Wednesday, June 9th 2021
Meeting with G7 and EU representatives
Biden wants to make amends for Trump’s policies
US President Biden is on his way to Europe to revitalize transatlantic relations. During the trip he would like to talk to Chancellor Merkel about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline – and “stand up to Putin at a meeting.”
Four summits in three countries, all in just seven days – and lots of other appointments, meetings and receptions. Joe Biden’s schedule in Europe looks as if he wanted to make up for the personal encounters he missed due to the pandemic on his first trip abroad as US President in one go. It is to be expected that the 78-year-old will score points with the Europeans – the contrast to his predecessor Donald Trump, who alienated allies with his brutal manner, will make sure of that.
It should be confrontational for Biden at the end of the trip – when he meets the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Biden has made the competition of systems one of his core topics. He sees the world’s democracies, the beacon of which the United States sees itself, threatened by the advance of autocracies such as those in China and Russia.
America’s opponents are “the world’s autocrats”
How fragile democracy is in the United States was shown when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6th. Speaking to Congress in April, Biden said America’s opponents – “the world’s autocrats” – were betting on the decline of US democracy. “We have to prove that democracy still works.” He promised, “The autocrats will not win the future. We will do that. America will do that.” However, Biden also knows that America can hardly achieve this on its own. He therefore wants to convene a “global summit for democracy” within his first year in office.
The revitalization of Trump’s stunted transatlantic relationship has made Biden one of his priorities. He sees the partnership with Europe as “the cornerstone of everything we want to achieve”, as he said in February at a video link for the Munich Security Conference. “America is back. The transatlantic alliance is back.”
Strengthening alliances, opposing autocrats – this program also reflects Biden’s trip to Europe:
– Strengthen the position of the G7: After a troop visit to the UK, Biden meets with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday. Johnson is hosting the G7 summit in Cornwall, which Biden is attending Friday through Sunday. Under Trump, the group had lost importance in seven important industrialized countries – in addition to Great Britain and the USA, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada. Trump subsequently tweeted the final declaration of the summit three years ago, and he also unsuccessfully campaigned for Russia to return to the group. Under Biden, the G7 should regain strength as a forum for western democracies and in contrast to autocratic tendencies. At their meeting in London in May, the G7 foreign ministers made it clear where the journey was headed: They raised serious allegations against Russia and China. However, there is no complete agreement within the G7 as to how hard one should demarcate itself from the two great powers in the east. Biden is in favor of an uncompromising course, while Chancellor Angela Merkel fears a new block formation and sees herself more as a mediator, at least as far as China is concerned.
– Conversation with Merkel about Nord Stream 2: China will certainly be one of the main topics when Biden meets Merkel in person for the first time since the beginning of his term in office. For them it will be the last G7 summit. The meeting could mark the beginning of a new era in German-American relations. Trump repeatedly attacked Germany and Merkel. Biden, on the other hand, leaves no doubt how important the relationship with Germany is to him. Not only did he stop the withdrawal of US troops from Germany ordered by Trump. Last month, Biden also waived extensive sanctions against the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The reason given was that such punitive measures would have had a negative impact on “US relations with Germany, the EU and other European allies and partners”. The meeting in Cornwall will show whether the dispute over the pipeline is really over and thus the last obstacle to restarting German-American relations has been removed.
– Defense spending negotiation at NATO summit: From Great Britain – where he will be received by Queen Elizabeth II at the end – Biden will travel to Brussels to attend the NATO summit next Monday. Three years ago, Trump threatened the US to leave because the allies were paying too little for their defense. With Biden, NATO wants to show its former strength as a bulwark of western democracies. Even under the new US president, the unequal burden sharing in the alliance remains an issue. Turkey is also a problem child. Biden wants to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the summit – whom he called an “autocrat” during the election campaign.
– Seeking agreement with EU on trade policy: On the day after the NATO summit, Biden will have a top meeting with EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel. Most of the time, harmony should prevail. With many of the topics announced that will already play a role at Biden’s previous summits – such as the fight against the pandemic or climate change – no conflicts are to be expected, on the contrary: Biden has promised vaccines for other countries, and he has Trump’s withdrawal from the USA revised from the Paris climate protection agreement. A few construction sites remain, for example with trade policy. While Trump once called the EU an “opponent”, Biden is trying to reach an agreement.
– Biden wants to “stand up to Putin”: By next Wednesday at the latest, the harmony of Biden’s European trip should be over – then the US President and the Kremlin chief will meet in Geneva. Biden had proposed the meeting in April, Putin only agreed after a long hesitation. At the last summit of this kind so far – in Helsinki in July 2018 – Trump publicly contradicted the findings of his own intelligence services about Russian interference in the US elections. Such a cuddle course is not to be expected at Biden’s summit with Putin in Geneva. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki recently said when asked what message the US would send out with the meeting: “That the President of the United States is not afraid to stand up to our opponents.”