(CNN) The first American tourists began appearing on the Champs-Elysées in Paris on Wednesday, just as Joe Biden was touching down in Britain for his presidential debut on the world stage. The message that he's brought with him is a single, unified theme -- one he's enunciated at virtually every opportunity since his arrival and that he clearly intends to repeat at the G-7 summit this weekend and that NATO summit that will follow. That message? America's back. And you can count on us.
What Joe Biden needs to prove to G7 and NATO allies
Or can they?
Certainly, in the early moments of Biden's first international swing as president, he and first lady Jill Biden are saying (and wearing) all the right things. The first lady's "Love" message embroidered onto the back of her ensemble is certainly a sharp contrast with the "I really don't care, do you?" question emblazoned across her predecessor's jacket on one trip.
But more important than Biden's message is his tone. The last four years have been a rough time for the trans-Atlantic relationship. Three years ago, at the tense G7 summit in Canada, the tone was set by an epiphanal photo showing a smug former President Donald Trump being faced down by determined German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the other leaders watching their world implode around them. Beyond Trump's insistence on restoring Russia's Putin to membership in the group, ignoring his seizure of Crimea, his threat to cut off trade with countries that failed his test of fair treatment of America threw the entire conference in disarray as he stormed out, refusing to sign the final communiqué.
Now, as several European diplomats have told me, it will take a lot to convince them that Biden represents a return to normalcy and not simply a peaceful interregnum before America snaps back to a toxic nationalism.
Former President Trump, after all, did his best to bring down, or reconstruct, a host of red lines that had defined the trans-Atlantic relationship for a century or more. So, it was entirely in keeping with this new administration that the first stop of the American president and his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, was to view the Atlantic Charter, signed by former President Franklin Roosevelt and former Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the dawn of World War II.
Biden and Johnson emerged to present a new Atlantic Charter. This 604-word document is, like its predecessor, a declaration of a grand vision and a pledge to uphold democracy, but this time in the face of 21st century challenges. Today, the US and UK are not at war, and there is no enemy like Nazi Germany and the Axis powers as there was at the time of the first Atlantic Charter. But Russia and China pose challenges to the global order as the West sees it.
The 2021 charter calls on Western allies to "oppose interference through disinformation or other malign influences, including in elections." And it embraces the challenges represented by today's technology, affirming "our shared responsibility for maintaining our collective security and international stability and resilience against the full spectrum of modern threats, including cyber threats."
Biden and Johnson introduced this charter in the face of innumerable challenges — many pandemic-related — which both leaders and those who arrived on Friday for the expanded G7 have acknowledged the importance of addressing. Biden announced the US would be buying 500 million Covid vaccine shots to distribute to developing nations. Johnson followed with a pledge to provide more than 100 million vaccines and the other G7 nations will bring that total to 1 billion worldwide.
But there are other challenges, too, which hang over all those assembling in Cornwall, England, this weekend. According to the Washington Post, Russia is preparing to supply the Iranians with an advanced satellite system that will improve its ability to track military targets. The G7 and NATO afterward will need to find a way to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin — setting the stage for Biden's talks with him in Geneva later in the week. And Biden will need to demonstrate to Putin, too, that he is not simply an interregnum the Russian leader can wait out.
Still, the US and most of the European countries do have substantially different views on a host of issues — particularly with respect to China. Over the Trump years, many EU nations have sought to grow their economic relations with China as a counterweight to a somewhat unreliable partnership with the US. Such relationships are not easily or willingly unwound — another aspect of the reservations many of these countries retain with respect to the durability of the Biden form of globalism. This can be summed up by the feeling that Biden may need to be as tough on China as Trump, but recruit allies to join him. Yet many of these allies, especially in Europe, see China as economically vital. "Europe has its own interests," Noah Barkin, a researcher at Rhodium Group told the Financial Times. "There is not going to be seamless cooperation on China."
Other items high on the agenda will hopefully be less fractious, including a new global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15%, which foreign ministers agreed to last week, as well as a unified approach to climate change.
At the same time, Europe is facing a seismic restructuring of its power dynamics as Merkel prepares to leave the chancellorship and her unofficial role as Europe's most powerful figure. French President Emmanuel Macron arrived at the G7 prepared to assume that leadership role, though he faces a bruising campaign over the next year to win a second five-year term in his own country. The class photo of the G7 leaders was revelatory — Biden just to the right of host Johnson, Macron just to Johnson's left despite all the frictions surrounding British exit from the EU and Merkel off on the end. Later, the White House issued a statement saying that Biden and Macron had a private discussion on different topics, including "counterterrorism issues in the Sahel" that especially concerns Macron. Still, it was Merkel, not Macron, who won a personal invitation to the White House on July 15.
Meanwhile, Biden has still not managed to appoint and confirm ambassadors to any of the countries in the G7 or most of those who'll be at the NATO summit. The US is still represented by chargés-d'affairs in each of these capitals. One European diplomat asked me how committed Biden actually is to renewing positive relationships with long-standing friends given such looming gaps.
