March 4, 2021

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The G7 Meeting: Live Updates as World Leaders Meet on Security, Democracy – The New York Times

15 min read
President Joe Biden’s speech to the Munich security forum is expected to be broad in scope, those who have seen it say.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

As a senator and as vice president, Joe Biden was one of the few people in Washington who actually enjoyed summit meetings — and was eager to show up at the Munich Security Conference, the meeting of Europe’s diplomatic and defense elites.

Two years ago he even showed up in Munich as a private citizen — one who was already running for president — backslapping his way through the jammed Hotel Bayerischer Hof, where the event is always held, and assuring allies that the Trump era would end, some day.

On his return on Friday, there was no glad-handing as the event was being held virtually and Mr. Biden spoke by video link. But his message was clear. The Trump era of “America first” diplomacy is over.

For all the violence and tumult in Washington in recent months, autocracies will never outperform democracies, and restored alliances are the West’s pathway to restored influence. He chastised China and warned Europe about the need to push back hard on Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia.

For the Europeans, dealing with Mr. Biden will be like putting on a pair of well-worn shoes — they know just what it will feel like. But Mr. Biden, some aides acknowledge, will also face more than a few doubters, who wonder whether his presidency will be just a brief alliance-friendly interregnum, and that the era of America First has not been extinguished.

His speech to the Munich security forum was broad in scope, arguing that the United States and its European allies can take on China without descending into a Cold War, and that the only way to deal with Russia is to push back hard against Mr. Putin.

He listed the treaties and multinational institutions that the United States has re-entered or re-engaged with in recent weeks, from the Paris agreement on climate change to the World Health Organization to Covax, the public-private effort to distribute vaccines around the world equitably.

On Thursday night, just before the speech, the State Department issued its first road map for re-entering talks with Iran for the first time in four years. It marked the first time since early 2018 that Europe and the United States were on the same page on an Iran strategy.

In public this will all generate applause; European leaders are just happy, they say, to go to a meeting without fear that the United States will be hinting it is getting ready to depart from the NATO alliance.

But Europeans, Mr. Biden’s aides concede, do not have the same view of China and the threat posed by its economic dominance and political influence. And the dependence of European countries on Russian energy supplies limits their enthusiasm for joining Mr. Biden in declaring that Mr. Putin will pay a price for undermining democracies.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain will play host to a summit meeting of the G7 leaders in June at a seaside resort in Cornwall, in what would be their first face-to-face meeting in two years.
Credit…Daniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson convened a video call of the leaders of the Group of 7 nations on Friday afternoon, seizing on the transition to a post-Trump world to push for greater global support and coordination to deliver coronavirus vaccines to billions of people in developing countries.

The call was part of a busy, if virtual, day of trans-Atlantic diplomacy that also featured the international debut of President Biden, who was set to deliver a foreign-policy address to the Munich Security Conference on Friday. Mr. Johnson and several other European leaders were also on the speaker lineup.

Multilateral cooperation — on the pandemic, climate change, and the Iran nuclear deal — was likely to be the watchword.

Whatever their lingering differences over Brexit or how to handle Russia and China, Mr. Johnson and other European leaders are eager to take advantage of an American president who wants to banish the “America First” policy of his predecessor, Donald J. Trump.

On the call, Mr. Johnson pledged that Britain would donate surplus supplies of vaccines to a program that will distribute doses in the developing world. Mr. Biden also confirmed that the United States will donate $4 billion to that effort over two years.

But even as the leaders pledged international cooperation, they faced very difficult situations at home. Mr. Johnson acknowledged as much in the video call, noting the Mr. Biden’s slogan — “Build Back Better” — had a familiar ring.

“I think he may have nicked it from us,” Mr. Johnson said laughing, “but I certainly nicked it from somewhere else — probably some U.N. disaster relief program.”

While Mr. Biden is clearly the star attraction, the video call was a major opportunity for Mr. Johnson, who vaulted himself into power by promising to deliver Britain’s departure from the European Union, to fashion a post-Brexit identity for his country as well.

In addition to Mr. Biden, the callers included Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan.

