Biden departs for first foreign trip, wants to show China, Russia that Western allies ‘are tight’

Biden departs for first foreign trip, wants to show China, Russia that Western allies ‘are tight’

President Biden departed for his first foreign trip Wednesday hoping to reset transatlantic ties, forge a global strategy in the COVID-19 fight and press Russian President Vladimir Putin on cyberattacks from his nation.

The president said the goal of the trip will be “strengthening the alliance, making it clear to Putin and China that Europe and the United States are tight.”

Accompanied by first lady Jill Biden, the president also told reporters at Joint Base Andrews that he will announce a vaccine strategy for the world.

The first couple will arrive at Royal Air Force Mildenhall in the United Kingdom in the evening hours, local time, and address U.S. Air Force personnel at the base — the only permanent American refueling wing in Europe.

They will stay overnight in St. Ives, Cornwall, where the Group of Seven nations summit will be hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson before Mr. Biden heads to the NATO summit in Brussels on Monday and a high-profile sit-down with Mr. Putin in Switzerland the following Wednesday.

Mr. Biden has said he wants to restore alliances and multilateralism in a sharp break from his predecessor. Former President Trump preferred bilateral dealmaking, questioned the value of the European Union and NATO, sparked trade wars and often criticized NATO partners as free riders who didn’t pay enough in defense costs relative to the U.S.

G-7 summits during Mr. Trump’s term were also marked by acrimony.

Western allies will likely discuss a coordinated international plan to tax multinational corporations at least 15% and ways to spur vaccination for COVID-19 in developing countries. Mr. Biden supports a plan to waive vaccine patents, but many Europeans are cool to the idea and have offered a counterproposal before the World Trade Organization that safeguards drugmakers’ intellectual property.

Mr. Biden is heading overseas while things get tough back home. Bipartisan talks on an infrastructure deal hit the rocks, and a key senator effectively doomed Democrats’ hopes of passing their sweeping elections overhaul to counter GOP moves in the states. The administration is navigating a migrant surge at the U.S. southern border and a spate of ransomware attacks aimed at core industries.

Mr. Biden said he will press Mr. Putin to crack down on criminal hacking organizations that often operate within Russia. Before departure, Mr. Biden said he will seek some rules of the road in dealing with hackers but couldn’t guarantee a result.

“Who knows at this point? It’s going to be a subject of our discussion,” Mr. Biden said.

The president faced a different irritant — bugs — as he departed on the tarmac in Maryland.

 “Watch out for the cicadas,” he told reporters after swatting one off his neck.

Indeed, a separate press charter departing Dulles International Airport for Europe late Tuesday was delayed for hours because cicadas clogged up the plane’s engines. A new plane was called in for a departure in the wee hours.


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