President Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will soon hold their first face-to-face bilateral meeting in Carbis Bay in Cornwall.
In style and in substance, the leaders are two very different men leading two countries whose relationship makes up one of the most important global alliances.
Biden rode into the White House last year on a record that spanned nearly 50 years in public service. And while the President ran as an antidote to then-President Donald Trump, Johnson has often been compared to the 45th President for his populist message and often brash comments.
The similarities between Trump and Johnson aren’t lost on Biden, who on the 2020 campaign trail once called Johnson a “physical and emotional clone” of Trump.
Given the tight ties between the US and UK, observers expect the public portions of the meeting to be cordial and warm. But both men enter this weekend’s diplomatic gathering under pressure to define their respective roles in the world and amongst other global powers.
Biden and Johnson’s relationship will no doubt be one to watch throughout Biden’s swing through Europe as he looks to reassure US allies that America will once again be conventional and reliable on the world stage.
The two diverge on policy on several fronts, including Biden’s opposition to Brexit and Northern Ireland’s role as part of Britain’s exit from the European Union. The Northern Ireland Protocol – the part of the Brexit deal that creates a de facto trade border in the Irish Sea – has contributed to rising tensions in the region this year. Biden has long been skeptical of Brexit, and holds deep affection for Ireland, his ancestral homeland. In his first speech in the United Kingdom on Wednesday, he quoted a line from Yeats.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Wednesday that Biden is expected to bring up Northern Ireland during his meeting with Johnson, but told reporters his comments would be reserved to making “statements of principle.”
Read more about the leaders’ relationship here.
White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said President Biden will be “direct” in his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“He has every intention of having this meeting with President Putin, and what he would say is that he sits down with President Putin not in spite of our differences but because of our differences,” Bedingfield said on CNN’s “New Day,” after a Moscow court designated jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny’s political movement as an extremist network.
“He’s known President Putin for a long time. He’s met with him face-to-face before. So this conversation with President Putin is going to be direct, it’s going to be candid,” she said.
Bedingfield said Biden will raise concerns about human rights violations, the Ukrainian border and cyberattacks during the leaders’ meeting on June 16 in Geneva.
“What he’s looking to do is to create a stable, predictable relationship with Russia,” she added.
President Biden’s expected announcement Thursday evening that the United States plans to donate 500 million Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine doses globally will be a part of his efforts to reassert US leadership on the world stage, officials said.
Biden is set to deliver remarks at 1:15 pm ET from St. Ives, Cornwall, United Kingdom.
Officials touted the move Thursday, suggesting it is part of a broader effort for the world’s democracies to lead the way in pandemic recovery.
“This will be clearly the largest purchase and donation of Covid-19 vaccines by a single country, by far, and it’s an unprecedented response,” a senior administration official told reporters on a briefing call Thursday.
“We want to do everything we can to prevent more tragic loss across the globe,” the official said, adding that it is “in our national interest to end this pandemic everywhere.”
“Covid-19 knows no borders, and as long as this virus is in our world, Americans are at risk,” the official said, stressing how the virus also “threatens economic opportunity.”
But the move is also intended to encourage other US allies to step up.
“We’re also using this announcement today to leverage and mobilize larger commitments from the world’s democracies, from the G7 and partner countries,” a separate senior official said, previewing a “G7 Covid-related multilateral announcement.”
At the G7 summit this weekend, the official said, leaders will announce a “collective effort by the world’s democracies to beat Covid-19 for once and for all.”
The donation comes as Biden has repeatedly said that the world is at an inflection point for whether democracy can prevail over autocracy.
“This is the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do, and it is tangible proof that it is going to be the world’s democracies who ultimately deliver when it comes to beating the Covid-19 pandemic,” the official said.
Here are key things to know about the vaccine donation:
- Officials said the Pfizer doses will begin to ship in August and 200 million doses will be delivered by the end of this year.
- The remaining 300 million doses will be delivered in the first half of 2022.
- They will be manufactured in the US, the officials said, “employing thousands of workers” in states like Michigan, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
- The cost will be around $1.5 billion, which will come from previously-allocated funds in the American Rescue Plan relief package passed earlier this year.
- There will be no conditions for the nations that receive the doses.
“The United States is not seeking favors in exchange for these doses, we’re not making demands in order for countries to get these doses, we are not imposing conditions, political, economic or otherwise. We are going to be guided by the science and public health experts in allocating them to the places where they can make the most difference,” the second senior official said.
President Biden isn’t planning to adopt a confrontational tone with Boris Johnson on the Northern Ireland issue during their meeting later Thursday, a senior administration official said.
But he will still raise the matter as a topic of deep personal interest that he wants to see resolved.