Mr. Johnson will play host to a summit meeting of the leaders in June at a seaside resort in Cornwall, in what would be their first face-to-face meeting in two years. The United States chaired the Group of 7 last year and was scheduled to host the meeting, but it was canceled because of the pandemic.

Even before the virus disrupted the gathering, Mr. Trump’s handling of it sowed dissent at home and abroad. He antagonized other leaders by inviting President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to attend. And he kicked up a domestic political storm by steering the summit to his Trump National Doral golf resort in Miami.

Mr. Trump backed down, moving the meeting to Camp David, before it was scrapped entirely. His aides further inflamed matters by insisting that climate change would have no place on the agenda during Mr. Trump’s chairmanship.

Mr. Johnson, by contrast, was expected to make climate change a major theme in Friday’s call. Britain is also playing host to the United Nations’ climate change conference in Glasgow in November. It has announced ambitious emissions reduction targets that Mr. Johnson hopes will set the tone for the Glasgow conference.

President Joe Biden, left, and Vice President Kamala Harris, right, listen as Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks at the State Department in Washington this month.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The United States on Friday formally rejoined the Paris climate agreement, the international accord designed to avert catastrophic global warming.

President Biden has said tackling the climate crisis is among his highest priorities and he signed an executive order recommitting the United States to the accord only hours after he was sworn into office last month.

“We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change,” Mr. Biden said on Friday. “This is a global, existential crisis. And we’ll all suffer the consequences if we fail.”

It was a sharp repudiation of the Trump administration, which had pulled the country out of the pact and seemed eager to undercut regulations aimed at protecting the environment.

“The Paris Agreement is an unprecedented framework for global action,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a statement on Friday. “We know because we helped design it and make it a reality.”

With some 189 countries joining the pact in 2016, it had broad international support and Mr. Biden’s move to rejoin the effort was welcomed by foreign leaders.

“Welcome back to the Paris Agreement!” Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, said in a Twitter message at the time.

The galvanizing idea of the Paris climate accord is that only global solidarity and collective action can prevent the ravages of climate change: hotter temperatures, rising sea levels, more powerful storms, or droughts leading to food shortages.

President Biden has announced a plan to spend $2 trillion over four years to increase the use of clean energies in transportation, electricity and building sectors, while rapidly moving away from coal, oil and gas. He has set a goal of eliminating fossil fuel emissions from electricity generation by 2035 and has vowed to put the entire United States economy on track to become carbon neutral by midcentury.

Former President Trump had announced in 2017 that the United States would withdraw from the Paris agreement, but the exit could not be made official until Nov. 4 last year.

The United States was officially out of the agreement for 107 days.

On Friday, Mr. Blinken said fighting climate change would be once again at the center of U.S. domestic and foreign policy priorities.

“Climate change and science diplomacy can never again be ‘add-ons’ in our foreign policy discussions,” Mr. Blinken said.

But, he added, “as momentous as our joining the agreement was in 2016 — and as momentous as our rejoining is today — what we do in the coming weeks, months, and years is even more important.”

Since the start of the industrial era, the United States has emitted more greenhouse gases than any other country. And so, how the United States uses its money and power has both a symbolic and real bearing on whether the world’s roughly 7.6 billion people, and especially its poorest, will be able to avert climate catastrophes.

There are two immediate signals to watch for. First, how ambitious will the Biden administration be in its emissions reductions targets? It is under pressure from advocacy groups to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

And second, how much money will the United States provide to help poor countries adapt to the calamities of global warming and shift their economies away from fossil fuels?

The answers to both are expected in the next few weeks, in time for the April 22 virtual climate summit that President Biden has said he will host.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, speaking last month in Geneva.
Credit…Christopher Black/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the W. H. O, on Friday urged countries and drugmakers to help speed up the manufacture and distribution of vaccines across the globe, warning that the world could be “back at square one” if some countries went ahead with their vaccination campaigns and left others behind.

“Vaccine equity is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smartest to do,” Dr. Tedros said at the Munich Security Conference, arguing that the longer it would take to vaccinate populations in every country, the longer the pandemic would remain out of control.

