What does President Joe Biden’s first foray into international summitry reveal to us about the quality of his vision for America’s place in the world? As might be expected, some of the priorities he pursued in meetings this week with the leaders of the G-7, NATO and the European Union are timely and well-founded.
Think reassuring America’s oldest allies after the persistent disruption of the Trump years. Think building consensus around a collective response to increasingly aggressive Russian behavior, whether via cyberattacks emanating from that country or the menace Moscow poses to Ukraine or the Baltic states. In the more purely economic realm, think suspending the mutually harmful tariff war with the EU that began years ago over aircraft subsidies to Boeing and Airbus. Or efforts to harmonize taxation policies to make it harder for gigantic multinational companies like Google and Amazon, to name just two, to game widely varying fiscal laws around the world in order to shelter their income.
Some of Biden’s aims, meanwhile, seem misguided—or at least insufficiently thought through. As menacing as Moscow’s behavior can appear, a country as large as Russia, even locked in economic stagnation and population decline, will not soon abandon its pride or cease pretending to a major role in the world. In this light, efforts to strengthen NATO that are not accompanied by gestures aimed at extending a hand to Russia merely seem destined to guarantee continued and potentially dangerous great-power friction, both in Europe and elsewhere.