Politics: Biden abroad: Pitching America to welcoming if wary allies

On 1st overseas trip, Biden to assure allies and meet Putin

  On 1st overseas trip, Biden to assure allies and meet Putin WASHINGTON (AP) — Set to embark on the first overseas trip of his term, President Joe 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.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden spent his first trip overseas highlighting a sharp break from his disruptive predecessor, selling that the United States was once more a reliable ally with a steady hand at the wheel. European allies welcomed the pitch — and even a longtime foe acknowledged it.

President Joe Biden speaks to American service members at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) © Provided by Associated Press President Joe Biden speaks to American service members at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrive to meet at the 'Villa la Grange', Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) © Provided by Associated Press President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, arrive to meet at the 'Villa la Grange', Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

But while Biden returned Wednesday night to Washington after a week across the Atlantic that was a mix of messaging and deliverables, questions remained as to whether those allies would trust that Biden truly represents a long-lasting reset or whether Russia’s Vladimir Putin would curb his nation’s misbehaviors.

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Leaders of the G7 pose during a group photo at the G7 meeting at the Carbis Bay Hotel in Carbis Bay, St. Ives, Cornwall, England, Friday, June 11, 2021. Leaders from left, European Council President Charles Michel, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi. (Phil Noble/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press Leaders of the G7 pose during a group photo at the G7 meeting at the Carbis Bay Hotel in Carbis Bay, St. Ives, Cornwall, England, Friday, June 11, 2021. Leaders from left, European Council President Charles Michel, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi. (Phil Noble/Pool Photo via AP)

Biden’s mantra, which he uttered in Geneva and Brussels and on the craggy coast of Cornwall, England, was that “America was back.” It was Putin, of all people, on the trip’s final moments, who may have best defined Biden’s initial voyage overseas.

“President Biden is an experienced statesman,” Putin told reporters. “He is very different from President Trump.”

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But the summit with Putin in Geneva, which shadowed the entire trip and brought it to its close, also underscored the fragility of Biden’s declarations that the global order had returned.

Though both men declared the talks constructive, Putin’s rhetoric did not change, as he refused to accept any responsibility for his nation’s election interference, cyberhacking or crackdown on domestic political opponents. At the summit’s conclusion Biden acknowledged that he could not be confident that Putin would change his behavior even with newly threatened consequences.

Biden's multilateral summits with fellow democracies — the Group of Seven wealthy nations and NATO — were largely punctuated by sighs of relief from European leaders who had been rattled by President Donald Trump over four years. Yet there were still closed-door disagreement on just how the Western powers should deal with Russia or Biden’s declaration that an economic competition with China would define the 21st century.

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“Everyone at the table understood and understands both the seriousness and the challenges that we’re up against, and the responsibility of our proud democracies to step up and deliver for the rest of the world,” Biden said Sunday in England.

As vice president and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden had trotted the globe for more than four decades before he stepped off Air Force One and onto foreign soil for the first time as commander in chief. His initial stop, after a speech to thank U.S. troops stationed in England, was for a gathering with the other G-7 leaders.

U.S. President Joe Biden, right, talks with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during their meeting ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall, Britain, Thursday June 10, 2021. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP) © Provided by Associated Press U.S. President Joe Biden, right, talks with Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during their meeting ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall, Britain, Thursday June 10, 2021. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP)

The leaders staked their claim to bringing the world out of the coronavirus pandemic and crisis, pledging more than 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses to poorer nations, vowing to help developing countries grow while fighting climate change and backing a minimum tax on multinational firms.

Biden and his aviators greet queen on a sunny afternoon

  Biden and his aviators greet queen on a sunny afternoon WINDSOR, England (AP) — President Joe Biden and his aviator sunglasses met Queen Elizabeth II on bright Sunday afternoon. The queen hosted the president and first lady Jill Biden at Windsor Castle, her royal residence near London. Biden flew to London after wrapping up his participation in a three-day summit of leaders of the world's wealthy democracies in Cornwall, in southwestern England. He arrived at the castle aboard the presidential helicopter and was ferried to the queen in a black Range Rover.

At the group’s first face-to-face meeting in two years because of the pandemic, the leaders dangled promises of support for global health, green energy, infrastructure and education — all to demonstrate that international cooperation is back after the upheavals caused by the pandemic and Trump’s unpredictability. There were concerns, though, that not enough was done to combat climate change and that 1 billion doses were not nearly sufficient to meet the stated goal of ending the COVID-19 pandemic globally by the end of 2022.

U.S. President Joe Biden, right, is greeted by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, during a plenary session at a NATO summit in Brussels, Monday, June 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press U.S. President Joe Biden, right, is greeted by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, during a plenary session at a NATO summit in Brussels, Monday, June 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)

The seven nations met in Cornwall and largely adhered to Biden’s hope that they rally together to declare they would be a better friend to poorer nations than authoritarian rivals such as China. A massive infrastructure plan for the developing world, meant to compete with Beijing’s efforts, was commissioned, and China was called out for human rights abuses, prompting an angry response from the Asian power.