Wealthy countries have come under increased criticism in recent weeks for stockpiling doses, and keeping them away from low- and middle-income countries. Dr. Tedros used his comments to condemn the approach to public health in many countries, which he called “a failure even in the most advanced economies in our world.”

“It affects everything, and the whole world is now taken hostage by a small virus,” he said.

Speaking before Mr. Ghebreyesus, Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist, said that the tragedy now unfolding across the world because of the pandemic could have been largely avoided.

“It is a tragedy that the modest steps that would have been required to contain this epidemic were not taken in advance,” he said.

While Dr. Tedros welcomed new commitments from wealthy countries to fund international vaccine efforts, he said more needed to be done, and faster.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, who also spoke before Mr. Ghebreyesus, said more than 100 countries had not received a single dose, and humanitarian groups have urged the public-private health partnership leading the international vaccine effort, known as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to start delivering on its promises.

“While the Covax mechanism is designed specifically for equitable distribution and vaccine development, it has yet to deliver a single vaccine to a country,” says Claire Waterhouse, a South Africa-based advocacy coordinator for Doctors Without Borders.

More than 190 million people have been vaccinated worldwide, but almost none in Africa. Bodies have piled up on the streets in Bolivia, while in Mexico, oxygen shortage has led many to die at home.

“Accessing vaccines for low- and middle-income countries will remain a serious problem unless systemic issues linked to protectionist agreements between wealthy nations and pharma corporations are dealt with,” said Dr. Tom Ellman, the director of Doctors Without Borders’ medical unit in South Africa.

On Friday, Dr. Tedros called on countries of the Group of 7 to sponsor a new treaty on pandemics. “We know pandemics happen, it’s a matter of when, not if,” Dr. Tedros added. “It’s a must to cooperate and to give attention to solidarity.”

President Biden delivering remarks on the fight to contain the pandemic at the White House last month.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

An international effort to speed up the manufacture and distribution of coronavirus vaccines around the globe has gotten a boost on two fronts: White House officials said the Biden administration would make good on a U.S. promise to donate $4 billion to the campaign over the next two years and the pharmaceutical company Novavax committed to eventually sell 1.1 billion doses of its vaccine.

President Biden was to make his announcement on Friday during a virtual meeting with other leaders from the Group of 7, where he is also expected to call on other countries to step up their contributions. The $4 billion was approved last year by a Republican-led Senate when President Donald J. Trump was still in office.

Public health experts often say that unless everyone is vaccinated, it is as if no one is vaccinated. One of the officials, who spoke anonymously to preview the president’s announcement, noted that the move to help with efforts abroad to diminish the impact of the pandemic was also in the interest of international security for the United States.

Countries such as India and China are already using the coronavirus vaccine as a diplomatic tool; both are giving away doses to other nations in an effort to expand their global influence. National security experts said the United States should consider doing the same.

But, an official said, the United States will not be able to share vaccines now, while the American vaccination campaign is still continuing to expand.

The international vaccine effort, known as Covax, has been led by the public-private health partnership known as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, as well as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization. It aims to distribute vaccines that have been deemed safe and effective by the W.H.O., with a special emphasis on low- and middle-income countries.

So far, the United States has pledged more than any other nation, according to the White House. Officials there said the money would be delivered in multiple tranches: an initial donation of $500 million right away, followed shortly by an additional $1.5 billion. The remaining $2 billion will delivered by the end of 2022

The Novavax sale will not come immediately; its vaccine has not yet been approved by a government regulatory authority.

Under a memorandum of understanding between Gavi and Novavax, the company agreed to provide “1.1 billion cumulative doses,” though it did not specify a time frame.

Mr. Biden was not the only G-7 member urging greater contribution to the global vaccination effort. President Emmanuel Macron of France said the United States and Europe should allocate up to 5 percent of their vaccine orders to developing countries.

“We are allowing the idea to take hold that hundreds of millions of vaccines are being given in rich countries and that we are not starting in poor countries,” Mr. Macron said in an interview with the Financial Times.

António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General, also offered choice words for what he described as a “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of vaccines. In a high-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, Mr. Guterres called vaccine equity “the biggest moral test before the global community.”

He called on G-7 countries to “create the momentum to mobilize the necessary financial resources” at their Friday meeting.

