A wide angle Agence France Presse photo of President Biden, on his first overseas trip as chief executive, displays a crowd sitting behind him. Of a hundred spectators in the stands, all except two are wearing black masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The President was speaking to U.S. Air Force staff in Suffolk, England. It was the first stop in a European tour stressing the start of an American program to export 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses to meet the most threatened countries, many in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In addition to Britain, the President’s six-day tour in various European countries includes a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is also visiting Western Europe.
“Along way,” the President told Air Force personnel and their family members, “we’re making it clear that the United States is back. And democracies of the world are standing together to tackle the toughest challenges and issues that matter most to our future.”
A landmark Presidential visit
As White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki put it, quoted by the Washington Post, “the President has been preparing for these visits with European leaders for 50 years.” He meets with other leaders of the Group of Seven (in addition to the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and Japan). As Ms. Psaki put it: “He’s been on the world stage, and known a number of these leaders for decades… and there’s nothing like face-to-face diplomacy engagement in diplomacy.”
The trip’s most significant date, according to Post correspondents Anne Gearan and Ashley Parker, will be in Switzerland on June 16. Then, President Biden is expected to challenge Vladimir Putin on Russia’s cyberattacks, its human rights violations, and its invasion of eastern Ukraine… at the same time, seeking more Russia-U.S. cooperation in arms control.
Overall, however, the President’s European trip appears to offer an unprecedented opportunity for renewing the traditionally strong pre-Trump alliance with its EU allies. According to the Post, Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU’s ambassador to the U. S. summed the U.S. summit talks Europe this way:
“The summit will have two audiences. One is domestic, it is our people, Europeans and Americans. And for that audience, it’s extremely important for us to be able to show that the trans-Atlantic alliance delivers for our citizens’ security and prosperity in a way that going it alone never could.”
“The second audience,” Ambassador Lambrinidis says, “is would-be dictators: “If your hope is to spread authoritarianism around the world, well then you should stand up and notice as well. That’s because this alliance will do everything it can to stop this from happening.”
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More