“The United States is not in those negotiations and not seeking to be in those negotiations,” the official said.
“It will not be confrontational or adversarial,” the official said of Biden’s plans to raise the matter in his talks with Johnson. “He didn’t come here to give a lecture. He came merely to communicate what he believes, very, very deeply about peace in Northern Ireland.”
The new Atlantic Charter that President Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will sign on Thursday is meant to reflect the shifting threats facing the world 80 years after the original document was signed following World War II.
“It’s been eighty years since the last one, it’s about time that it gets refreshed,” a senior administration official said ahead of the signing, which is expected ahead of Biden’s one-on-one talks with Johnson in Cornwall.
“The original really outlined what the post-war world order could and should look like, this new charter will make clear what the coming decades of the 21st century can and should look like,” the official said.
The new Atlantic Charter is meant to build upon the historic declaration made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941 that set out American and British goals for the world after the end of World War II.
Both leaders identify with their predecessors who signed the original document. Biden has consumed biographies of FDR as president and studied intently his “New Deal” efforts during the Great Depression.
Still, officials said the document was not designed to presage a new Cold War, as the original Atlantic Charter ended up doing.
“It is a profound statement of purpose of democracy, at a moment when, as the President has said, democracies are very much in competition with autocracy,” the official said. “There’s a renewal aspect to the commitment to these democratic principles in the face of genuine challenges and authoritarian competition, and the need to refresh and update the statement of principles so it actually reflects the world we’re dealing with today and not simply harkening back to the world of the Cold War.”
President Biden spelled out his goals for his debut foreign trip on Wednesday as he departed the United States for the first time as President.
Asked what his goals were for the trip, Biden said “strengthening the alliance.”
“Making clear to Putin and to China that Europe and the United States are tight and the G7 is gonna move,” Biden told the reporters on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews yesterday before departing for the UK.
The President said he has a vaccine strategy for the world and that he will be announcing it, though he did not specify when. He’s expected to announce Thursday evening that the US plans to donate 500 million Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine doses globally.
Biden was also asked if he will be able to work out any sort of understanding with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the recent cyer-attacks against the US, to which he responded “who knows.”
“It’s gonna be a subject of our discussion,” he added before turning and boarding Air Force One.
President Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson are expected to commit on Thursday to working to open up travel between the US and the UK and lifting restrictions that were put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Biden and Johnson are expected to announce a new travel task force that will explore options and make recommendations on how to safely resume international travel. The President is set to meet with Johnson on Thursday during his first foreign trip as President ahead of the Group of Seven summit being held in southwestern England.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Wednesday the US has established two working groups of public health experts — one with the United Kingdom and one with the European Union.
“The point of these working groups is to share data and set out both milestones and criteria to enable a reopening of travel between our two countries as swiftly as possible, consistent with public health guidance,” Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One.
Biden and Johnson are also expected on Thursday to agree to a new Atlantic Charter modeled on the historic declaration made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941 that set out American and British goals for the world after the end of World War II, according to Sullivan.
“There will be a refresher of the Atlantic Charter, which is now 80 years old, so there will be an updated statement of principles between the US and UK as free societies and free peoples speaking out about what we believe in the 21st century,” Sullivan told reporters.
The charter will outline priorities, values and challenges that include defending democracy, reaffirming the importance of collective security, building a more fair and sustainable global trading system, combating cyberattacks, addressing the climate crisis, protecting biodiversity and bringing an end to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the source.
Biden and Johnson are also expected to agree to pursue a landmark bilateral technology agreement that will be signed next year, according to the source. The agreement will focus on reducing barriers British tech firms face when trying to work with US counterparts.
Read more about their meeting here.
President Biden kicked off his first foreign trip on Wednesday, landing in the United Kingdom ahead of the three-day G7 summit that is set to start tomorrow.
This year’s G7 summit is hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and will be held along the Cornish coast. Biden has engaged with the other leaders in the group by telephone, in virtual meetings and in one in-person visit with Japan’s prime minister. But the summit will be his first time greeting them all together in person.
Any president’s first venture abroad is closely watched for its symbolic nod to foreign policy priorities. Biden’s plans amount to a sign that after a tumultuous period under President Trump, transatlantic ties are at the forefront of his agenda.
Despite his long-standing interest in foreign policy, Biden hadn’t yet ventured outside the United States since becoming president, as Covid-19 limited travel overseas. Typically, new presidents begin foreign travel a few months into office.
Here’s a look at the main events of his trip:
- June 10: Biden and Johnson bilateral meeting.
- June 11-13: G7 summit in Cornwall.
- June 13: Biden and the first lady meet with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.
- June 14: NATO summit in Brussels.
- June 15: EU-US summit in Brussels.
- June 16: Biden summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.