President Joe Biden gave a stirring speech emphasising the importance of the US’s alliances and position as a global leader as he arrived in the UK, while praising the special relationship with Britain and declaring: “The United States is back.”
Speaking to US Air Force personnel and their families at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk ahead of his meeting with the Group of Seven (G7) nations, Mr Biden vowed that his administration would reassert the US’s position as a leader on a wide range of issues, a seemingly tacit acknowledgement of the Trump administration’s efforts to withdraw from longstanding partnerships around the world.
“We’re going to make it clear that the United States is back and democracies are standing together to tackle the toughest challenges and issues that matter the most to our future,” he said. “That we’re committed to leading with strength, defending our values, and delivering for our people.”
He said: “When America is at its best, it’s a force for good in the world.”
“Then [after the G7] I’m heading to meet with Mr Putin … to let him know what I want him to know,” Mr Biden said, adding audible emphasis on the promise.
The remark drew a roar of laughter from the crowd, which earlier had cheered as the president shouted out various US battalions stationed at the base.
Mr Biden struck a more serious tone regarding the meeting later in his address, telling the audience that the US was not seeking conflict with Russia but would respond appropriately in cases of Russian aggression or efforts to disrupt or harm US interests.
“We want a stable, predictable relationship,” Mr Biden said.
The president then made a clear reference to the contrasting methods of diplomacy utilised by the US and Russia, while not naming any of the US’s specific foes, declaring: “Our alliances weren’t built by coercion or maintained by threats. They’re built on democratic ideals and shared visions of the future, and every voice matters.”
His remarks echoed an op-ed published by the president in The Washington Post over the weekend, in which he declared that the US and its allies were “standing united to address Russia’s challenges to European security, starting with its aggression in Ukraine.”
The visit and upcoming meeting with Mr Putin will follow a series of ransomware cyberattacks that struck US entities including the Colonial Pipeline Company as well as a service used by lawmakers on Capitol Hill, which experts have traced back to Russian-based criminal organisations.
The president also vowed in March that Russia and Mr Putin would “pay a price” after the US intelligence community assessed that Russian operatives interfered in the 2020 election with the intent of denigrating Mr Biden’s candidacy.
At one point during his speech Mr Biden welled up and dabbed at his eyes as he invoked the memory of his son, Beau Biden, who served in Iraq as a major with the Delaware Army National Guard and who died of a brain tumour in 2015.
Praising the service of US military personnel, the president said: “To all you airmen and soldiers, I wanna say thank you. We owe you. We’re so damned proud of you.
“So proud. And I only wish my major was here to thank you as well, thank you for everything that you do.”
Before he spoke there was another laugh when the first lady, Jill Biden, was addressing the crowd to praise military families and realised her husband, standing behind her, seemed to be talking to someone in the audience. “Joe, pay attention!” she said to laughter. He gave her a mock salute in response.