After His European Tour, Biden Must Insist that the Europeans Keep Their Promises: ‘Biden Does Not Have the Same Energy as Obama’

Biden’s biggest challenge is not necessarily China, but a Europe that has become less loyal to the United States. His biggest challenge may be to hold the Europeans to the responsibility they forgot after Trump. Furthermore, without a strong Europe, the United States cannot pursue new goals. Now comes Biden’s most difficult task.

President Joe Biden looked tired as he neared the end of his big European tour last week.

Even though Air Force One, the president’s plane, is pure luxury compared to a regular commercial plane, at his age the time difference takes energy.

The president can lie down, sit and stand. He can eat and drink what he wants. For that matter, he may be “admitted” to the plane’s hospital if he has a stomach ache, and he is surrounded by advisers who constantly tell him who he will meet next, what he should say, what he should do and what issues he must remember to pay attention to.

And this is true whether he is on his way to the Group of Seven major industrial nations summit in Cornwall, U.K., the NATO Summit in Brussels or the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

Biden is 78; even though he is in better physical and mental shape than his opponents claim, such a schedule is taxing. His agenda for the European meetings was more important than you’d immediately imagine.

He Had To Win the Europeans Over

“Biden’s visit to Europe was in great danger and his advisers were nervous. The danger was that Europeans would be lulled to sleep by Biden’s loving embrace. That must not happen,”* said an American journalist who attended countless briefings before leaving with the White House press corps.

Biden needed Europe to put pressure on China. However, in many ways, initially, it was even more important to get Europe on the U.S.’s side in regard to China.

But according to American journalists, it seemed more difficult than the Biden administration had imagined.

During the four years Donald Trump spent in the White House, Europeans have become accustomed to increasing unilateral action, including on that type of issue; there were lengthy negotiations on the wording of the closing texts on China that went public.

Many European leaders and officials wanted significantly more leeway vis-a-vis China than the Americans. This created situations in which Biden had to spend all his energy on reaching common ground.

Biden Was Feeling Hot and in a Bad Mood

During the last meeting of the trip with Putin, it became evident that Biden was close to reaching his physical limit. During the press conference under Geneva’s relentless sun, Biden took off his jacket, then bent down to find his sunglasses, picked up his jacket again, and started arguing with an American CNN reporter, Kaitlan Collins, who asked a critical question about the summit.

“[Y]ou’re in the wrong business,” a frustrated Biden said. He later apologized but added that to be a good reporter, “you have got to have a negative view of life, it seems to me. You never ask a positive question.”

Biden was about to succumb to seven days of intense pressure, which, in turn, led everyone to wonder: Has Biden actually become too old to be president?

And even though the meeting with Putin may not have resulted in major headlines, it was perhaps the most significant one of the three, because it was important for Biden to simply meet with Putin and get a sense of his views.

However, it was also important to get the Europeans to recommit to an unbreakable alliance with the U.S. On the surface, it looked easy. Nevertheless, behind the scenes, it was anything but easy.

As mentioned above, the Europeans have become accustomed to unilateral action. This was something Biden got a lesson in back in January 2021, just before his presidential inauguration. Through his National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, he asked the EU to delay entering a cooperation agreement with China until he took office as president, but in vain.

Therefore, during Biden’s visit, there was great nervousness. The question of his advisers today is whether the Europeans have misunderstood Biden’s declarations of love and whether they believe that when Biden assured his G-7 or NATO colleagues that “America is back,” it means that everything is as it was before Trump.

Because it is not.

Biden Is Bombarded with Good Advice

Biden received more advice before the European tour. But one piece of advice, in particular, came up again at the White House press conferences held before Biden departed for Europe.

It’s important to make the Europeans understand the seriousness of the U.S. agenda. Otherwise, Biden would stand no chance against China.

There are, however, indications that the Europeans may have understood some of the messages, but most have noticed that Biden is the Europeans’ “man” in the White House.

Although Peter Rough is Republican and was director of then-President George W. Bush’s research team, a few months ago he put it this way: “[T]he [Biden] administration has leapt right back in, reaping an early harvest of positive headlines under the banner ‘America is back.’ Without addressing the manifold shortcomings identified by its predecessor.” Without addressing the manifold shortcomings identified by its predecessor, the Biden administration has rushed to reenter the World Health Organization and United Nations Human Rights Council, rejoined the Paris Agreement, extended the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, restored funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and worked feverishly to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.”

“The days of Trumpian leverage are gone, replaced by Bidenesque goodwill as the cornerstone of U.S. strategy. But will goodwill achieve better results?” Rough asked Foreign Policy.

Even though Rough works for the right-wing think tank Hudson Institute, the same question worries Biden’s advisers. Has the president been so eager to reassure his European allies that “America is back” that he will find it difficult to implement his China strategy?

Details Are Important

It was evident to everyone that Biden had too much on his plate during his tour. Although younger presidents also have to sharpen their concentration in situations where they constantly have to master every language detail, whether they talk to the French president or the German chancellor. Often through interpreters.

“Biden was out of shape even before the departure. As far as I could see, he did not make any big mistakes at the press conferences apart from a few minor statements, but he does not have the energy that, for example, President Barack Obama or George W. Bush had,”* said one of the journalists who follows him closely in Washington, D.C.

If you lose focus for just a few minutes during a crucial speech, you may have lost your case. Whether Biden did that, time will tell. The discussion is ongoing because Biden’s age is a common topic of debate.

The original language publication of this article is accessible with a paid subscription.

*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, the quoted remarks could not be verified.

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