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Biden, leader of a coalition of democracies?

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The President of the United States is making a major trip to Europe. From today, he will attend a G-7 summit in Cornwall, where four other major democracies have been invited: South Korea, India, Australia and South Africa. On 14 and 15 June he will be in Brussels for a NATO summit and to meet the leaders of the Council and Commission of the European Union. Finally, on 16 June, he will meet Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

To explain the goals of this substantial diplomatic tour, Joe Biden published an article in the Washington Post on 5 June. It is rich in lessons.

The president does not consider the United States as a country like any other. As in the days of Wilson and Roosevelt – but not of Coolidge or Trump – America is presented in his text as a new Jerusalem that must lead the world in the face of the dangers that threaten it. And this leadership, Biden says, must be exercised “from a position of strength”.

With regard to his European allies in NATO, the president reiterates America’s absolute commitment to defend them if they are attacked from outside. Trump had blurred this commitment in Article 5 of the Atlantic Alliance Charter; Biden reinstates it.

In this speech, addressed to Europeans and Americans alike, Biden sees himself as the leader of a vast global coalition of market democracies that must contain two threats, one structural, the other situational.

The structural threat is the race to global supremacy by the Chinese communist regime. In the space of thirty years, for American strategists, China has gone through four successive statuses: 1) an exotic country whose development had to be helped; 2) a privileged economic partner with whom a G-2 could be envisaged; 3) a commercial rival that had to be brought back into balance; 4) a geopolitical adversary that had to be contained at all costs, technologically, militarily, economically, financially and culturally.

Russia, a much weaker country economically than China, is only a short-term threat in Biden’s eyes, due to the limited military expeditions that Putin has launched in Russia’s buffer states of Georgia and Ukraine. Biden likes to lecture the Kremlin on its claim to restore some of the Russian Empire of the 19th century, and its indifference to human rights. But it remains a role-playing game. Biden can proclaim his friendship of the Ukrainians, but he will never go to war over Crimea or the Donbass. What he will seek in Geneva is an armed peace with Putin. Before envisaging, much later, if circumstances permit, a triangulation with Russia against China.

In the run-up to his European tour, the American president has intelligently made strong gestures. By lifting the sanctions against the North Stream 2 gas pipeline project linking Russian territory directly to Germany, Joe Biden killed two birds with one stone: he proved to Putin that he had no intention of waging economic war on him (unlike China) and he offered a gift to Angela Merkel, who has become a difficult ally, attached to her trade with the Chinese, even if she has given up co-operating with them on 5G

To the EU as a whole, Biden has just given another big gift, by agreeing that US companies should pay a minimum of 15 percent tax on profits made in the foreign countries where they operate, in order to avoid tax dumping. He also proposed to his allies an agreement on standards, a key area for Chinese expansion. In addition to this, he is back in the Paris climate agreement.

However, there are some worrying omissions in his speech. Biden says nothing about Turkish expansionism in the Mediterranean or about American intentions in the face of Erdogan’s authoritarianism. He also seems unaware that Europe is under direct threat from the further expansion of jihadism in the Sahel and the Middle East. He is silent about his precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is likely to cause chaos there and push millions of refugees fleeing Taliban Islamic obscurantism towards Europe.

As a supporter of multilateralism and polite diplomacy, France will be more at ease with Biden than it was with Trump. But it should not be fooled by his good manners and high principles. It should have the courage to say to him in Brussels: “Mr. President, we appreciate your intentions very much, but it is on your actions that we will judge you!”

This article was first published in Le Figaro.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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(We will process your data in accordance with our <span class="pp"><a href="https://radixuk.org/privacy-policy/">Privacy Policy</a></span>. You may withdraw this consent at any time by &lt;a href=&quot;"mailto:[email protected]"&quot;&gt;emailing us&lt;/a&gt; or clicking “unsubscribe” at the bottom of our emails).' id='choice_2_4_1' tabindex='75' /> <label for='choice_2_4_1' id='label_2_4_1'>Please keep me updated on new website content and Radix news. (We will process your data in accordance with our <span class="pp"><a href="https://radixuk.org/privacy-policy/">Privacy Policy</a></span>. 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<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_5' ><div id='gf_5' class='gform_anchor' tabindex='-1'></div><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_5' id='gform_5' action='/opinion/biden-leader-of-a-coalition-of-democracies/#gf_5' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_5' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_5_5" class="gfield gravity_head gfield_html gfield_html_formatted gfield_no_follows_desc field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><h3>Get emails</h3></li><li id="field_5_1" class="gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_hidden_label field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label gfield_label_before_complex' >Name<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_complex ginput_container no_prefix has_first_name no_middle_name has_last_name no_suffix gf_name_has_2 ginput_container_name' id='input_5_1'> <span id='input_5_1_3_container' class='name_first' > <input type='text' name='input_1.3' id='input_5_1_3' value='' aria-label='First name' tabindex='65' aria-required='true' placeholder='First Name*' /> <label for='input_5_1_3' class='hidden_sub_label screen-reader-text'>First</label> </span> <span id='input_5_1_6_container' class='name_last' > <input type='text' name='input_1.6' id='input_5_1_6' value='' aria-label='Last name' tabindex='67' aria-required='true' placeholder='Last Name*' /> <label for='input_5_1_6' class='hidden_sub_label screen-reader-text'>Last</label> </span> </div></li><li id="field_5_2" class="gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_5_2' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_2' id='input_5_2' type='email' value='' class='large' tabindex='69' placeholder='Email*' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_5_4" class="gfield gf-conf-check gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below hidden_label gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label gfield_label_before_complex' >Confirmation<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_checkbox'><ul class='gfield_checkbox' id='input_5_4'><li class='gchoice gchoice_5_4_1'> <input class='gfield-choice-input' name='input_4.1' type='checkbox' value='Consent' id='choice_5_4_1' tabindex='70' /> <label for='choice_5_4_1' id='label_5_4_1'>Please keep me updated on new website content and Radix news. 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<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_6' ><div id='gf_6' class='gform_anchor' tabindex='-1'></div><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_6' id='gform_6' action='/opinion/biden-leader-of-a-coalition-of-democracies/#gf_6' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_6' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_6_5" class="gfield gravity_head gfield_html gfield_html_formatted gfield_no_follows_desc field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><h3>Before you go!</h3> <p>Stay up to date with what's happening at Radix. 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