The sequencing of the trip is deliberate: Biden consulting with Western European allies for much of a week as a show of unity before his summit with Putin.
He holds a sitdown Thursday with British Prime Minster Boris Johnson a day ahead of the G-7 summit to be held above the craggy cliffs of Cornwall overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
The most tactile of politicians, Biden has grown frustrated by the diplomacy-via-Zoom dynamics of the pandemic and has relished the ability to again have face-to-face meetings that allow him to size up and connect with world leaders. While Biden himself is a veteran statesman, many of the world leaders he will see in England, including Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, took office after Biden left the vice presidency. Another, Germany’s Angela Merkel, will leave office later this year.
There are several potential areas of tension. On climate change, the U.S. is aiming to regain its credibility after Trump pulled the country back from the fight against global warming. Biden could also feel pressure on trade, an issue to which he’s yet to give much attention. And with the United States well supplied with COVID-19 vaccines yet struggling to persuade some of its own citizens to use it, leaders whose inoculation campaigns have been slower have been pressuring Biden to share more surplus around the globe.
Another central focus will be China. Biden and the other G-7 leaders will announce an infrastructure financing program for developing countries that is meant to compete directly with Beijing’s Belt-and-Road Initiative. But not every European power has viewed China in as harsh a light as Biden, who has painted the rivalry with the techno-security state as the defining competition for the 21st century.