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'The United States is back,' says Joe Biden in first overseas trip

First lady Jill Biden (L) and President Joe Biden depart from the White House on Wednesday from the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. Biden will be in Europe for a week. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI
First lady Jill Biden (L) and President Joe Biden depart from the White House on Wednesday from the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. Biden will be in Europe for a week. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

June 9 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden told U.S. troops stationed in Britain on Wednesday that during his first overseas trip as commander-in-chief he will make clear to world leaders that "the United States is back" and that democracies of the world must rally together to confront the challenges of the day.

Biden made the declaration Wednesday night at the Royal Air Force Mildenhall in Britain, about 90 miles northeast of London, during the first leg of the first overseas trip of his presidency -- a trip in which he will aim to strengthen relations with close allies and promote democracy and multilateralism throughout the region.

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Biden's eight-day trip includes traveling to Britain, Belgium and Switzerland to meet politicians, royalty, NATO allies and hold summits with the Group of Seven nations, the European Union and Russian President Vladimir Putin amid heightened tensions following several high-profile cyberattacks originating from Moscow targeting the United States.

"The trip, at its core, will advance the fundamental thrust of Joe Biden's foreign policy: to rally the world's democracies to tackle the great challenges of our time," national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters during a press conference Monday.

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"When President Biden returns to Washington next week, we believe that we will be in a materially stronger position to manage the major threats this country faces: COVID, climate, China, cyber, Russia and shaping the rules of trade and technology for the future," he said.

Biden left Washington, D.C., early Wednesday and arrived in Britain at about 8 p.m. British Time (3 p.m. EDT), according to a White House schedule.

The president told the troops at the base that his administration is committed to leading with strength and defending U.S. values, with the goal of the trip to coalesce relations with European allies that share a history.

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"America is better positioned to advance our national security and our economic prosperity when we bring together like-minded nations to stand with us," said Biden. "These nations that have shed blood alongside of us in defense of our shared values."

"Our unrivaled network of alliances and partnerships that are the key to American advantage in the world and have been," he added. "They've made the world safer for all of us, and they are how we are going to meet the challenges of today, which are changing rapidly. We're going to meet it, though, from a position of strength."

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Biden told the troops that the alliance between the United States, Europe and Britain is a vital source of their strength and that during this trip he will ensure allies know that the United States will stand up to their defense.

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"Here's why this all matters so much right now," he said. "I believe we're at an inflection point in world history -- the moment where it falls to us to prove that democracies will not just endure, but they will excel as we rise to seize the enormous opportunities of a new age."

The Bidens ended the day in St. Ives in Cornwall.

Sullivan, speaking with reporters before Biden's speech, said the United States is taking additional steps to donate more coronavirus vaccine doses to developing nations and that they will use their leverage to have world democracies do the same.

"The president is focused on helping to vaccinate the world because it is the right thing to do," he said. "It is what Americans do in times of need."

He said Biden is to make the announcement Thursday, the same day the White House said he is scheduled to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to "affirm the enduring strength of the special relationship" between the two countries. On Friday, he will attend the G7 summit in Cornwall on the southwestern tip of Britain.

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Sullivan earlier this week laid out Biden's goals for the three-day summit, which runs until Sunday, that include collaborating and committing to plans with allies to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden is also expected to announce financing for physical, digital and health infrastructure for the developing world to offer those nations an alternative to China's controversial Belt-and-Road Initiative. He will also endorse a global minimum 15% tax.

Biden has been a proponent of the tax plan, which the G7 countries agreed to last weekend. It would see multinational companies pay a minimum tax rate of 15% for each country they operate in.

Biden, who had favored a tax of 21%, argued that it's a way to prevent companies from storing money in tax havens.

"It means that companies aren't going to be able to hide their income in places like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda," he said in April. "We're going to also eliminate deductions used by corporations for offshoring jobs and shifting assets overseas. They offshore the jobs, shift the assets overseas and then don't have to pay taxes on all they make there."

On Sunday, the Bidens will meet with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II before traveling to Brussels to meet with NATO leaders on Monday.

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"At NATO, President Biden will address enduring security challenges that have been at the core of the alliance for a long time, including Russia and coordinating the remaining period of the drawdown of forces from Afghanistan," Sullivan said. "But, they will also focus on emerging security challenges to the alliance, critically including cyber and the challenge posed by China."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg met with Biden on Monday to prepare for the summit. He said the agenda for the meeting will be ambitious and involve reinforcing the alliance's collective defense and sharpening the alliance's technological edge, among other goals like climate change and increasing NATO cooperation.

Sullivan said Biden will seek to highlight the importance of "burden sharing" -- not only living up to NATO nations' shared agreement to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense, but also contributions toward NATO exercises and operations to ensure the alliance's high level of capabilities.

"The global balance of power is shifting," Stoltenberg said in a statement following his meetings with U.S. leadership. "We face many challenges, which we cannot face alone, but we need to face them together in NATO."

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week Biden will meet Tuesday with EU leaders to demonstrate U.S. commitment to a "strong Transatlantic partnership" and discuss health security, the global economy, climate change and ways to enhance digital and trade cooperation and strengthen democracy.

Biden will meet King Philippe of Belgium and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo while he's in Brussels.

On June 16, the final day of his trip, Biden will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, to meet with Putin. Biden proposed the summit in April and said he wants "a stable, predictable relationship" with Russia.

The summit was proposed following a high-profile cyberattack targeting nine U.S. federal agencies and dozens of companies, for which Biden signed an executive order to sanction the perpetrators. There have since been several other high-profile attacks that have been linked to Moscow.

"My bottom line is this: Where it is in the interest of the United States to work with Russia, we should and we will," Biden told reporters in April.

"Where Russia seeks to violate the interests of the United States, we will respond. And we'll always stand in defense of our country, our institutions, our people and our allies."

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Sullivan said Biden will be going into the Putin meeting "with the wind at his back."

"We believe that President Biden is the most effective, direct communicator of American values," he said. "And we believe that hearing directly from President Putin is the most effective way to understand what Russia intends and plans."

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