USA TODAY International Edition

President has a full agenda on foreign trip

- Michael Collins Contributi­ng: Kim Hjelmgaard, The Associated Press.

WASHINGTON – Joe Biden embarks Wednesday on his first foreign trip as president, an eight- day swing across Europe that will give him a chance to shore up frayed alliances with U. S. allies and meet face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid rising tensions with Moscow.

He’ll also get to enjoy one of the perks of the presidency: a visit with Queen Elizabeth II.

Biden, who has been on the world stage for nearly five decades as senator, vice president and now president, has hosted the leaders of Japan and South Korea at the White House since taking office Jan. 20 but held off on traveling abroad because of the pandemic.

The pandemic is still entrenched, but Biden will arrive in the United Kingdom as the European Union reopens its borders to vaccinated tourists.

The focal point of Biden’s visit will be the Group of Seven summit, or G- 7, which opens Friday in Carbis Bay, a seaside resort in Cornwall in southwest England. The summit is the first gathering of leaders of the world’s largest economies in nearly two years and the first of the post- Donald Trump era. Trump feuded with several of the group’s leaders during his presidency, and Biden sees the summit as a chance to heal those scars.

Asked what Biden is doing to prepare for the trip, White House press secretary Jen Psaki pointed to Biden’s long political career.

“He’s been getting ready for 50 years,” Psaki said Tuesday. “He has been on the world stage. He’s known a number of these leaders for decades, including President Putin and including a number of the leaders he’ll see at NATO and he’ll see at the G- 7. Now this is an important opportunit­y for him to see them in person, and there’s nothing like face- to- face engagement in diplomacy.”

Biden, meet Boris

Before Biden heads to the G- 7, he will meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is often seen as a kindred spirit with Trump.

Biden spoke with Johnson for the first time as president three days after taking office. The White House said Biden conveyed his intention “to strengthen the special relationsh­ip between our countries and revitalize trans- Atlantic ties.”

A profile published Monday in The Atlantic said Johnson doesn’t like the term “special relationsh­ip” and thinks it sounds “needy and weak,” which could add an element of tension as the two leaders mull issues such as the U. K.’ s withdrawal from the European Union.

Biden and other G- 7 leaders will have a lot to discuss when they gather in Carbis Bay for their seaside summit.

Climate change, defense and security and getting the global economy back on track in the wake of the coronaviru­s pandemic are all on the agenda for the leaders’ 47th gathering. The countries said last week that they agreed to back a minimum global corporate tax rate of at least 15% – a deal that would mean multinatio­nal companies such as Amazon and Google would pay more taxes in the countries where the operate.

Besides the United States, the G- 7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U. K. The group’s last face- to- face summit took place nearly two years ago in the seaside resort of Biarritz in southwest France. Last year’s summit was scheduled to take place in Camp David, the countrysid­e presidenti­al retreat outside Washington but was canceled because of the pandemic.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden will pay a visit Sunday with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Palace.

An ‘ unpredicta­ble world’

From the U. K., Biden will head to Brussels, where he will join leaders of other NATO countries Monday to discuss tense ties with Russia and China, the troop withdrawal from Afghanista­n and the future of the 30- nation military alliance. The meeting will give Biden a chance to rebuild relations with leaders from Europe and Canada that became strained under Trump.

NATO Secretary- General Jens Stoltenber­g met with Biden at the White House on Monday. Stoltenber­g said the biggest challenge NATO member countries face is “an unpredicta­ble world,” and the summit would be a strong demonstrat­ion of trans- Atlantic unity.

“We are stronger – we are safe together in the more unpredicta­ble world,” he said. “A strong NATO is good for Europe, but it’s also good for the United States.”

Biden, meet Vladimir

The final leg of Biden’s European adventure will take him to Geneva for a high- stakes summit with Putin on June 16. The summit comes amid rising tensions over allegation­s of Russianbac­ked hacking, human rights abuses, interferen­ce in U. S. elections and what the West sees as growing Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Monday, Biden assured Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky that he intends to “stand firmly” for Ukraine’s sovereignt­y and territoria­l integrity as Russia amasses troops on Ukraine’s eastern border. Biden invited Zelensky to visit the White House this summer.

The meeting between Biden and Putin isn’t their first. Biden has talked of a visit with the Russian president in 2011 while he was vice president. According to Biden’s account, he looked Putin in the eyes and proclaimed, “I don’t think you have a soul.” Putin looked back, smiled and said, “We understand one another,” according to Biden.

Next week’s summit could show whether they still do.

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