The symbolism is strong: for his first trip abroad, Joe Biden, 78, chose to honor the transatlantic links, subjected to severe test under the Trump presidency. “My trip to Europe is an opportunity for America to mobilize democracies around the world,” he wrote, posing as a central player in what he presents as an ideological standoff against “autocracies”. “, China in the lead.
Since arriving at the White House, he has insisted that the United States is back at the table of multilateralism, determined to play a key role, from the fight against the pandemic to that against climate change.
“We must take action”
But beyond a real relief after the jolts and the invectives of the Trump years, a form of impatience is noticeable on the European side. For Benjamin Haddad, of the Atlantic Council think tank, if the tone is much more constructive, a certain “disappointment” is palpable. “We talk a lot about ‘America is back’, there is a positive rhetoric, but now we have to take action,” he explains.
The distribution of American vaccines to other countries has, for many, been too late to take place. Washington’s lack of reciprocity after the European Union’s decision to reopen its doors to American travelers has also made people cringe. And the way the withdrawal from Afghanistan was announced, without any real prior consultation, was not appreciated in European capitals.
Economic factors linked to the priorities at the start of the mandate explain this situation. But the reasons are also deeper. “Fundamentally, Europe is much less central to American foreign policy than it was 20 or 30 years ago,” recalls the French researcher.
The “doubts” of the allies
What is more, the mandate of Donald Trump, who had, among other things, qualified NATO as “obsolete”, has left its mark. “The allies still have doubts and keep in mind the forces that brought Trump to power in 2016,” said US diplomat Alexander Vershbow, former No. 2 in the Atlantic Alliance.
Expected this Wednesday evening in Cornwall, in the south-west of England, Joe Biden will participate in the G7 summit (Germany, Canada, United States, France, Italy, Japan and United Kingdom) after a face-to-face face with Boris Johnson.
On Sunday, accompanied by First Lady Jill Biden, he will visit Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.
A highly anticipated summit with Poutine
He will then fly to Brussels (NATO leaders summit, then EU – United States summit), before completing his eight-day trip to Geneva with a highly anticipated summit with Vladimir Poutin. Ukraine, Belarus, the fate of Alexeï Navalny, cyberattacks… The discussions promise to be bitter and difficult.
The White House, which alternates conciliatory messages and warnings, insists that it has modest expectations. The only objective put forward: to make relations between the two countries more “stable and predictable”.
The American presidency gave very few details on the course of this tête-à-tête, only suggesting that a joint press conference between the two men was not on the agenda.
The one that took place between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July 2018 is still in everyone’s minds in Washington. In a strange exercise, which had sparked an uproar even in his camp, the tempestuous president seemed to place more value on the words of the ex-KGB strongman than on the unanimous conclusions of the American intelligence agencies on the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
The Biden team ensures that the tone will be very different this time around. “We do not see a meeting with the Russian president as a reward for the latter,” said Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor. The main reason for this summit? “To be able to look President Putin in the eye and tell him: these are the American expectations”.
“Dialogue with Russia is not a sign of weakness”, for his part, hammered Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, Monday, after a meeting in the Oval Office with the president. American.
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