TGR Weekly Review - 6.21.21
Biden blitzes Europe in his first overseas trip as President.
ICYMI: “Fuel vapor in the air: Why is there unrest against Israel now?” by Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Biden’s first foreign trip as president comes to a close after summit with Putin
Joe Biden blitzed Europe in his first foreign trip as president. Here’s a quick recap of what went down.
Biden meets with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson met ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall for Biden’s first bilateral meeting with another world leader since becoming president.
In the past, there have been areas of friction between the two men. Biden opposed Brexit, which Johnson championed; and Biden reportedly once called Johnson a “physical and emotional clone” of Donald Trump. Johnson, for his part, once said Biden’s former boss Barack Obama was “half-Kenyan” and had an ancestral hate for Great Britain.
Despite this, Johnson called the new administration “a breath of fresh air,” and Biden said once the meeting was over that the nations had “affirmed the special relationship—it’s not said lightly—the special relationship between our people. We renewed our pledge to defend the enduring democratic values that both of our nations share that are the strong foundation of our partnership.”
The two leaders spent part of their time inspecting documents relating to the Atlantic Charter, the declaration signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941. The charter laid out post-World War II goals for the US and Great Britain including freer trade and disarmament.
Biden and Johnson authorized the creation of a new Atlantic Charter aimed at promoting free trade and human rights and presenting a unified front in the face of Chinese and Russian aggression.
Biden attends his first G7 summit
Biden’s first Group of Seven—US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Italy—was held in Cornwall, England. Invited guests included Australia, South Korea, South Africa, and India, and the European Union. It is rumored that the G7 might expand to be the D10—the world’s ten leading democracies.
The G7 leaders pledged to distribute 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines worldwide with half of those coming from the United States. The G7 also condemned China for its human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and called for peace in the Taiwan Strait. In response, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in London stated that “the days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone.”
The group also backed a 15 percent global minimum tax for International corporations, something Joe Biden has repeatedly called for. (Link to article)
Biden meets with NATO and EU leaders in Brussels
NATO issued a warning to China during Joe Biden’s visit in what is to be a turning point for the organization that has previously been solely focused on Russia, and the Soviet Union before that.
“China’s growing influence and international policies can present challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance," the group said in a joint statement following the meeting. “We will engage China with a view to defending the security interests of the Alliance.”
“We remain concerned with China’s frequent lack of transparency and use of disinformation," the group said. "We call on China to uphold its international commitments and to act responsibly in the international system, including in the space, cyber, and maritime domains, in keeping with its role as a major power.”
The group, of course, also issued warnings to Russia, saying the country "continues to breach the values, principles, trust, and commitments" of international agreements and that their military's aggression towards its neighbors "increasingly threaten the security of the Euro-Atlantic area and contribute to instability.”
Unlike his predecessor, Donald Trump, Biden did not push NATO leaders to meet their two percent spending agreement. (In 2006, the NATO countries pledged to spend at least two percent of their annual GDP on defense. Currently, only ten of the thirty member states meet that threshold—US, UK, Greece, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, France, and Norway.)
At the beginning of the meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted, "Commend @NATO partners' understanding of all the risks and challenges we face," he wrote. "NATO leaders confirmed that 🇺🇦 will become a member of the Alliance.”
It quickly became clear that Zelensky had overstated things to put pressure on NATO. During a press conference, Biden said that NATO would stand behind Ukraine's "sovereignty and territorial integrity," but didn't mention the country joining the alliance.
In the past, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Ukraine joining NATO was a “red line.”
Biden meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva
Biden ended his trip with a bilateral meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland. They reportedly discussed Ukraine, cybersecurity, and human rights. They began with a handshake and sit-down meeting where the foreign press was pushed out by Russian security forces.
After five hours of meetings—some one-on-one and some with aides—the two leaders each held solo press conferences, unlike when President Trump held a joint press conference with President Putin after their meeting in Helsinki in 2018.
Putin said the talks were “quite constructive” and that “many of our joint positions are divergent, but nevertheless I think both sides manifested a determination to try and understand each other and try and converge on our positions.”
When asked about the state of relations between the US and Russia, Putin said, “There’s no happiness in life. There’s only a mirage on the horizon, so we’ll cherish that.” He also said that “the deterioration of our mutual relations was initiated” by the US.
When pressed about the imprisonment of opposition-leader Alexei Navalny, Putin compared it to the violence in many of America’s large cities following the killing of George Floyd. “America just recently had very servers events, after a killing of an African-American and an entire movement developed known as Black Lives Matter. What we saw was disorder, destruction, violations of the law, etcetera. We feel sympathy for the United States of America, but we don’t want that to happen in our territory, and we’re doing our utmost in order to not allow it to happen.”
Biden, during his press conference, said he challenged Putin on cyber, saying, “I pointed out to him that we have significant cyber capability. And he knows it. He doesn’t know exactly what it is, but it’s significant. And if, in fact, they violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber. He knows.”
In a moment that left many analysts flabbergasted, Biden told the press that he gave Putin a list of sixteen pieces of critical infrastructure that were off-limits to hackers. The questions begs to be asked, what about everything else?
In the end, time will tell whether or not there was a shift in US-Russia relations as a result of the Geneva summit. Will Russia stop its offensive in the Donbas region of Ukraine? Will Alexei Navalny be released from prison? Will the increasing cyberattacks on American infrastructure cease? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”—the likely outcome to all three is “no”—then not much changed.
Other stories from around the globe:
🇮🇷 Hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi is elected to be Iran’s next president (BBC)
🇭🇰 Hong Kong’s main pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily may be forced to shut down after the arrests of top executives under the NSL (Reuters)
🇲🇲 The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s leader who was ousted in February’s coup, begins (BBC)
🇧🇾 Belarusian authorities parade Roman Protasevich, the opposition journalist arrested off of his Ryanair flight in Minsk, before the media. “I have renounced my views,” he says (BBC)
🇺🇸 Biden quietly begins the process to close Guantanamo Bay (NBC News)
🇨🇳 Three Chinese taikonauts begin a three-month mission on China’s space station (Business Insider)
Quote of the week:
That is clearly his aim that Alexei Navalny stays in prison until one of the two men dies, and now Putin confirmed that is his plan.
~ Leonid Volkov, Alexei Navalny’s chief-of-staff, responding to Putin saying he can’t guarantee Navalny will leave prison alive.