President Joe Biden touches a piece of steel from the North Tower of the World Trade Center while visiting a memorial to the September 11 terrorist attacks at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Monday, June 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) © Provided by Associated Press President Joe Biden touches a piece of steel from the North Tower of the World Trade Center while visiting a memorial to the September 11 terrorist attacks at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Monday, June 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

But even then, there were strains, with Germany, Italy and the representatives for the European Union reluctant to call out China, a valuable trading partner, too harshly. And there a wariness in some European capitals that it was Biden, rather than Trump, who was the aberration to American foreign policy and that the United States could soon fall back into a transactional, largely inward-looking approach.

Some US allies near Russia are wary of Biden-Putin summit

  Some US allies near Russia are wary of Biden-Putin summit KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Central and Eastern European nations are anxious about the coming summit meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, wary of what they see as hostile intentions from the Kremlin. Some in the countries that once were part of the Soviet Union or the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact during the Cold War worry that Washington could scale down support for its allies in the region in a bid to secure a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia.

After Cornwall, the scene shifted to Brussels where many of the same faces met for a gathering at NATO. Biden used the moment to highlight the renewed U.S. commitment to the 30-country alliance that was formed as a bulwark to Moscow’s aggression but frequently maligned by his predecessor.

He also underscored the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the alliance charter, which spells out that an attack — including, as of this summit, some cyberattacks — on any member is an assault on all and is to be met with a collective response. Trump had refused to commit to the pact and had threatened to pull the U.S. out of the alliance.

“Article 5 we take as a sacred obligation,” said Biden. “I want NATO to know America is there.”

When Air Force One touched back down in Washington, Biden again faced an uncertain future for his legislative agenda, the clock ticking on a deadline to land a bipartisan infrastructure deal as the president was confronted with growing intransigence from Republicans and mounting impatience from fellow Democrats. But Biden and his aides believe he accomplished what he set out to do in Europe.

President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Geneva Airport in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Biden is returning to Washington as he wraps up his trip to Europe. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) © Provided by Associated Press President Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Geneva Airport in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Biden is returning to Washington as he wraps up his trip to Europe. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The most tactile of politicians, Biden reveled in the face-to-face diplomacy, having grown frustrated with trying to negotiate with world leaders over Zoom. Even amid some disagreements, he was greeted warmly by most of his peers, other presidents and prime ministers eager to exchange awkward elbow bumps and adopt his “build back better" catchphrase.

AP PHOTOS: Biden wraps up 1st overseas trip of presidency

  AP PHOTOS: Biden wraps up 1st overseas trip of presidency Joe Biden wrapped up the first overseas trip of his presidency Wednesday after rallying allies and facing off with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The eight-day, three-country swing included meetings with leaders of the Group of Seven wealthiest democracies in scenic Cornwall, England, and a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle. In Brussels, Biden huddled with nearly a dozen NATO allies and met with the leadership of the European Union. The stop was meant to convey a united front among alliance members in standing up to Russian aggression and human rights violations. © Provided by Associated Press People watch Air Force One, carrying U.S.

At the end of each day, Biden would huddle with aides, including Secretary of State Tony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, eagerly going over a play-by-play of the day’s meetings and preparing for the next. Aides padded his schedule with some down time to pace the 78-year-old president, though there were still a few missteps, including some verbal flubs and when he simply neglected to announce a Boeing-Airbus deal in front of the European Council.

His summit with Putin, coming three years after Trump sided with the Russian leader over U.S. intelligence agencies when those two men met in Helsinki, loomed over the trip, with the cable networks giving it Super Bowl levels of hype. Aides wanted to confront Putin early in the presidency, with some hope of reining in Moscow and reaching some stability so the administration could more squarely focus on China.

There were no fireworks in their summit near the Swiss Alps, and the nations agreed to return ambassadors to each other’s capitals and took some small steps toward strategic stability.

But while Biden was able to deliver stern warnings to Putin behind closed doors, he also extracted few promises. In the Russian president’s post-summit remarks, he engaged in classic Putin misdirection and what-about-ism to undermine any of the United States’ moral high ground.

US President Joe Biden arrives for his closing press conference at the end of the US - Russia summit in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press US President Joe Biden arrives for his closing press conference at the end of the US - Russia summit in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Peter Klaunzer/Keystone via AP, Pool)

In his own Geneva news conference, Biden stood against a postcard-perfect backdrop of a tree-lined lake, taking off his suit jacket as the sun beat down from behind, so bright that reporters had trouble looking directly at the president.

Once more, Biden declared that America was back, but he also soberly made clear that it was impossible to immediately know if any progress with Russia had, in fact, been made.

“What will change their behavior is if the rest of world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world,” Biden said. “I’m not confident of anything; I’m just stating a fact.”

___

Madhani reported from Geneva.

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