Biden Diplomacy

6 mins read

Sumera B Reshi

An in-person 47th G7 Summit of global leaders took place from June 11 to June 13 2021 in St Ives, Cornwall, UK. The main agenda for the 2021 G7 Summit was ‘rebuild and recover’ from the pandemic (COVID-19), economic recovery, climate change and geopolitics. However, the pivotal issue that dominated the summit was vaccinations, waiving of patents to speed up the production of Covid-19 treatments in third world countries and to catch up with China’s moves to establish itself a leader in the fight against the coronavirus.

This year’s G7 Summit was a little different. Besides the existing G7 members, Mr Boris Johnson, Premier of the UK extended the guests list and included India (virtually), Australia and South Korea. And because Joe Biden is leading the US who according to the EU leaders ‘believes in democracy and understands diplomacy’.  Mr Biden had a busy schedule since June 10. Besides G7 Summit, he attended NATO Summit on June 14, met the presidents of the European Council & Commission and held a daylong discussion (Geneva Summit) with Russian President, Mr Vladimir Putin on June 16 in Switzerland.

Besides the main agendas which were tabled during the summit, President Joe Biden and Mr Johnson signed a new Atlantic Charter on 10th June before the actual G7 summit.  Both agreed that the purpose to strengthen the Western alliance was to emphasize the issues of the growing divide between scruffy democracies and their autocratic rivals, the pointer was towards Russia and China. At the G7 Summit, he gained agreement on a global minimum corporate tax, enabling him to tell Americans he would get businesses to pay their fair share.

Both Biden and Johnson disclosed the new charter as they wanted the world to pay attention to emerging threats from ‘cyber attacks’ and bolstering NATO & international institutions. Biden also conveyed to the world that the Trump era of ‘America First’ is over.  Trump’s America First slogan left America alone as per the Brookings article.

Biden had one more prime issue on the platter and that is to manage the US‘s relationship with a disruptive Russia. Further, European leaders discussed their anxiousness over Russia’s aggressive troop’s deployment along the Ukraine border to which Biden replied that ‘he pledge to respond in a robust and meaningful way’ to what he called ‘harmful activities’ conducted by Mr Putin.

It has been alleged that Russian intelligence has interfered in Western elections and have used chemical weapons against their perceived enemies in Western countries & Russia. Moscow has been blamed for cyberattacks that have impaired Western economies and government agencies. Russia has also been blamed to support separatists in Ukraine & Bashar al Assad government in Syria.

The US doesn’t consider Russia a superpower; rather it sees Moscow as a declining force that is trying to showcase its fabricated strength where it can do so. Moscow is making trouble and sowing discord and its head is seen as an ‘irritant’ and not a ‘rival’ anymore. Nonetheless, that is not the case with China. The US sees China as a threat to supersede it if its aura is left unchecked. The cardinal message to Europe from Biden is to get its act together in the coming race for global supremacy with Beijing and a real purpose to sign a new Atlantic charter.

The US always wanted Britain as a pro-US voice exerting influence inside the EU. Now that function is over and experts believe that Brexit aims to make it easy for the UK to embrace economic & strategic subjugation to the US and be tougher with China.

The EU right now is on tenterhooks. For them, it seems easy to align with Washington that claims to be a beacon of political freedom but then they don’t have another choice because the alternative is an expansionist authoritarian state which has no respect for democracy and is engaged in a genocide against the Uyghurs.

Had China been poor, it would have been easier for Biden to carry out his mission. Since the economic gap between the present superpower (the US) and the challenger (China) is closing as per the experts. So far as per capita income is concerned, the US is far better than China, however, economic pundits believe China could overtake the US in GDP by the end of this decade. Besides, China has a leading technological capability with crossover military applications that have given the Pentagon sleepless nights.

There was a myriad of issues discussed by the G7 group. All of them agreed to look for an alternative to China’s belt & road initiative and to oppose Beijing human rights violations, supply chains, chaos in Taiwan and the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Alexander Vershbow, the US ambassador to Russia in President George W. Bush’s reign, “Putin doesn’t necessarily want a more stable or predictable relationship. The best case one can hope for is that the two leaders will argue about a lot of things but continue the dialogue.”

Not only Russia, the US and her allies have China to counter. To muster the support of G7 countries, Biden is trying to offer an alternative to China’s belt & road initiative. He is trying to create a new diplomatic alliance in Africa.  The alternate to Xi’s BRI is B3W that is the Build Back Better, an ambitious new global infrastructure initiative with G7 partners. As per the experts from the US, the plan would involve hundreds of billions in public and private money to help close the $40tn (trillion) gap in needy countries by 2035. Some analysts view the option claptrap, they have hoped for more.  Critics argue that China uses the financial leverage arising from the scheme to boost its clout, in what they call ‘debt-trap diplomacy.

During the G7 2021 Summit, Biden pressed the leaders to criticize China over forced labour which is an insult to human dignity which is a bad example of China’s unfair economic competition.

Then came Monday, June 14. NATO leaders met in Brussels, Belgium and it was President Joe Biden first NATO Summit. NATO members officially admitted the growing political, economic and military influence of China. The alliance portrayed China as a potential challenge for the first time.

“China’s “stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and areas relevant to Alliance security. We remain concerned with China’s frequent lack of transparency and use of disinformation,” as per NATO’s final statement.

NATO members also considered Russia to be a threat to security and are petrified over China’s ambitious plans.  From China’s investments in European ports and plans to set up military bases in Africa to joint military exercises with Russia in the Baltic, NATO now believes that Beijing’s rise deserves a strong response.

According to Giovanna De Maio, Nonresident Fellow, Center on the United States and Europe, “the alliance stood up strongly for Ukraine’s territorial integrity also sends a message to Russia. It is yet to be seen if actions will follow such statements”.

NATO allies also rallied behind Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, despite initial concerns. Mr Biden discussed Afghanistan in the meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless, no significant breakthrough emerged out of the meeting regarding Afghanistan.

Furthermore, Geneva Summit didn’t make any significant development other than the two leaders (Biden & Putin) agreed that their ambassadors should return to their respective posts. Biden also made it clear to Mr Putin that persistent efforts to interfere with the US elections and hacking its businesses and infrastructure will be met with a swift response. Since there was no substantial breakthrough, the US – Russia relations will remain ‘rocky’ as per James Goldgeier, Robert Bosch Senior Visiting Fellow, Center on the United States and Europe.

Angela Stent, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Center on the United States and Europe believe that the Geneva Summit was a success from both Washington and Moscow’s standpoint. Biden hoped to re-establish diplomatic relations with Moscow and secure an agreement to begin strategic stability discussions aimed at containing the dangers of military escalation and Putin had also agreed with these issues.

The major take away from the Geneva Summit was an agreement to recreate networks of communication that had withered during the Trump regime and to create a baseline for further engagement. Besides, issues like Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and other areas of mutual interest and cooperation were also discussed. However, it is too early to pronounce the Biden – Putin meeting a success. Analysts believe that the success of the Geneva Summit depends on the events in the coming months. In a joint statement, both Biden and Putin restated Ronald Reagan & Mikhail Gorbachev’s formula that ‘a nuclear war can’t be won and must never be fought’.

Both the Presidents agreed to launch an ‘integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue addressing new threats like cyber threats & new weapons systems developed right now. These are the most dangerous areas in the world at present. Indeed the meeting was a forward move but the long term success depends on the actions in the coming months.

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