As President Joe Biden embarks on his first international trip this week, his brand of personal diplomacy will be tested and he spoke forcefully about restoring American alliances in Europe, describing them as a cornerstone of global security.
Biden told US troops at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England—home to an American refueling wing—that he was visiting Europe to defend democracy, setting high stakes for his first presidential trip abroad. Biden also warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that he planned to raise sensitive issues during their upcoming meeting.
Biden opened his first overseas trip with a declaration that “the United States is back” as he seeks to reassert American leadership on the world stage and steady European allies deeply shaken by his predecessor.
“We’re going to make it clear that the United States is back and democracies are standing together to tackle the toughest challenges and issues that matter the most to our future,” Biden said. “That we’re committed to leading with strength, defending our values, and delivering for our people.”
“I’m headed to the G7, then to the NATO ministerial and then to meet with Mr. Putin to let him know what I want him to know,” said Biden as he launched the eight-day trip with a first stop to visit U.S. troops and their families stationed in the United Kingdom.
“We’re not seeking conflict with Russia. We want a stable predictable relationship,” said Biden. “I’ve been clear: the United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way if the Russian government engages in harmful activities. We’ve already demonstrated that. I’m going to communicate that there are consequences for violating the sovereignty of democracies in the United States and Europe and elsewhere.”
“I believe we’re in at an inflection point in world history, the moment where it falls to us to prove that democracies will not just endure, but they will excel as we rise to seize the enormous opportunities of the new age,” Biden said. “We have to discredit those who believe that the age of democracy is over, as some of our fellow nations believe.”
“We have to end COVID-19 not just at home — which we’re doing — but everywhere,” Biden said.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Biden was committed to sharing vaccines because it was in the public health and strategic interests of the U.S. He added that Biden is aiming to show “that democracies are the countries that can best deliver solutions for people everywhere.”
“As he said in his joint session (address), we were the ‘arsenal of democracy’ in World War II,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to be the ‘arsenal of vaccines’ over this next period to help end the pandemic.”