Before US President Joe Biden’s first overseas trip, he argues Western democracies can stand up to ‘modern-day threats’.
United States President Joe Biden will travel to Europe this week to rally Western democracies to address the global challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and climate change while also confronting threats from Russia and China.
Biden will meet in the United Kingdom with leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations and in Brussels with NATO allies before ending his first overseas trip with a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.
Biden, who faces challenges to the US democracy at home after devastating losses of nearly 600,000 in the COVID-19 pandemic, framed the moment as a call to action to the Western democracies.
“This is a defining question of our time: Can democracies come together to deliver real results for our people in a rapidly changing world?” the US president wrote in The Washington Post newspaper.
“Will the democratic alliances and institutions that shaped so much of the last century prove their capacity against modern-day threats and adversaries? I believe the answer is yes. And this week in Europe, we have the chance to prove it.”
Biden faces a sceptical audience in Europe where the reputation of the US as a leading global power has suffered since the pandemic began, while China’s reputation has risen slightly in that time.
And Biden’s election has not improved the US’s standing, according to a new poll, despite the perception within the US that its global influence is rising.
“The first three months of the Biden administration have not affected French and German views of U.S. influence in the world,” the study by the German Marshall Fund and the Bertelsmann Foundation said, according to the Reuters news agency.
Meanwhile, the US is facing a renewed challenge to its role in the Middle East, continuing military threats to Ukraine and cyberattacks by Russia and an emerging geostrategic challenge by China.
Conditions in the Middle East are not currently conducive to moving towards a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although the Biden administration remains committed to it, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on June 6.
“We’ve just come off of the violence in Gaza and elsewhere,” Blinken said in a US television interview.
“We’re working very hard not only to make sure that the ceasefire stays in place, but to start to deal with the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” Blinken told the news outlet Axios.
“Over time, if we can build a little bit more hope, a little bit more trust, a little bit more confidence, maybe then the conditions are in place to re-engage on two states,” Blinken said.
Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s opening approach to Russia – which he characterised as a test – would be one of engagement. But he also issued a stern warning about recent cyberattacks emanating from Russia.
“We’re prepared if Russia chooses to continue reckless and aggressive action, we’re prepared to deal with that, as we have. On the other hand, if it chooses a different course, we’re prepared to engage,” Blinken told Axios.
“There are things we can do together that would advance the security of our people, the Russian people, people around the world – strategic stability, arms control. So we’re going to explore that. We have to test the proposition, and the best way to do that is for the two presidents to meet face to face,” Blinken said.
Blinken said the administration will be pushing Chinese authorities for more transparency in international investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 virus. “That has to happen,” he told Axios.