President Biden is in Europe for the first major foreign tour of his administration. He will meet with the leaders of America’s various European allies to discuss a wide range of topics. But the main event, the sitdown that is highly anticipated, will be his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16.
Biden made his desired outcome the summit well-known months in advance. The president seeks a “stable and predictable relationship with Russia consistent with U.S. interests.” This is a rather modest and reasonable goal. Biden doesn’t want any of the areas of tension between the two countries to evolve into a full-blown crisis. But there is an open question concerning how the president and his team will square this goal with President Biden’s overarching framework for conducting foreign affairs in 2021.
The president sees the world as a contest between democracies and autocracies. Autocrats “think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st century with autocracies because it takes too long to get consensus,” Biden said during a speech before Congress in April. “We have to prove democracy still works—that our government still works and we can deliver for our people,” he emphasized.
The main autocracy Biden has in mind is the one run by Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But Vladimir Putin’s Russia, while not nearly as powerful as China, is certainly on the short list of autocracies Biden seeks to contain.