Yet, so far, Biden appears to be demonstrating that there is a rational, reliable hand on the tiller in Washington, DC. Of course, no single G7 or NATO summit will be enough to reassure our allies that the United States is fully committed to its role as a global leader, but it's a good first step.
G7 News: A Return to Face-to-Face Diplomacy
The pandemic forced world leaders to meet remotely for more than a year. And with much of the world still reeling from Covid, the Group of 7 is pledging to donate a billion vaccine doses.
Handshake diplomacy returns as leaders gather to confront global crises.
PLYMOUTH, England — Call it the much-welcomed end of Zoom diplomacy.
Four months ago, President Biden held his first work-from-home meeting with a world leader, conferring with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada in the only viable way during a pandemic: a video call from the Roosevelt room in the White House.
More Zoom calls followed: a virtual meeting of a group known as “the Quad,” which includes the president, along with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan; and then a global climate summit “hosted” by Mr. Biden but conducted “Brady Bunch” style, with leaders stacked in video squares on big screens.
But this week, all that ended.
Mr. Biden jetted across the Atlantic for an eight-day in-person round of global backslapping and private confrontations. On Thursday, he met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain. And on Friday he is attending the first day of a Group of 7 meeting with the leaders of the world’s richest nations, the first in-person gathering of its sort in more than 15 months. On Wednesday, he will face off with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
“I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of face-to-face diplomacy,” said Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state under President Bill Clinton.
“On the Zoom, you have no kind of sense of their movements and how they sit and various things that show what kind of person you are dealing with,” she said. “You can’t judge what’s going through their minds.”
For Mr. Biden, who built his career on the kind of personal interactions that are at the heart of international summits like the G7, the change is particularly sweet.
Even before he was president, Mr. Biden was a regular around the world as a senator or vice president, usually making stops at gatherings with world leaders or jetting to summits. He was a regular at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, an annual gathering of national security officials from numerous countries.
“I’ve been at the Munich Security Conference when he’s been there,” Ms. Albright recalled in an interview on Friday. “You can just tell he’s listening to them and they’re listening to him. It’s a perfect setting for him.”
That can’t be said of all presidents — or perhaps most of them. President Barack Obama disliked the endless pomp of the formal summits that he attended during his eight years in the White House, especially the substance-free moments like the “family photo,” where the world leaders stand stiffly next to one another while photographers snap their shots.
And just holding a summit in person does not guarantee good relations among the leaders, as President Donald J. Trump proved during his time in office.
His presence at global meetings, including several G7s, caused consternation and confrontation as he clashed with America’s allies. At the G7 in Quebec City in 2018, Mr. Trump refused to sign the leaders statement, called Mr. Trudeau “very dishonest and weak” and was grumpy throughout — as captured by a picture that showed him, hands crossed across his chest, with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany leaning over a table with the other European leaders standing by.
But for Mr. Biden, it is different.
Ms. Merkel, Mr. Trudeau and the other world leaders get along with Mr. Biden, even if their nations sometimes clash over issues. (Mr. Biden and Ms. Merkel disagree about the need for a Russian natural gas pipeline; Mr. Trudeau and others are not happy about the president’s stand on trade and tariffs.)
Mr. Biden appeared relaxed and happy to be in the presence of his colleagues on the world stage. As they gathered for this year’s family photo along a beachfront in the resort town of Carbis Bay, the mood was light.
“Everybody in the water,” he said — presumably joking.
Leaders of the G7 nations will offer plans to bring the pandemic to an end
The leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies are expected to pledge one billion doses of Covid vaccines to poor and middle-income countries on Friday as part of a campaign to “vaccinate the world” by the end of 2022.
The stakes could hardly be higher.
“This is about our responsibility, our humanitarian obligation, to save as many lives as we can,” President Biden said in a speech in England on Thursday evening, before the meeting of the Group of 7 wealthy democracies. “When we see people hurting and suffering anywhere around the world, we seek to help any way we can.”
It is not just a race to save lives, restart economies and lift restrictions that continue to take an immeasurable toll on people around the globe.
Since Mr. Biden landed in Europe for the start of his first presidential trip abroad on Wednesday, he has made it clear that this is a moment when democracies must prove that they can rise to meet the world’s gravest challenges. And they must do so in a way the world can see, as autocrats and strongmen — particularly in Russia and China — promote their systems of governance as superior.
Yet the notion of “vaccine diplomacy” can easily be intertwined with “vaccine nationalism,” which the World Health Organization has warned could ultimately limit the global availability of vaccines.
When Mr. Biden announced on Thursday that the U.S. would donate 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses, the president said they would be provided with “no strings attached.”
“We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic,” he said. “That’s it. Period.”
But even as wealthy democracies move to step up their efforts, the scale of the challenge is enormous.
Covax, the global vaccine-sharing program, still remains underfunded and billions of doses short.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that it will cost about $50 billion to help the developing world bring the pandemic to an end. In addition to the countless lives saved, the I.M.F. says that such an investment could bring a dramatic return: $9 trillion in increased global economic growth.
While the pandemic is at the center of Friday’s G7 agenda, with the leaders of the nations meeting face to face for the first time since the coronavirus essentially put a stop to handshake diplomacy, a host of other issues are also on the table.
