Biden’s pledge with G7 leaders clouded by


President Biden announces security agreement with Ukraine

President Joe Biden and President Zelenskyy announced a security agreement at the G7 summit giving Ukraine $50 billion in frozen Russian assets.

WASHINGTON ― Three years ago, when President Joe Biden met with leaders of the world’s largest democracies in Cornwall, England for his first Group of Seven summit after taking office, he declared, “America is back at the table.”

But as Biden gathered in Fasano, Italy this week for perhaps his final G7 summit, the uncertainty over his upcoming election clouded whether that message will endure.

Looming over Biden’s meetings this week with G7 leaders, which concluded Friday, were the possible return of former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, to the White House as well as recent right-wing victories in the European Union Parliament in France and Germany. Both threaten shared common goals of the coalition including continued support for Ukraine in its war against Russia − a commitment that was the dominant theme of this year’s G7 talks.

To that end, Biden and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a 10-year security agreement that pledges U.S. military support for Ukraine’s well beyond Biden’s term, yet the commitment could unravel if Trump wins the next election or a divided Congress chooses not to keep financially backing Ukraine.

“The prospect of the further weakening of the political center on both sides of the Atlantic looms over all the conversations,” said Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent think-tank, and professor of international affairs at Georgetown University.

“And in part, some of the steps that took place at the G7 were attempts to buy an insurance policy, of a sort, against the ascent of political leaders or political parties not particularly enthusiastic about supporting Ukraine,” he said.

Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has said he supports aid to Ukraine in the form of loans but has not given a clear position whether the U.S. should back Ukraine financially long term. Trump has said he could orchestrate a peace deal between Ukraine and Russian in 24 hours if elected to a second presidency. 

Trump has threatened to remove the U.S. from NATO, if elected to a second presidency, if European nations don’t increase their financial obligations to the alliance. “Why isn’t Europe giving more money to help Ukraine?” Trump wrote in an April 18 post on his social media web site Truth Social.

Trump election could ‘completely upend’ many G7 goals

Among other G7 goals that would be in jeopardy under a potential second Trump presidency are global efforts to fight climate change, which the former president has repeatedly downplayed as a major threat.

“Look, one of the great things about the G-7 is we’re all democracies, so the leaders here don’t get to pick and choose how things go in their countries politically day in, day out,” Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters in Italy when asked about the impact of November’s presidential election on G-7 talks. “They leave that to the people of their countries.”

Like Biden, other G-7 leaders face their own election tests: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last month announced a snap July 4 election amid growing public frustration with his Conservative Party. And French President Emmanuel Macron called for parliamentary election, to begin June 30, after a thumping defeat for his liberal centrist party in the EU elections.

Ahead of this week’s G7 summit, John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, reflected on Biden’s first G7 summit in Cornwall England: “There was a real sense of relief in the room that America was back and actually leading at the table,” Kirby said to reporters.

“And that’s still more true now than ever,” he said, pointing to Biden’s message that the U.S. must “step up in solidarity and demonstrate that democracies can still deliver for our people and for people all over the world.”

Upon entering office in 2021, Biden positioned his foreign policy as one countering the rise of autocracies in the world as he embraced U.S. leadership in traditional western alliances in a striking departure from Trump, who pushed an “America first” agenda on the global stage.

When he was president, Trump famously refused to sign a joint statement with G7 allies amid lingering tensions over tariffs after the group’s 2018 summit in Quebec City, Canada. Trump lashed out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Twitter as he flew away from the gathering on Air Force One.

Daniel Hamilton, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center on the United States and Europe, said G7 priorities would get “completely upended” if Trump defeats Biden in November.

“Just look at the record,” Hamilton said. “When he was president, he didn’t do much with the G7. He didn’t sign the agreements. They had a huge confrontation. I don’t think he’ll see those kinds of meetings as very useful and we’ll go back to the kinds of issues we had before.”

What G7 allies agreed on in Italy

In an communiqué signed off by Biden and other G7 leaders before they left Italy this week, leaders pledged − among many other areas − to remain in solidarity with Ukraine; support the Gaza cease-fire deal presented to Hamas for the release of Israeli hostages; reaffirm a commitment to gender equality; take concrete steps to address climate change and pollution; and support a free and open Indo-Pacific while opposing what the Biden administration has said is China’s overproduction of exports.

Kupchan, who worked in the National Security Council in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, said it’s hard to say which G7 priorities could be undercut if Trump defeats Biden in the November election because “Trump 2.0 could be different that Trump 2.0”

“The biggest impact, I think, would be that G7 partners and allies around the world would have no choice but to question American reliability and American steadiness,” he said. “That’s less because of particular policies that Trump might implement and more because it would be amply clear the United States is passing through a phase of profound polarization and political dysfunction.”

He added: “Allies that have depended heavily on the United States for their security would have no choice but to hedge.”

Biden and other G7 leaders also met Friday with Pope Francis, who used his rare appearance before the coalition to warn them that rapidly evolving artificial intelligence must never get the upper hand over humanity.

The agreement between Biden and Zelenskyy stablishes a framework for long-term U.S. assistance for Ukraine forces and signals unity with 15 other nations that have signed similar pacts in support of Ukraine.

Biden said the deal seeks to provide weapons and ammunition to Ukraine over the 10 years, expand intelligence sharing between the two countries, train Ukrainian troops at European and U.S. military bases and invest in Ukraine’s defense industrial base. The pact, Biden stressed, does not involve committing U.S. soldiers to Ukraine.

“If you want to see it as ‘Trump-proofing,’ one can see it that way,” said Hamilton, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studied. “But I think they’re just trying to send a message to Putin, as much as to Donald Trump, that they are supporting Ukraine.”

NATO meeting next month in US gives Biden big opportunity

In a related move, the U.S. and other G7 leaders agreed to provide Ukraine a $50 billion loan to rebuild damaged infrastructure and purchase weapons that will be backed by interest from Russian assets that were frozen after Moscow invaded Ukraine in 2022.

The Biden administration also announced $300 million in new sanctions on key parts of Russian’s financial sector as well as Russian individuals and companies helping Russia’s war efforts.

Biden said the set of new actions shows Putin that “he cannot wait us out, cannot divide us, and we will be with Ukraine until they prevail in this war.”

Biden has made continued U.S. membership of NATO a central issue in the 2024 election, accusing Trump in February of sending “a dangerous” and “un-American signal to the world” when he threatened in a speech not to come to the aid of NATO countries attacked by Russia.

It’s a debate that Biden wants, and it sets up the next major opportunity for him to display a united front for Ukraine: July 9 to 11, when he plays host to the 2024 NATO Summit held in Washington.

“For now, the level of unity that we see in the G7 and in NATO is impressive,” Kupchan said. “But I think the questions that nobody can answer are: How long is this going to last? And is this going to be enough to keep Ukraine on its feet?”

Contributing: Reuters. Reach Joey Garrison on X @joeygarrison.

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