At the G7 summit, US President Joe Biden proves that the allies can count on the US again after the Trump years. But differences will remain.
People meet up with friends for a barbecue evening, and G7 host Boris Johnson is likely to have intended such a signal at the barbecue on Cornwall beach. Fresh from the barbecue, the heads of state and government of the seven major industrialized countries and their guests will be served steak and lobster on the last summit evening in Great Britain, followed by marshmallows, among other things.
The man on whom all eyes were directed knows all of this from his American homeland. For US President Joe Biden, the summit is the first appearance on the world stage since entering the White House. The G7 group succeeded in making a fresh start with Biden – even if the demonstrative harmony cannot hide the differences.
After four years of chaos with Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, the heads of state and government of the seven major industrialized countries in Cornwall make no secret of their relief. British Prime Minister Johnson – who was closest to Trump in the group – raves about the “breath of fresh air” that Biden is bringing. French President Emmanuel Macron puts his arm around him after the opening photo, like an old friend. “It’s great to have a US president who is part of the club and is very willing to cooperate,” Macron later said at a meeting with Biden – adding at his address: “You show that leadership means partnership.”
Cooperation instead of strife
Partnership instead of going it alone, cooperation instead of strife, “America is back” instead of “America first” – the US news site Politico says that Biden had many messages in his luggage for his allies during his first trip abroad as president, but this is possibly the clearest: ” I am not Donald Trump. ” Chancellor Angela Merkel also says that Biden “represents the commitment to multilateralism that we have lacked in recent years”. On the first day of the summit, Biden invites Merkel to the White House on July 15 to underline “the deep bilateral relations between the United States and Germany”.
The two meet in Cornwall – Biden’s first and Merkel’s last G7 summit. Biden then spoke of a “great meeting” in a tweet, he wrote: “The connections between our two nations are stronger than ever.” This is balm for the Germans, who were Trump’s favorite opponents. The same applies to the EU, whose top representatives are also at the summit. Trump once called the EU an “opponent”. Biden now says: “For my part, I believe that the European Union is an incredibly strong and lively entity.” And about NATO: “The cohesion of NATO is very, very important to us.” Trump, on the other hand, threatened to leave the alliance.
It all sounds good. But behind the scenes there is also a good deal of disillusionment, especially on the European side. So far, Biden has not been as determined in climate policy as many in the EU would have liked – for example when it comes to a time horizon for the coal phase-out. And even in efforts to revive the dispute settlement mechanism of the World Trade Organization (WTO) paralyzed by Trump, the Democrat has so far not been the help he had hoped for. It was noted with astonishment that Biden had followed an “America First” motto for months when it came to vaccines.
In addition, Biden clearly relies on confrontation when dealing with China, while the Europeans want to avoid excessive polarization, not least for economic reasons. Even when it comes to patent protection for corona vaccines, for example, the G7 are still not in line: Biden and several others have shown themselves to be open to suspension, but Merkel, for example, is one of the opponents.
At the end of the summit, Merkel said: “With the election of Joe Biden as American president, the world is not such that it no longer has any problems. But we can work with renewed vigor to solve these problems.” Biden himself says: “I felt real excitement that America is back at the table and fully committed.”
Biden has achieved his most important goal: to prove that the US is back to working with its democratic allies – and that the US is ready to take a leadership role on global issues. On Sunday he again called for the world’s democracies to be defended against the advance of authoritarian systems such as those in China and Russia. “We are in a competition,” he says.
“Interest in stable relations with Russia”
When it comes to Russia, the G7 shows its solidarity and strengthens Biden as he hoped. “We reaffirm our interest in stable and predictable relations with Russia,” said the final declaration. “We reaffirm our call on Russia to stop its destabilizing behavior and harmful activities, including its interference in the democratic systems of other countries, and to fulfill its international obligations and commitments in the field of human rights.”
This closeness to Moscow is particularly important for Biden now. On Wednesday – after top meetings with NATO and the EU in Brussels – he will go to his eagerly awaited summit with Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin in Geneva. Given the large number of conflicts between the two countries, the meeting is likely to be confrontational. Before that, the two presidents agreed on one point: “We have a bilateral relationship that has bottomed out in recent years,” said Putin. After the G7 summit, Biden says: “I think he’s right, it’s a low point.”