Finance leaders from the G7 agreed last week to back a new global minimum tax rate of at least 15 percent that companies would have to pay regardless of where they locate their headquarters.
Beyond the specific issues, the summit will be a test of how institutions created in another era to help guide the world through crises can stand up to the challenges of today.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain turned to a World War II-era document to provide inspiration for a new generation of challenges, renewing the Atlantic Charter eight decades after it was signed to take into account the threats of today: from cyberattacks to nuclear, climate to public health.
The gathering of the G7 is also, in many ways, a relic of another era. It was created in the 1970s to provide economic solutions after a shock in oil supply triggered a financial crisis.
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said in a preview of the conference on Thursday that the “return of the United States to the global arena” would help strengthen the “rules-based system” and that the leaders of the G7 were “united and determined to protect and to promote our values.”
Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Prince William joined G7 leaders for dinner
Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prince William joined Group of 7 leaders on Friday for a reception and dinner, as the royal family makes an unusually robust presence around the edges of the annual summit meeting.
The royals played hosts to the leaders at the Eden Project, an environmental and educational center in Cornwall, England, about 35 miles from Carbis Bay, where the summit is being held. In addition to the queen, Charles, the prince of Wales and heir apparent to the throne, and his elder son, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, Charles’s wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and William’s wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, also attended.
Earlier Friday, the first lady, Jill Biden, visited a school in Cornwall with the Duchess of Cambridge.
The summit comes just two months after the death of Prince Philip, the queen’s husband of 73 years. But Elizabeth, at age 95, quickly resumed her schedule of public appearances. Friday will mark her first meeting with any foreign leader since the start of the pandemic.
The Eden Project is an apt location for Prince Charles, who also holds the title of Duke of Cornwall. He has championed a variety of environmental causes, including the fight against global warming, one of the topics the G7 leaders are discussing.
President Biden and his wife, Dr. Biden, are scheduled to visit again with the queen on Sunday at Windsor Castle, before traveling to Brussels for meetings with NATO and European Union leaders.
G7 foreign ministers meet face-to-face after pandemic pause
LONDON (AP) — Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy industrialized nations gathered Tuesday in London for their first face-to-face meeting in more than two years, with the issue of whether to challenge or coax a surging China high on the agenda.
Host nation Britain is keen to show that the rich countries’ club still has clout in a fast-changing world, and has warned that the increasingly aggressive stances of Russia, China and Iran pose a challenge to democratic societies and the international rule of law.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the meeting “demonstrates diplomacy is back.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken underscored the United States’ re-embrace of its international allies since President Joe Biden replaced his “America-first” predecessor, Donald Trump.
Blinken said engaging with China “from a position of strength ... means actually working with allies and partners, not disparaging them.”
“It means leaning in and engaging in the vast array of multilateral and international organizations because that’s where so many of the rules are made. That’s where the norms are shaped,” he said. “And if we’re not leaning in, we know that Beijing is likely to be trying to do so in our place.”
At the two-day meeting, top diplomats from the U.K., the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan also were to discuss the military coup in Myanmar, the humanitarian crisis in Syria, the Tigray crisis in Ethiopia and the precarious situation in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops and their NATO allies are winding down a two-decade deployment.
The U.K. Foreign Office said the group would also discuss “Russia’s ongoing malign activity,” including Moscow’s earlier troop buildup on the border with Ukraine and the imprisonment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
While the G-7 members likely can agree in broad terms to condemn Navalny’s imprisonment or Beijing’s repression of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, there are differences over how to relate to countries such as China and Russia that will have to be smoothed out in any final communique on Wednesday.
Asked what message the group would send to authoritarian regimes, Raab said the G-7 believed “in keeping trade open. We believe in standing up for open societies, for human rights and democracy. We believe in safeguarding and promoting public good.”
The G-7 ministers will also try to agree on a way to make coronavirus vaccines available around the globe in the long term. But for now, wealthy countries are reluctant to give up precious stocks until they have inoculated their own people.
The ministers wore face masks and greeted one another with arm and elbow bumps as they arrived at Lancaster House, a grand former stately home in central London. Plastic screens between participants and on-site coronavirus tests were among measures intended to make the venue COVID-secure.
The British government, which holds the G-7 presidency this year, invited the foreign ministers of Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa to join parts of the meeting, including Tuesday evening’s formal dinner. The guest list was intended to underline the G-7’s support for democracies, as well as the U.K. government’s attempts to build stronger ties with Asia in the wake of the country’s departure from the European Union.
Britain’s Conservative-led government hopes the resumption of in-person G-7 meetings — after more than a year of disruption by the coronavirus pandemic — will give the group a jolt of energy and bolster attempts to forge a post-Brexit “Global Britain” role for the U.K.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to host the other G-7 leaders at a summit in Cornwall, England, in June.
Opposition politicians and international aid organizations say the goal of Britain playing a bigger role in world affairs is undermined by the government’s decision to slash its foreign aid budget from 0.7% of gross domestic product to 0.5% because of the economic hit from the pandemic.
Raab said the aid cuts were a “difficult decision” but insisted Britain would become “an even greater force for good in the world.”