President Emmanuel Macron of France has spoken publicly about the importance of dialogue with Moscow.
Credit…Pool photo by John Macdougall

Two weeks after President Biden’s inauguration, Emmanuel Macron, his French counterpart, spoke publicly about the importance of dialogue with Moscow, saying that Russia is a part of Europe that cannot simply be shunned and that Europe must be strong enough to defend its own interests.

On Dec. 30, just weeks before the inauguration, the European Union clinched an important investment agreement with China, days after a tweet by Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, asking for “early consultations” with Europe on China and seeming to caution against a quick deal.

So even as the United States resets under new White House leadership, Europe is charting its own course on Russia and China in ways that do not necessarily align with Mr. Biden’s goals, posing a challenge as the new American president sets out to rebuild a post-Trump alliance with the continent.

Speaking at the Munich Security conference two years ago, Mr. Biden lamented the damage the Trump administration had inflicted on the once-sturdy postwar relationship between Washington and Europe’s major capitals. “This too shall pass,” Mr. Biden said. “We will be back.” He promised that the United States would again “shoulder our responsibility of leadership.”

The president’s remarks on Friday are sure to repeat that promise and spotlight his now-familiar call for a more unified Western front against the anti-democratic threats posed by Russia and China. In many ways, such talk is sure to be received like a warm massage by European leaders shellshocked by four years of President Donald J. Trump’s mercurial and often contemptuous diplomacy.

But if by “leadership” Mr. Biden means a return to the traditional American assumption — we decide and you follow — many Europeans feel that world is gone, and that Europe must not behave like America’s junior wingman in fights defined by Washington.

Demonstrated by the European Union’s trade deal with China, and conciliatory talk about Moscow from leaders like Mr. Macron and Germany’s likely next chancellor, Armin Laschet, Europe has its own set of interests and ideas about how to manage the United States’ two main rivals, ones that will complicate Mr. Biden’s diplomacy.

“Biden is signaling an incredibly hawkish approach to Russia, lumping it in with China, and defining a new global Cold War against authoritarianism,” said Jeremy Shapiro, the research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

That makes many European leaders nervous, he said. And other regional experts said they had seen fewer signs of overt enthusiasm from the continent than Biden administration officials might have hoped for.

“There was always a cleareyed recognition that we weren’t just going to be able to show up and say, ‘Hey guys, we’re back!’” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, who was in line to become the National Security Council director for Russia but who did not take the job for personal reasons.

Iran’s economy has been severely damaged by Trump era sanctions, and Tehran is insisting on their removal before negotiations can begin.
Credit…Majid Asgaripour/Wana News Agency, via Reuters

On the eve of a virtual summit of world leaders on Friday, the United States took a major step toward restoring the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration abandoned, offering to join European nations in what would be the first substantial diplomacy with Tehran in more than four years, Biden administration officials said.

In a series of moves intended to make good on one of President Biden’s most significant campaign promises, the administration also backed away from a Trump administration effort to restore United Nations sanctions on Iran. That effort had divided Washington from its European allies.

And at the same time, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken told European foreign ministers in a call on Thursday morning that the United States would join them in seeking to restore the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which he said “was a key achievement of multilateral diplomacy.”

Hours later, Enrique Mora, the European Union’s deputy secretary general for political affairs, appealed to the original signers of the nuclear deal — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — to salvage it at “a critical moment.”

“Intense talks with all participants and the US,” Mr. Mora said on Twitter. “I am ready to invite them to an informal meeting to discuss the way forward.”

While it was unclear whether the Iranians would agree to join discussions, three people familiar with the internal debate said it was likely Iran would accept. The officials said Iran would probably be more open to a meeting with the European Union, where the United States was a guest or observer, rather than direct formal talks with Washington as a participant.

In recent days, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and President Hassan Rouhani have suggested they were open to discussing some kind of synchronized approach, in which both sides would act on a certain date. That has an appeal inside the White House, one senior American official said, noting it was how key steps for carrying out the original 2015 deal were coordinated.

But with an Iranian presidential election only four months away, it was not clear if the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the nation’s political and military leadership would fully support re-engagement with the United States.

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