“Everyone in the water!” Joe Biden’s comment on the traditional family photo from the G7 summit, held near the beach this year, sets the tone for a kinder diplomacy than that of his predecessor Donald Trump.
On his first trip abroad, the American president plays a role that he knows well, that of less unpredictable, less aggressive diplomacy, less obsessed with red carpets than the former Republican president.
After four years of invective, “Joe” transmits tranquility and represents “a great breath of fresh air”, in the words of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The 46th president of the United States knows that his allies are disillusioned and will need more than words of liking and his promise that “America is back” to erase the distrust towards the first world power and the questions about the future of American democracy.
Gestures and smiles between Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, this Saturday at the G7 summit. Photo: AFP
Prudence and seduction
For the moment, set against the enchanting Cornish landscapes, at the start of an eight-day tour that will also take him to Brussels and Geneva, the 78-year-old president is very cautious.
The “old lion” of American politics was not very comfortable in the Zoom lectures but is now enjoying the personal interactions.
If he seems fragile at times, the older US President, who Donald Trump derisively called “Sleepy Joe,” has so far silenced criticism of his lack of vivacity and questions about your health.
He appears as a laid-back person and on the eve of the summit he was photographed in white sneakers, sitting on a terrace facing the sea with his wife Jill.
His long political career is based on contact, both in Washington (where he held a congressional seat for 36 years) and on the international scene (he traveled the world as vice president of Barack Obama).
Joe Biden, this Saturday, in his bilateral relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: AFP
“He has been preparing for 50 years,” joked his spokesperson Jen Psaki before his departure for the UK.
Jokes and talk with the press
From his years in the Senate, he retains his habit of speaking face to face with journalists, as well as telling jokes and spouting singular phrases known in Washington as “Bidenismos.”
When he travels he maintains that tone. “It’s magnificent! I don’t want to go home anymore,” he said facing the stunning St Ives Bay.
In the G7, Joe Biden is on favorable ground because Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau or Emmanuel Macron had been criticized by their stormy Republican predecessor.
Now each of his words, of his gestures, offers a striking contrast to Donald Trump’s first trip to Europe, in May 2017, at the NATO summit in Brussels and then at the G7 in Sicily.
The image of the then president of the first world power pushing the prime minister of little Montenegro to the front row left indelible marks.
“Of course, the G7 prefers ‘America is back’ and ‘Democracy is loaded with promise’ to Trump’s tirades and threats,” says Steve Pomper of the International Crisis Group.
Joe Biden met this Saturday with the head of the German government, Angela Merkel, in the framework of the G7 summit. in Great Britain. Photo: AFP
“But in the end, Biden will not be judged for the mistakes of his predecessor,” he adds.
Face to face with Vladimir Putin
Beyond the G7, the most difficult encounter of this trip will be on Wednesday, in Geneva, in a villa overlooking Lake Geneva, where he will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
For the moment, Biden can boast of having restored, at least temporarily, the image of his country abroad.
According to a study carried out in 16 countries by the Pew research center, 62% of those surveyed now have a “favorable image” of the world’s leading power, up from just 34% in 2020.