Biden Aims to Strengthen Ties with Allies in First Foreign Trip as President

09 June 2021

American President Joe Biden began his first foreign trip in office Wednesday. He is expected to strengthen ties with European allies during an eight-day trip.

Biden told reporters Wednesday that the trip is meant to show the leaders of China and Russia that the United States and Europe are still close.

Biden is also looking to unite allies on their efforts to fight the disease COVID-19. He wants to urge them to agree on a plan to deal with China, even as the U.S. expresses concern about Europe's economic links to Russia. Biden also wants to urge non-European allies, including Australia, to take more aggressive action to fight global warming.

U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrive at RAF Mildenhall, England, ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall, June 9, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrive at RAF Mildenhall, England, ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall, June 9, 2021.

A G7 meeting in Britain

Biden's first stop will be an address to U.S. troops in Britain. The next day, he is to meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. While in Britain, Biden will attend a meeting with leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) nations. He will then travel to Brussels for a meeting with NATO officials and the heads of the European Union. Those meetings come as some observers say Europeans are expecting less from U.S. leadership on foreign issues.

Central and Eastern Europeans hope to tie the U.S. more closely to their security. Germany is looking to keep U.S. military troops in the country so it does not need to build up its own forces. France, however, believes that the European Union must be more independent in the future.

The president will end his trip by meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland. Biden wants to privately pressure Putin to end recent aggressive actions. They include cyberattacks on American businesses by Russian-based hackers. Other areas of disagreement include the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and repeated efforts by Russia to interfere in U.S. elections.

Alexander Vershbow is a former U.S. diplomat and former deputy secretary general of NATO. He said there is a concern that the U.S. will return to policies in place during former president Donald Trump's administration after elections next year "or in the next presidential election."

Possible areas tension

There will be several possible areas of tension during the meetings with European officials. On climate change, the U.S. wants to regain credibility after Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement. Biden could also feel pressure on the issue of trade. And leaders whose COVID-19 vaccination efforts have been slower are likely to pressure Biden to share more of the U.S. vaccine surplus with countries around the world.

Another central issue will be China. Reports say Biden believes the West must publicly show it can compete economically with China as the world recovers from the coronavirus crisis.

Biden and the other G-7 leaders are expected to announce a financing program to help developing countries build roads, ports and similar infrastructure. The program is meant to compete directly with China's Belt and Road Initiative. Biden has said he believes the competition with China is the defining one for the 21st century.

Biden is also expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while in Brussels, Belgium. The two leaders have had tense moments in their relationship over the years.

Biden waited until April to call Erdogan for the first time as president. In that call, he told the Turkish leader that he would formally recognize the systematic killings and removal of Armenians in the early 20th century as "genocide." Earlier administrations had avoided the term.

Biden is dealing differently with Russia than Trump did. The only meeting between Trump and Putin was in Helsinki, Finland in July 2018.

Richard Haass is president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a research group in Washington D.C. He told the Associated Press, "By and large, these are not meetings on outcomes, these are ‘get to know you again' meetings for the U.S. and Europe."

The idea is "to demonstrate again that the U.S. is back on the right course," Haas said.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Jonathan Lemire and Aamer Madhani reported on this story for the Associated Press. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

hacker –n. a person who secretly gets into computer systems in order to get information or to cause damage

credibility –n. the quality of being believed or accepted as true, real or honest

century –n. a period of 100 years