Bidding an end to the era of Zoom-call diplomacy, the vaccinated leaders of the world’s wealthiest liberal democracies gathered Friday to commemorate this year’s G7 Summit with a “family photo.”
g7 family photo pic.twitter.com/91kf1eQkGa
— Justin Sink (@justinsink) June 11, 2021
The photo marks the renewal of a return to regularity. Though still remaining socially distanced to placate the interests of their respective nation’s popular opinion, the leaders joyfully greeted one another with open arms, elbow bumps and, in some cases, hugs.
“Everybody in the water,” Biden joked to his fellow leaders at the G7 family photo on the oceanfront in Carbis Bay, England.
Macron and Biden walked shoulder to shoulder, chatting, an arm draped around each other’s back. pic.twitter.com/CTpwa8gCjU
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) June 11, 2021
This year’s summit includes new faces — President Joe Biden, Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Returning to the summit is French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in addition to European Council chief Charles Michel and Ursula von der Leyen.
The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is stronger than ever. Thank you for hosting me today, Prime Minister Johnson. pic.twitter.com/VTo9kEMhof
— President Biden (@POTUS) June 10, 2021
The Group of 7 is set to discuss the array of topical affairs affecting the international community. The leaders are expected to introduce a plan to donate one billion doses of coronavirus vaccines, in addition to further investment in the global vaccine-sharing program Covax, according to The New York Times.
The measures are intended to combat the success of China’s vaccine diplomacy, which gave 10 million doses to Covax and donated or sold 742 million doses to most of Africa and Asia.
“China is picking countries that could potentially be coming back to China for more things in the future,” noted Sara Davies, a professor of international relations at Griffith University in Australia. “This is the start of a long-term relationship.”
Among other things, the group is expected to introduce measures to tackle the influx of global economic recession and issue directives on climate change.
On the geopolitical front, the leaders plan to address the influence of authoritarianism around the world and suggest directives to “protect” democratic regimes.
This sentiment was captured in the reintroduction of an eight-decade-old World War II-era Atlantic Charter, which united the United States and the United Kingdom in the months before the U.S. entered the war.
The renewed charter looks to improve strategic relations and unite the cross-Atlantic nations against the perceived threats of the day.
Beyond the details, however, the group’s on-camera cohesion is not as it appears.
President Joe Biden is representing the United States with a professed afresh attitude on international relations, though his foreign policy is mostly a return to the pre-Trump norm.
Washington’s executive has his fair share of policy disagreements with his European partners. The two sides differ on their attitudes and sentiments toward China, along with the construction of a new gas pipeline that connects Russia and Germany.
The Biden administration, however, appears to be prepared to appease its allies in Europe. In the weeks before the summit, the administration waived sanctions on the company constructing the Russian-German gas pipeline, according to Reuters.
Until this point, the administration has mostly pursued a hardline approach on Russia, sanctioning the Kremlin over its military build-up on Ukraine’s eastern border and its efforts to launch cyberattacks against critical U.S. infrastructure.
Biden will have a chance to balance these competing interests over the next few days. Later this week, the president will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss mutual concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, terrorism and climate change.
The meeting is expected to produce little substantive agreement between the two leaders, as issues’ including human rights, trade and international competition remain highly contentious.
In recent months, the growing divide between the world’s democracies and its autocratic rivals have exposed the areas in which international relations remain inflamed. And with the Group of 7’s first in-person summit in over a year, there is an expectation that the world’s myriad issues will still persist in the days to come.
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