JOINT BASE ANDREWS (MARYLAND) :
US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he will be announcing a vaccine plan for the world as he headed to Europe for his first foreign trip as president.
“I have one, and I’ll be announcing it,” Biden told reporters before he boarded Air Force One.
Biden left Washington today for a series of summits with allies in Europe and a face-to-face with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, saying the trip would demonstrate the strength of the transatlantic alliance.
“Making clear to Putin and China that Europe and the United States are tight,” Biden said when asked the goal of his busy trip to Britain, Belgium and Switzerland, where he will meet the Kremlin leader.
Biden to assure allies
Biden is eager to reassert the United States on the world stage, steadying European allies deeply shaken by his predecessor and pushing democracy as the only bulwark to rising forces of authoritarianism.
Biden has set the stakes for his eight-day trip in sweeping terms, believing that the West must publicly demonstrate it can compete economically with China as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s to-do list is ambitious
In their face-to-face sit-down in Geneva, Biden wants to privately pressure Putin to end myriad provocations, including cybersecurity attacks on American businesses by Russian-based hackers, the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and repeated overt and covert efforts by the Kremlin to interfere in U.S. elections.
Biden is also looking to rally allies on their COVID-19 response and to urge them to coalesce around a strategy to check emerging economic and national security competitor China even as the US expresses concern about Europe’s economic links to Moscow. Biden also wants to nudge outlying allies, including Australia, to make more aggressive commitments to the worldwide effort to curb global warming.
The week-plus journey is a big moment for Biden, who traveled the world for decades as vice president and as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will now step off Air Force One on international soil as commander in chief. He will face world leaders still grappling with the virus and rattled by four years of Trump’s inward-looking foreign policy and moves that strained longtime alliances as the Republican former president made overtures to strongmen.
The president first travels to Britain for a summit of the Group of Seven leaders and then Brussels for a NATO summit and a meeting with the heads of the European Union. It comes at a moment when Europeans have diminished expectations for what they can expect of US leadership on the foreign stage.
Central and Eastern Europeans are desperately hoping to bind the U.S. more tightly to their security. Germany is looking to see the U.S. troop presence maintained there so it doesn’t need to build up its own. France, meanwhile, has taken the tack that the U.S. can’t be trusted as it once was and that the European Union must pursue greater strategic autonomy going forward.
His first stop late Wednesday will be an address to US troops stationed in Britain, and the next day he sits down with British Prime Minster Boris Johnson. The two men will meet a day ahead of the G-7 summit to be held above the craggy cliffs of Cornwall overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The trip finale will be Biden’s meeting with Putin
Biden has taken a very different approach to Russia than Trump’s friendly outreach. Their sole summit, held in July 2018 in Helsinki, was marked by Trump’s refusal to side with US intelligence agencies over Putin’s denials of Russian interference in the election two years earlier.
Biden could well be challenged by unrest at home as Russia looks to exploit the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and the debate over voting rights to undermine the US position as a global role model. The American president, in turn, is expected to push Russia to quell its global meddling.
“By and large, these are not meetings on outcomes, these are ‘get to know you again’ meetings for the US and Europe,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s about delivering a message to Putin, to reviving old alliances and to demonstrate again that the US is back on the right course.”
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