COP27 and G20: Biden aims to assert American leadership abroad

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

It’s a story that President Joe Biden tells at almost every opportunity: last year, meeting his new colleagues at his first international meeting, he proudly announced, “America is back.”

“How long?” asked one of them.

As Biden leaves this week on a week-long trip around the world, the question remains unanswered.

“They are very concerned that we are still the open democracy that we have been and that we have the laws and the institutions that are important,” Biden said Wednesday at a news conference.

Biden hopes that his stops at the climate meeting here in the Red Sea, the meeting of the nations of Southeast Asia in Cambodia and the high-level group of 20 summit on the Indonesian island of Bali will say that the American leadership in the former places President Donald Trump will not be ignored or be ignored. are diligently avoided.

“If the United States tomorrow were to, quote, withdraw from the world, a lot of things could change around the world. A lot could change,” Biden said before his trip.

He and his advisers believe that entering a series of high-level meetings and a robust discussion of his version of the US role in the world will endure. He defied historical and political headlines in this year’s midterm elections while many of Trump’s handpicked candidates lost. And in the past year, he has secured a place for massive climate investment and united the world in efforts to support Ukraine and isolate Russia.

However, the worries of the American partners continued about the future of the commitments of the US-in Ukraine, to fight against climate change, to the partners of the agreement and, perhaps more urgently, to support the traditions of Democracy. Foreign diplomats are watching with interest as the political season plays out, looking for clues about how American voters are judging Biden’s first two years in office and reporting in their heads about voter discontent that could fuel Trump’s return to office.

Republicans appear to be looking to gain control of the House of Representatives as of Wednesday night. And Trump is mulling a third presidential bid, which could be announced while Biden is on the other side of the planet.

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White House aides have not expressed concern over the potential screen, believing that foreign policy is within the president’s purview, especially compared to Trump’s chaotic communications.

“We have to show that he’s not going to take power,” Biden said Wednesday. “If he runs, he’s making sure that, under the legal provisions of our Constitution, he’s not going to be the next president.”

Presidents often turn to foreign policy, where they can operate under the obstruction of Congress, in times of political turmoil. President Barack Obama embarked on a similar tour of Asia after his self-described “shellacking” of the 2010 midterms.

Four global defining threats will dominate Biden’s trip: Russia’s war in Ukraine, escalating tensions with China, the ongoing crisis of climate change and the possibility of a global recession in the coming months. Other flashpoints, such as North Korea’s escalating provocations and uncertainty about Iran’s nuclear program, will also result.

Of those, protecting Ukraine and fighting climate change could have the most impact on the outcome of this week’s election.

At the G20 summit, Biden hopes to bring together leaders from the world’s advanced economies after his 10-month effort to isolate and punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. He does not plan to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will not attend the meeting in person and is considering participating.

World economic leaders have tested a global solution to the pressure campaign, however, and world leaders have worked with varying degrees of intensity to find a diplomatic end to the conflict.

Some Republicans aligned with Trump have called for cuts in funding to Ukraine, although some GOP defense hawks have vowed not to abandon the country amid its war with Russia.

House Republican leader McCarthy, in an interview with CNN this week, tried to reaffirm his support for Ukraine while saying that they will not automatically step on any additional aid requests.

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“I’m very supportive of Ukraine,” McCarthy said. “I think there needs to be responsibility going forward. … You always need, not a blank check, but make sure the resources go where they are needed. And make sure Congress, and the Senate, have the power to debate it openly. ”

At the United Nations climate conference in Egypt, Biden comes to have already signed the largest US investment in the fight against climate change, a situation that is very different from previous international gatherings – including last year’s gathering in Scotland – where American commitments to reduce carbon were not supported. the law.

“We’ve seen the United States go from a global laggard to a global leader in less than 18 months,” a senior administration official said this week.

The $375 billion pledge will provide a boost to Biden as he works to convince other countries to increase their own efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, all with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In his speech, Biden will ask nations to “keep their eye on the ball when it comes to accelerating emissions reduction ambitions,” the official said. And he will highlight his administration’s intention to propose legislation this week that would require large federal contractors to develop carbon reduction targets and disclose greenhouse gas emissions, use the federal government’s purchasing power to fight climate change in the private sector and support vulnerable supply chains.

But Republicans say they will work to repeal parts of the law, and accuse Biden of contributing to rising energy prices by curbing the extraction of fossil fuels, which contribute to climate change.

When Trump was president, he withdrew the US completely from the Paris Climate Agreement, the leaders of the agreement met to discuss this week.

Even without the uncertainty in American politics, there are concerns that rising energy costs and the coming recession could slow down the decision to transition to clean energy. American officials have moderated expectations for this year’s summit, which Biden is expected to attend for only a few hours.

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In Congress, Biden has won more bipartisan success in his efforts to fight China, another big issue he will face this week. Recently passed legislation aimed at strengthening the US semiconductor industry won Republican and Democratic votes, in part because it promised to free the US from dependence on Chinese products.

Biden’s aides have worked over the past month to prepare for his first face-to-face meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping since taking office, even as tensions between Washington and Beijing deepen. The meeting will take place on Monday at the G20 in Indonesia. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August visit to self-ruled Taiwan angered Chinese leaders and led to closer ties with the US.

Mr Biden said on Wednesday he and Xi would lay out “each of our red lines” and discuss issues they believe are in their “vital national” interests during the meeting.

In his recently released National Security Strategy, Biden has identified China as “the most important challenge to the United States,” and hopes that a one-on-one meeting with Xi – who has recently resumed international travel following the Covid-19 pandemic – can help establish lines of communication. .

Xi arrives at the G20 fresh from a historic Communist Party conference that propelled him to an unprecedented third term – a stark contrast to Biden’s political climate.

It is not yet clear how this difference will be reflected in Bali.

“The big question is whether these two leaders will come to terms with reconciliation or a more defiant kind,” said Matthew Goodman, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“They’ve both won political events over the years and they can come in freely for one reason or another to try to reach out and find common ground,” Goodman said. “There’s a range of global challenges that really affect the US and China – whether it’s growth, or pandemics, or climate change. Therefore there is a way of reconciliation from both sides. ”


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