On the eve of his first presidential trip abroad, in June of last year, Joe Biden published in Washington Post an article entitled “My trip to Europe is about America uniting the world’s democracies”. And in the program was a meeting with Boris Johnson, a kind of reaffirmation of a very special relationship with Great Britain, participation in the G-7 meeting (where, in addition to the United States and major countries in Europe, Canada and Japan), then a summit NATO and talks with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen of Germany.
This week, Biden returns to Europe and at a time when the continent is at war with its eastern flank, Ukraine. The American president met again with NATO allies, whose sense of unity in the current crisis with Russia depends heavily on the 2021 visit, also with the G-7 and the European Union, participating in the Council of Europe, but in the end, it is clear , the meeting with the Russian partner was not planned. , as happened last June. In fact, while not impossible, it is difficult to understand how Biden and Vladimir Putin would sit down together again after Russian troops invaded Ukraine and the American president called the Kremlin rulers “war criminals”, lost the power of the Soviet Union, extinct in 1991.
Much more cautious about defending traditional US alliances than Donald Trump, Biden, because events in Ukraine, also appear to have refocused on Europe, rather than the Indo-Pacific, which contradicts not only the policies of his predecessors such as Barack Obama himself, among whom he was vice president for eight years. But if we take a closer look at the so-called sphere of democracy that American Biden wants to add and lead to, the European pole is very important – note that in the vote at the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, out of 141 countries the finger to Putin, the most coherent bloc is Europe (almost round), to which is added Oceania, most of America, most of Southeast Asia and the Japan-South Korea duo.
If we understand this clash between the West and Russia, however dangerous it may be, as secondary to the future struggle between the United States and China for world supremacy, and if that’s what Biden thinks too, then a visit to Europe has a dual purpose: to send a message of transatlantic unity. to Russia, which is already being felt in the form of economic sanctions, and to show China that there is a cohesive bloc that will stand with America if Washington and Beijing go head-to-head. . The United States knows that they can clearly add Japan and Australia to this transatlantic bloc, but it will leave some doubts about other countries. For example, of the hundreds of countries invited to the Democracy Summit, held in Washington in December, several are now exceptions in condemning Russia, notably India, Pakistan and South Africa, which abstained.
A few days ago, via videoconference, Biden spoke with Xi Jinping about the global crisis wrought by the war in Ukraine and the initial wave of sympathy between the American and Chinese presidents shows that competition does not prevent mutual respect. But don’t hesitate: relations between Washington and Beijing, already fraught with tensions, from trade disputes to the status of Taiwan, will be heavily conditioned by the way China reacts to the Ukraine crisis.
Xi’s mediating role will force Biden to remain cautious, even as he recognizes that China’s position as a major power will be strengthened; But if Xi chooses to help Putin, not militarily, but by helping him minimize the impact of Western sanctions, then we can be sure that efforts to unite democracy across America will have strategic goals and options. , especially Europe, will be very difficult, because belonging to the American bloc, as happened in the era of the Cold War with the Soviets, will not be limited to increasing the defense budget.
Deputy Director Diario de Notícias
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