 2018 is still on everyone’s minds in Washington.
That day, at a bizarre press conference that drew protests even from his Republican side, the president seemed to value Putin’s words more than the unanimous conclusions of US intelligence agencies about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Biden’s team stresses that the tone will be different this time. “We don’t see a meeting with the Russian president as a reward,” said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
The main reason for the summit? “So that I can look President Putin in the eye and tell him: Here are the American expectations,” he added.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg insisted that dialogue with Russia is not a sign of weakness.
And in a carefully designed sequence, two days before leaving Washington, Joe Biden invited his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to visit him at the White House this summer.
For the city of Geneva, the meeting will have a special flavor: in 1985, it hosted a summit between US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.