Joe Biden takes off on his first trip abroad

The Democratic President is expected this Wednesday in the United Kingdom, the first stage of a European tour which will end with a face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Poutine on June 16 in Geneva.

Almost five months after coming to power, US President Joe Biden flies to the United Kingdom on Wednesday June 9, the first stop on a European tour rich in summits which will end with a face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin. Accompanied by the First Lady, Jill Biden, the Democratic President will participate in the G7 summit in Cornwall, where the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate will be among the priorities. The presidential plane Air Force One will take off early Wednesday morning from the Andrews military base in suburb of Washington.

First stop: Mildenhall base in eastern UK, where the President will speak to members of the US Air Force. A tête-à-tête with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is scheduled for Thursday. On Sunday, Joe Biden will visit, at Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned for 69 years. “My trip to Europe is an opportunity for America to mobilize democracies around the world”, assured the one who insists, since coming to power, that the United States are back (“America is back”) and intend to become fully involved in world affairs.

At the end of Donald Trump’s mandate, the allies “Will welcome these reassuring words with a little skepticism”, however, points out Suzanne Maloney, of the Washington-based think tank Brookings. “Biden’s willingness to reconnect with them will have to overcome not only the scars of the past four years but also lingering questions about the health of America’s democracy.”, she writes.

The problem is, Putin doesn’t necessarily want a more stable, predictable relationship. “

American diplomat Alexander Vershbow

How did the tenant of the White House prepare for this eight-day trip, which will also take him to Brussels and during which he will multiply bilateral meetings? “He has been preparing for 50 years”, replied his spokesperson Jen Psaki, in an allusion to the very long political career of the 78-year-old president who was first elected to the Senate in 1972, at the age of 29. “He has known some of these leaders, including President Putin, for decades”, she insisted.

Strongly criticized for having delayed in sharing its vaccines against Covid-19 with the rest of the world, the White House is now trying to position itself as a leader on this issue. “The United States is determined to work on international immunization with the same sense of urgency that we have shown in our country”, insists Joe Biden. Washington has just announced that 75% of the 80 million doses of vaccines promised to foreign countries by the end of June would be distributed via the Covax sharing device. The latter was set up to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to low-income countries.

The summit with Vladimir Putin, scheduled for June 16 in Geneva, will be the culmination of this first trip, which comes at a time when Joe Biden is in difficulty in his country, against a backdrop of tensions within his own camp. Ukraine, Belarus, fate of imprisoned Russian opponent 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 problem is, Putin doesn’t necessarily want a more stable and predictable relationship”, summarizes the American diplomat Alexander Vershbow, former number two of the Atlantic Alliance. The American presidency has given few details on the conduct of this tête-à-tête. She only hinted that, unlike what happened with Donald Trump in Helsinki in 2018, a joint press conference between the two men was not on the agenda.

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