There are few presidents in our history with the resume of international experience that President Biden can rely on when conducting international affairs. That places him in good stead as he starts his first world travel with diplomatic meetings with dozens of world leaders.
While most of the encounters will be with friendly nations, the weighty nature of world problems means the meetings are of consequence. Overlaying all the specific issues is the need to separate the past four years under a deranged American leader, with what must be the mature and proper role of the United States on the world stage. The Group of Seven democracies, the European Union, and our NATO alliance all will be closely watching for not only words but also body language for signals and confirmation that normalcy can again be brought to international affairs.
The headline maker on this trip will be, of course, the June 16th summit with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. That is where the tire will meet the road, where Biden’s decades of cumulated experience from being a senator and vice-president will allow for a gritty understanding that the United States now has a leader at the helm.
While the G7 leaders will obviously be concerned about COVID and the availability of the needed vaccines they will be needing assurances that they will not be left abandoned in the large causes and efforts which otherwise unite the organization. Memories of Donald Trump who pulled Washington out of several multilateral institutions and threatened to quit NATO have left nations wondering if they need to seek new ways of advancing their concerns, perhaps by asserting their own national efforts. France has been taking note of the lack of needed leadership, as an example.
I strongly suspect that Biden, who has actual working relationships with many leaders and nations, will showcase why the world’s democracies are not to fear being minimized by China or Russia. He will assert the role the US is to play on the world stage and most likely will place something on the table to demonstrate that resolve to a world that is waiting.
Talking face-to-face with Putin is the best way to underscore that there can be areas of agreement should the Russian leader seek to engage the US in that fashion. Climate change can be a topic where cooperation could prove meaningful. But the ransomware attacks, the attempts to undermine our democratic institutions along with our elections will be met with steely deterrence.
Putin will get his time on the world stage with the leader of the free world. That image of an American president has been dimmed due to Trump, but the light is being hoisted up again, and with it comes the awareness to the Russian leader. Biden is a man who knows himself and his values. He is not needing to find his way about the world, and as such, there is a high degree of predictability about the toughness that will result should Russia not abide with international norms.
We know that elections have consequences. The world has seen the absolute truism of that fact and is now ready to embrace reasoning and logic, after having experienced the exact opposite for years. The welcoming to the stage of President Biden is needed for them and us.
And so it goes.